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.

Date: 2007-10-29 11:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
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."

This is because(as far as I know) you have been very carefully guided in your manga reading so far...

Date: 2007-10-30 12:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As far as I know, yup,first time you've come across it where it was canon.

(I actually did try reading this very, very early in my manga reading days-before encountering the rabid yaoi fangirls that give me most of my annoyance w/ the genre-but didn't care much for it. IIRC, I thought both guys could use a punch in the face, but for differeing reasons.)

Date: 2007-10-30 02:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
the seme/uke thing is essentially applying heterosexual roles to a genre(both canon and fandom) that usually exists to NOT have heterosexual roles. But yes, I know what you mean.

And as for punching...well, in fiction, those we love the most would benefit from a punch in the face...I honestly believe that half the SDK, BotI and Saiyuki casts would GREATLY benefit from one.

Date: 2007-10-30 12:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm not crazy about Gravitation, mainly because I find super genki boys to be annoying. Shuichi is even worse in the anime, making me want to yell "Sit down, be quiet, and for god's sake, grow up" at him.

Date: 2007-10-30 02:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yukimura is somewhat genki, but he also acts and thinks like a grown-up. It doesn't take long at all to see that he's putting on a front. Granted, it's been a long time since I read or watched Gravitation, but Shuichi ends up being rather like a bipolar, ADHD 5-year-old in all his "I want Yuki" obsessiveness. And even his depressions are excessive. And you're right, their problems aren't that serious.

I would compare Shuichi as uke to two of CLAMP's genki ukes -- Kazahaya of Legal Drug and Watanuki of XXXholic. Even though both of those guys can overemote, they do have quiet, gentle moments, and their tantrums are closer to 12 years old than five and they do have moments that show just why their semes would be attracted to them. I don't know what Yuki sees in Shuichi, while I can sort of see what Shuichi sees in Yuki.

Date: 2007-10-30 09:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
CLAMP couples generally take the form of a taller male whose psychic abilities or other skills have an element of violence to them whose role is to protect a shorter, more slender male whose psychic abilities are stronger but which make him more vulnerable.

So in terms of XXXholic and Legal Drug, Watanuki is to Kazahaya as Doumeki is to Rikuo.

I like Legal Drug. It's one of the more obviously shounen-ai CLAMP series, and there's an older male couple who are clearly already a settled couple. There are only two things I don't like about it. One is that it's not really finished. Only three volumes have been published because something happened with the magazine it was originally published in. CLAMP says they'll come back to it eventually. I hope they do. The other thing I don't like is that the characters bully Kazahaya a good bit, which I don't think is fair to him. But yeah, I recommend it. That's one series where I want to write a self-insert fic in which I give good advice to the characters. :-)

Do you read Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle at all? That's another one I recommend for its relationships.
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Date: 2007-10-30 01:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I remember watching some of the Gravitation anime, just so I could say that I saw it. I ended up ranting a lot about it, but I'm sort of glad I watched it instead of reading the manga, because at least I could tell people apart. Maybe it was the hair colours--I don't know.

I can't see Shuichi ever having sex.

Only thing good about this series: K. I remember liking Suguru, too. All the secondary characters made me happy.
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Date: 2007-10-30 03:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I basically agree with you about the series; I enjoyed it when I first read it, early in my manga-reading career, but it's fluffy, and the non-fluffy bits are jarring.

The "I'm not gay" thing is probably not a translation error, but a very common trope. It means, gay men are men who are sexually attracted to men in general; I am not usually attracted to men, but I am really attracted to you, who happen to be a man; therefore, I'm not gay.

I think it's supposed to be romantic, like proof that they're really meant for each other. It's a trope I could live without.

Date: 2007-10-30 11:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
No, there's actually a fair bit of manga in which either characters identify as gay rather than as men who have sex with men. You might try Antique Bakery or Takumi-Kun (which I did the English adaptation for, by the way.)

I do think the definition of "gay" differs from country to country and even from culture to culture, which is why HIV-prevention groups explicitly differentiate between "gay" and "men who have sex with men but don't identify as gay." Sometimes it means they're closeted, but sometimes I think it's different cultures having different ideas about sexual identity.
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Date: 2007-10-30 03:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*laugh* As far as I'm concerned, the manga of Gravitation is just an intro for the author's very porny line of "Gravitation Remix" doujinshi. The story's kind of shallow and the art is kind of rough in the beginning (it gets better), but I read it for the humor. And the smut. Oh my god, the smut. (The mangaka was actually a guest at Otakon - she was hilarious. Her house is stocked with porn and an arsenal of model weapons.) Have you gotten to crazy gun-toting American K yet? He's my favorite. Hehe, I figured you'd like Hiro... but Hiro, straight?. Nobody in Gravitation is straight... In the Remixes (the canonicity of which is debatable, but if you think too hard about Gravitation canon, you'll give yourself a headache...), the author pairs him up with K, his brother Yuuji, and Shuuichi... all in the same volume, I think... o__O;;

I was fully prepared to HATE Yuki and the whole Yuki/Shuuichi pairing because Yuki was a real bastard in the anime and he had a lot less emotional depth. I actually rather enjoyed him in the manga, even if I did want to slap him around a bit and tell him to GET OVER IT. Shuuichi is... obnoxious, but he brings a lot of heart and manic humor to the series so I can look past the fact that he's basically a girl. And for a mainstream series, Gravitation really pushes some boundaries!

Date: 2007-10-31 09:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

You know, after reading all the comments I'm kinda distracted. *goes back to read actual entry*
(btw; I am having much fun with remixes, yes^^)

An important thing to remember about Gravitation is that if it didn't have all the sillyness, the story wouldn't be able to cover so many taboos without disgusting most people. Eiri is actually a very tragic person, and almost everyone who loves (or only pretend to maybe) him, ends up hurting him in one way or another. And along comes Shuichi, not even caring about the fact that they are both men, but just loving him for who he is. Not that I will ever understand that, because I don't really like Eiri that much.

Thoma Seguchi is a big fat fake, and it does take a few more vols. for him to realize(well, sorta realize) that he isn't helping anyone by acting the way he does. Fujisaki (a prime example af the whole "everyone is related to someone one way or another"-deal)is a lot like Thoma, don't you think?

That drawing style will improve, but I think that already in the first vol. the general artwork is kinda just there, but all the frames with some emotional something are very well done, and I think it helps drawing attention to the main story, and makes readers forget the silliness for a second. The improvement mentioned above will be around vol. 7 or 8 I think. But especially in the sequel Gravitation EX there's a big difference.

A final note; K claims to be straight

Date: 2007-11-01 08:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's a point people usually forget about. But for a story that covers murderer, underage abuse, rape, violence, homosexuality, transsexuality, conspiracy, a high amount of bad morality, and so on it needs to have a rather large amout of odd things.

Heh, that description reminds me of Will & Grace, funny, but... very clowny.

Now, I can't remember when exactly it happens in the series, but do you know what happened to Eiri in New York when he was a child? It's impressive htat he can handle the fame actually. Well, handle it that well, because he's not handeling it that well after all...

Date: 2007-11-04 06:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Then you will know i some later volumes, and I won't spoil you^^

Well, Eiris reaction is pretty much just him. And the reason to why he takes up revenge right away, is because he knows that Hiro has already taken care of Shuichi, so he knows Shu is allright. Or as right as one can be after that... but still. But Eiri does take care ( in the Eiri-way)of Shu later on...
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Date: 2007-11-07 08:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Guess that means that there will soon be an entry about Gravitation 6-10 on my F-page, yes?

And it's always easier to recover when there's something to read - I was swearing loud and for a very long time after my last surgery, 'cause my arm was totally wrapped up so I couldn't control my books...

So, get up and going soon, okay? *hugs*

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