Gravitation Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Dani Moure
Review Date: Monday, July 07, 2008
Release Date: Monday, July 07, 2008

What They Say

Love Never Runs Smoothly, Especially When You Are A Budding Pop Star.

Based on the popular 'yaoi' (gay-themed romances created by women for primarily female audiences) manga by Maki Murakami (Gamerz Heaven) and directed by Bob Shirohata (Diamond Daydreams ; Let's Dance With Papa), the anime series Gravitation follows the attempts of Shuichi Shindou and his band, Bad Luck, to become Japan's next musical sensation while struggling to deal with the trials and tribulations of their respective relationships.

Gravitation: Volume 1 - Fateful First Encounter features the first four episodes of the teen anime that thrillingly combines music and comedy with drama and romance.

Episodes Comprise:

1. Gravitation
2. Live In Soul
3. Stray Heart
4. Wave Shock

The Review!

Time moves on with some significant events and realisations made within the Band of the Hawk, and within Guts himself.

Audio:
I listened to the English language track primarily for my main review, and noticed no dropouts, distortions or other technical problems; this is a pretty standard stereo mix with most dialogue coming through the centre channel. The same can be said of the Japanese track from the areas I spot-checked. The English dub is a bit of an interesting one, as in the early stages of this volume the dialogue doesn’t always flow as naturally as it could. There seems to be a concerted effort to ensure everything matches the lip flaps as closely as possible (which doesn’t help with this), and the performances can feel a bit stilted. As it continues it does improve though.

Video:
Despite being quite a few years old now, Gravitation looks pretty good. The show has quite a bright colour palette, and other than the colours sometimes looking a little bit dull and washed out, it generally looks very good when upscaled on my HDTV. Presented in its original full frame ratio, the picture is generally free from grain or any noticeable artefacts, even in darker scenes.

Subtitles are in a yellow font which is easily readable, and I didn’t notice any obvious spelling errors this time out.

Packaging:
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

Menu:
The main menu is mainly still with a picture of Shindo and Yuki on the left side, and the show’s logo and selections on the right. One of the signature songs plays over this menu. The two sub-menus are static, with no music, and in the same style, with just a different piece of artwork running down the left side.

Extras:
There’s not much to shout about here; just an art gallery and the original US trailer.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gravitation was always going to be an interesting series for me. As it’s my first foray into the boys-love genre, I was curious as to how I’d react to seeing a slightly different type of love story, and also wondered how it’d be approached in a series that undoubtedly focuses on the central love story between a man and a boy. With the show having received a fair amount of praise on its initial release several years ago in the US (which, incidentally, makes this an interesting choice of release for MVM as it’s also their first “shonen-ai” release), I had fairly high expectations.

Unfortunately, some of them proved to be a bit unfounded. It’s not that the series gets off to a bad start, more that the main romance seems a bit too forced at the beginning, and sometimes overshadows other events in the show in what feels like an un-necessary reminder that the relationship exists.

Shindo and Hiro are two friends that together make up the band Bad Luck. Managed by one Mr Sakano, they’re all set to get a break supporting a big new band called Ask. Shindo is the singer and song-writer, but causes Sakano constant headaches by always being late and not getting things finished. Sure enough, Bad Luck are due to go to the studio but Shindo has still not finished the lyrics to his song. Later that night, he’s walking through the park and his sheet of lyrics flies out of his hands. A man catches them and laughs when he reads them, telling Shindo that they’re awful and he should just quit right now.

Being a more sensitive type, Shindo is unable to shrug off the comments and with them playing on his mind, he hunts the man down, but still Shindo receives the same response with no remorse. Determined to prove the man wrong, Shindo finishes his lyrics and bursts into a meeting between Sakano and the record company head, Touma, to announce the completion. When he talks with Hiro and Sakano about the man, they all see him on TV – it turns out he’s the famous author Eiri Yuki. When Shindo goes to Yuki’s house, Yuki ends up kissing him in front of a woman... and all this is just in the first episode!

From there the series goes in a few directions. The band begins to develop, although once Touma realises their potential after the show where they perform he insists that another member is added. Here we discover just how annoyingly stubborn Shindo can be, as he is absolutely insistent that the new member just will not happen. Hiro is far more understanding, and really is the person that somewhat grounds Shindo and brings him back to reality when his head is in the clouds. In the end, the new member ends up being a hit with everyone and Shindo is forced to come round, but does see the light himself as well.

There’s also a rivalry that begins to develop between Bad Luck and Ask, with Ask quick to remind Bad Luck who the main act that the crowd have come to see are. It all culminates in this volume with a meeting at a TV station where Ask are due to perform, and Bad Luck are due to take part in a game show as a last-minute standing. As it turns out, Shindo has some guile as well because he manages to convince the TV station that the band will forego their prize money if they win, in order to play a song on the show! Definitely an original approach to get the band some promotion on TV, and with a bit of help from Touma it works.

Undoubtedly the focus though is the love story between Shindo and Yuki. For Shindo, it’s love at first sight, even though it takes Hiro to make him realise it. For Yuki, he doesn’t seem to care... except he obviously does as he blatantly leads Shindo on only to push him back. Everything in the relationship is a bit whirlwind, as Shindo ends up moving in with him very quickly even though Yuki is still going hot and cold with him. Shindo is so desperate to prove his feelings that even as early as the second episode he is turning down an offer from Yuki’s sister to try and keep his relationship with Yuki strong.

At times it’s sweet, but sometimes it also feels forced in this respect, both in the speed of development and how it seems a bit unrealistic that a public author like Yuki who says he doesn’t date boys would encourage all this to happen in a split second. Alas, that is probably where we have to realise this story was designed to cater to a certain audience, and like any such relationships (heterosexual or not) in anime, this one has many conveniences and holes. Incidentally, you have to wonder as well if it’ll turn into a triangle with Hiro telling Shindo he likes him and later getting all protective about him with Yuki.

In Summary:
All in all, Gravitation is a feel-good show, but one that leaves me with slightly mixed feelings. Its production values are good enough, with decent animation and some very appropriate songs, it’s just the main love story does feel somewhat forced, especially at the start, and it’s not just because of Yuki’s stand-offish personality either. Aside from that though, this is a pretty good start to what will probably turn into to a nice, sweet show. The characters are likeable, even if Shindo can be a brat and Yuki slightly annoying, and if you watch this first volume there will probably be at least one point where you’ll end up with a smile on your face, and that is not a bad thing. Gravitation is definitely off to an enjoyable start, and it’ll be interesting to see where it goes.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0), English Language (2.0), English Subtitles, Original Trailer, Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Samsung LE40M86 1080p HDTV, Philips DVP 5980 region free DVD player upscaling to 1080p via HDMI, Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 12
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
MSRP: £15.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gravitation