Gravitation EX Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Danielle Van Gorder
Review Date: Monday, March 26, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, February 13, 2007



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Maki Murakami
Translated by:Satsuki Yamashita
Adapted by:Christine Boylan

What They Say
In order to heal the wounds in Eiri Yuki's heart, he and his vocalist lover, Shuichi, travel to New York to visit the grave of Yuki's first love and tormentor, Yuki Kitagawa. They discover that the first Yuki has left behind a young son, Riku, and so the odd couple take the boy back with them to Japan. When Shuuichi receives a kiss from nutty rival band leader, Ryuuichi, Yuki flies into a jealous rage, and he and Riku disappear, leaving Shuuichi to search for them in vain.

The Review
The fan-favorite series continues at last!

Packaging:

The front cover has a dynamic shot of Shuichi, with Yuki in the background. A color page is included as well. This volume includes advertisements for Pocky, Tokyopop's web page, two pages of highlighted titles, Divalicious, and Rose Hip Zero. The print quality is fairly good - blacks are dark, lines are sharp, and screen tones are clearer than usual.

Art:

Maki Murakami's art has changed a lot over the years. Comparing this with the first volume of the original series, it's almost hard to tell that it's the same artist. It's fairly close to the final volume of the original series, so if you've read that, you know what to expect - frenzied layouts, exaggerated expressions, minimal backgrounds, and clean linework.

Text/SFX:

Sound effects are not translated at all, something that really detracts from the overall experience, especially on action-heavy pages where it's hard to tell what's going on without those clues. Really a disappointing decision.

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):

Gravitation EX, the sequel to the hugely popular twelve-volume Gravitation, is the first manga series to be simultaneously released in both the US and Japan.

The story picks up more or less where the original series left off, with Yuki and Shuichi in New York to visit a grave and put some past ghosts to rest. Shuichi is expecting a lovely honeymoon after this - but of course, nothing works out the way he expects. Through a series of coincidences that could only happen in Gravitation, the couple ends up taking Riku, the son of Yuki's former teacher, back to Japan with them to watch for several weeks.

But, of course, that's not enough complication - Yuki also has a new rival for Shuichi's love, XMR decides they want Shuichi to work for them again in New York, and when they finally get back to Japan, they find that they're right in the media's eye as much as possible - so they have to cover up Riku's presence to avoid a scandal. Which works about as well as you might expect.

Tensions run higher and higher as Riku picks on Yuki, Yuki lashes out at everybody, and Shuichi continues to be clueless, hurting Yuki in the process. Right on cue, Ryuichi Sakuma, Shuichi's former idol and current friend/rival, appears back on the scene, with Reiji and the panda-mech right behind. Shuichi manages to escape with the help of K, only to get himself into an even stickier situation - cheating with another man, right in front of Yuki.

Yuki, having never been in this situation before, doesn't know how to handle it. Touma steps in to offer his support - or does he? Meanwhile, Shuichi is crying on the talk show circuit, to mixed reactions. Meanwhile, Yuki and Riku have their own troubles to deal with.

The sight of Riku, the son of the man he killed, wracks Yuki with guilt. He doesn't know how to face this child, or his guilt. Riku forgives him, but Yuki doesn't even know if that's what he wants. But when Riku is in danger, Yuki risks his life to protect him, and winds up in the hospital.

The situation unfolds in typical Gravitation fashion - confusion, gunfire, explosions, car chases, and lots and lots of drama. But eventually Yuki, Shuichi, and Riku are reunited, complete with dramatic reunion scenes, and more plot twists. What isn't clear is how Shuichi's unfaithfulness and Yuki's injuries will impact their relationship in the future.

Comments
If the summary makes this sound confusing, that's because it is. Familiar characters act in ways that are completely out of character, other characters are brought back solely for the sake of having them back, plot twists show up every other page with little real explanation, and story threads meander around, vanish, and then pop back up later when they're least expected.

People who have read the original series to the end know what to expect - drama, explosions, insane characters, and campy, sometimes confusing action scenes. If you're coming in this looking for believable character drama, you're likely to be disappointed. Maki Murakami's writing and characterization continue to be weak at best, using gimmick after gimmick instead of solid storytelling.

Nonetheless, there's a lot here for fans of the series to love. Yuki and Shuichi's relationship goes down some interesting paths, other unexpected couples form, and most of the characters from the original series get their turn in the spotlight. Still, I find myself wondering what this could have been if we had gotten a more coherent story rather than just fanservice fluff.



Mania Grade: C
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 208
ISBN: 1-4278-0240-8
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left