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"Gravitation Vol.2 and Vol.3:" Behind the (Fictional) Music

Shuichi Shindo is a young pop star on the rise. In the first volume of Gravitation, we saw him and his band, Bad Luck, start to experience true success, and we also saw him find true love with Eiri Yuki, a romance novelist known to the public as a ladies man.

(Yes, you read that right. For those who haven’t been following the series, Gravitation is a shonen-ai series. Here’s a review of Volume 1.)

Things are off to a fiery start in Volume 2, as the boys of Bad Luck land their first TV gig on a campy variety/quiz show. But that exposure just fuels the feud between Bad Luck and ASK, a rival band that looks like it might lose its top spot at the label to Bad Luck, and ASK’s lead singer, Taki Aizawa, is ready to sink his up-and-coming rivals by any means necessary. Meanwhile, Eiri Yuki must choose between Shindo and a pre-arranged marriage, a choice complicated by the fact that being with Shindo is literally bad for Eiri’s health. And with some sleazy behind-the-scenes machinations by Bad Luck’s new manager, the gun-toting K (yes, his name is a letter), Bad Luck and their significant others might find platinum success to be more of a pain than it’s worth.

All of this sounds a little over the top, but the execution is solid and it all comes together in a captivating way. The depiction of the music-business is still top notch; the comedic element is mostly gag and character driven; and the drama, both music- and romance-related, is well-handled, with humor and drama smoothly intertwined. The story definitely darkens in these volumes, but those dark elements give it a lot more emotional weight and allows for some good character development. The premise may be an odd mix of soap opera and sitcom, and the results may not be deep or profound, but the end result is entertaining and engaging.

Animation is a little weak at points, though it is pretty good for a low budget late-night anime that was one of the earlier digital cel animated works; the storyboarding and cinematography is quite solid with only a few subtle cheats being apparent and the digicel is quite vibrant. Unlike a lot of current anime titles, it uses establishing shots appropriately, not as filler. The character animation and expressions, even though they aren’t as fluid as they could be at points, always punch up the humor and drama nicely. As an adaptation of a manga, it does a surprisingly good job of capturing the story and style, especially considering it’s cramming 14 volumes of manga in 13 episodes of anime. The original Japanese VAs are as excellent as ever, and much to my surprise, the English VAs are tightening up considerably as the series goes on. Lastly, the music is still great, and it’s used perfectly to accent the onscreen content. It’s unabashedly J-Pop Electronica, but it’s well-produced and it’s fun.

Gravitation is not a classic, or an objet d’art, but it’s very well-made and an enjoyable watch overall. You can’t ask for much more than that.

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