I remember writing up a yaoi article back when we did Ero Week here on Japanator. If you read it, you may remember I shared that my very first BL was Gravitation. Back when I was exposed to it, the manga was still on-going and soon after I was able to buy the first DVD release. I even got the nifty box and a poster of Bad Luck to go with it. It was hanging up in my room until just a few months ago after some spring cleaning.
That being said, I was more than thrilled to pick up the newest DVD box set release for Gravitation. To start with, I love Thinpaks. They save me so much space, and smell nice, and sometimes come with box art I prefer to the original DVD box sets. In this case, I prefer the original box art, but it's still nice! Secondly, I took this as an opportunity to re-watch Gravitation for the first time in maybe seven years.
Oh, how times have changed. Yes, it was pretty nostalgic, but does that mean it's still good stuff? If you want to know my answer, you should hit the jump and read the rest of this article! Maybe you'll be filled with some nostalgia as well...
Title: Gravitation DVD Box Set
I'll start with discussing the basic premise to jog your memories. It's an old show, I know. Gravitation follows the story of Shuichi Shindo, who is an aspiring artist and the singer of a band called Bad Luck. Then the fateful day comes when he meets Yuki Eiri, a romance novelist who passes him by and tells him he's got zero talent and should quit trying to be in a hit band. In the course of the first couple of episodes, Shuichi becomes quite fixated with Yuki, who turns out to be a very troubled and complicated individual with a dark past.
Simple, right? That's what I thought when I was about to re-watch Gravitation for the first time. I'm going to be honest, though. I spent most of my time watching cringing and trying not to look away. There are very few movies, shows or books that make me feel so incredibly embarrassed for the main character that I don't even want to see what's coming next, even though I know it's coming and that things turn out just fine.
That being said, I still enjoyed the trip. There is a reason why I so enjoyed this anime back in the day, so why shouldn't I enjoy it now? It brought back fond memories, and reminded me that I really enjoyed the manga much more than the anime adaptation that followed. Maybe it's because you don't have to physically hear Shuichi's voice, which I've always thought was way too whiny (annoying!), or all his crying and whining throughout 80% of his time on screen. I also don't recall Yuki being such a broken character. I thought it was cute that Yuki had a troubled past and trust issues, but looking back now he seriously had way too many problems. I'm surprised he didn't just croak in the middle of the story.
I haven't gotten to what the box set comes with, though! With your slims, you'll get all 13 episodes throughout three DVDs and an OVA called "Lyrics of Love" which is an hour long. The bonus materials include clean openings and closings, character profiles, galleries and other notes. Of note is "Eiri Yuki Unmasked!," which covers his family and important events of his life, summaries about other characters and how they are important to Yuki's past. The other two DVDs cover "Bad Luck" and related characters, and "Nittle Grasper" with related characters, bringing together all the profiles for every person you meet in Gravitation.
In the previous paragraph I mentioned "other notes". That is, side notes included in the bonus material that highlight certain aspects of the direction or events and explain them in terms of Japanese culture. There's a scene where Yuki and his ex-fiancee have tea together, and the notes in that volume have a page talking about Japanese tea ceremony, to name an example. I appreciate this in the bonus section rather than superimposed on the screen in sub titles the moment you're watching it, so you can just look for it later if you want to. If I remember correctly, the manga did this as well.
One of the things I always really enjoyed about this anime is the soundtrack. I thought (and still think) it was so cool that an anime was based around a kid in a band, and they made cheesy, upbeat songs for the soundtrack. They made songs for Nittle Grasper, the rival band as well. This is a touch that a lot of shows don't bother to go for, and I definitely appreciate it here.
As far as animation quality goes, it didn't change. For this re-release, just the sound was remastered. Is that a bad thing? Yes and no. The bad news is, it doesn't look all that great on the HDTV that I watched the new DVDs in, so I couldn't watch it full screen and even then the graphics got a little choppy. The good news is, it's the very same way I remember it.
From episode to episode, the animation stays the same. The only times that the drawings actually go from "regular" to "spectacular", were very specific moments when the "camera" was on one of our main boys (which is to be expected, really). This isn't a drawback at all, and I didn't need it to look amazing. Also, less stock footage (that didn't bother me before but I notice now) would have been nice.
Another note about the animation is that the OVA that comes in the box set is supposed to take place after the 13 episode series, but looks nothing like it. Shuichi, for example, has pink hair and blue eyes in the series, but has a darker red hair and green eyes (which I like much better, mind you) in the OVA. Other things have changed, such as Nittle Graspers' members hair and eye colors as well. The voice acting was all the same, but visually it was a completely different experience. To give you an idea, it's more on par with the style Fake was animated. It also re-animated some scenes we saw in the series in a different way than it was originally portrayed, which was a little confusing.
Now the vocals! Something I caught onto now is that Mr. K, who is basically my favorite character of the anime series, talks with a hilarious foreign accent since he's American. Whenever the Japanese characters have conversation in English, it's usually quite slow, but it doesn't sound horrendous. Also, the translations highlighted with Japanese sub titles when there's English dialogue do not match what is being said, verbally, but only in context.
Dub-wise, and I left this for last because I'm usually pretty apprehensive about giving dubs a chance, I wasn't really disappointed. It sounded like those videos on YouTube where people dub over cats and other animals. A couple of the characters sounded good, like K (Bad Luck's Manager) and Sakano (Bad Luck's Producer), but the rest had voices that didn't seem to match the person.
As was the case with the anime, I liked Shuichi's voice acting the least, though. He's not a little kid or anything, but the voice actors make him seem much younger than he is. I think it brought the show down a little, making the age difference between Shuichi and Yuki seem so much bigger than it should be. I don't know their age difference, but Shuichi is out of school and old enough to drink, so he shouldn't sound like a high school aged kid.
For the most part, this experience has ripped those nostalgia glasses off my face and let me appreciate Gravitation in a different way. That being said, I wouldn't recommend this anime to someone who isn't familiar with the story. The OVA is much better directed, but compared with most of the other BL available, Gravitation stands out in a completely different way. The couple is a totally different class than what you might be used to if you're watching or reading stuff like A Foreign Love Affair, Junjou Romantica, even Fake or Yellow. It was a pleasure re-watching, but it's so different from other stories, which are starting to become more of the same, that you'll either love it or hate it, I think.
Score: 7.5 -- Good (It's pretty good, but more than likely only fans of Boys Love will like or appreciate the series. Furthermore, it's likely that original 'Gravitation' fans will enjoy this more than others. Fans of older, hand-drawn animation and 90's style series will definitely enjoy it a bit more.)
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