chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)
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This is a deeply silly series. In fact, it was inspiring me to filk (to the tune of the Beatles' "Paperback Writer"): "It's a silly story 'bout a silly band, and the writer dude doesn't understand ... ."

High school senior Shuichi Shindo, 18, has a great singing voice, delusions of song-writing ability, and a minimal talent for playing the keyboards. He and his sweet, long-suffering best friend and guitarist Hiroshi Nakano make up the pop band Bad Luck, which plays mostly at high school events. One night, he's taking a shortcut through a park when he drops the lyrics to a love song. As the paper blows away, it's picked up by a handsome foreign-looking man who reads it and tells Shuichi that it's utter drivel. Shuichi becomes obsessed with this guy, who turns out to be a popular romance novelist who goes by the nom de plume of Eiri Yuki. Although Yuki seems to despise Shuichi as well as his songwriting, he shows a remarkable tolerance for having his home invaded regularly by the lovestruck teen, and eventually they become lovers. Meanwhile, Shuichi and Hiroshi get a couple of lucky breaks, leading to a contract for Bad Luck. Soon Shuichi and Yuki are up to their necks in a series of ridiculous but fairly entertaining soap opera plots, involving rivalry among bands and singers, family obligations, revenge, and more.

The fact that this series doesn't take itself very seriously keeps me from wanted to kick it to the curb (as Shuichi keeps imagining Yuki will do to him), and every once in a while something with a bit of emotional punch happens. The "what in the world will they get up to next?" factor is strong enough that I'll keep reading it for now. The fact that Yuki is only 22 (when did he start writing, anyway?) keeps the squick factor about the relationship to a minimum.

Gravitation, vols. 1-5 (review)

I have to say that, given the silliness of most of the book, Taki's revenge plots take an awfully sinister turn. The gang rape of Shuichi and its aftermath do give the story more of an edge, but it's sort of icky that things have to go that far to get the reader (this reader, at least) emotionally invested in the story. Given the seriousness of this incident, and Hiroshi's and Yuki's reactions to it , it's sort of jarring that Taki proceeds to turn into the Wiley Coyote of the series: who needs a new villain when Taki can be scraped off the road one more time to take another crack at Shuichi? Then there's the whole issue of Yuki's past crimes ... I'm sure he'll turn out to have a good reason for what he did, but the whole subject is tossed around so lightly, and in the middle of so much other fluff, that I'm simply not worried about it.

The drawing style is rather sloppy ... this is perhaps the first manga I've seen where I find myself thinking "hmmm, you know, I could draw at least that well." It wouldn't matter except that it gets very, very hard to tell the characters apart. In particular, I keep getting Yuki mixed up with Tohma Seguchi, the producer, and the Young Lady says she gets Yuki's sister Mika (who is married to Seguchi ... did I mention that this whole thing is very incestuous? Everyone is related to or used to work with everyone else, it seems ...) mixed up with Noriko, the keyboard player that's brought in to fill out Bad Luck's roster.

Shuichi is a complete airhead, and very girly on the personality level. I suppose it's indicative of Yuki's eventual return crush on him that he puts up with Shuichi's babbling. The degree to which this boy gets flipped out by the idea of real sex strikes me as a bit silly. I have a feeling that what may be going on with me here is that this is, I think, my first encounter with the stereotypical seme/uke relationship (and I'd welcome comments about this issue). Some of the stuff I've read about the series online says that things are different in Gravitation because it's Shuichi who's actively pursuing the relationship, but to me, that's just window-dressing. He's fluffy and passive when things get physical, and does some very girly passive-aggressive stuff with Yuki. I did like it when Yuki laid out all the things he'd done for Shuichi that should have indicated how much he cares - but what's funny about is that it's the typical male/female communications issue: she (or in this case, Shuichi) wants elaborate confessions of love, verbally, wereas he (Yuki) is expressing his love by what he does, not what he says. I also can't figure out why they keep saying that Shuichi isn't really gay. I wonder if that's a mistranslation, and what is meant is that he's not just seeking out gay sex for the sake of sex.

The character I like the most is Hiroshi, who is a really good, kind person. He's secure enough with his own straight sexuality to joke around outrageously with Shuichi in public to entertain their fangirls and to discourage Shuichi without overreacting when Shuichi starts to come on to him a bit (example: the whole thing about how nice Hiroshi's hair smells when Shuichi is riding behind him on the bike). He's also really good and effective when Shuichi is attacked.

I'm curious enough about how it all works out to keep reading, even though parts of it aggravate me.

One last thought: the Young Lady loves this series, and tends to laugh aloud a great deal while reading it.

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