Really, Gravitation is three different shows: first, a rather sweet romance between an older and a younger man; second, the story of a J-Pop band following their idols; and third, a zany screwball comedy with lots of Super Deformed art, bizarre costumes and visual gags. Sure, there is a lot of cross-pollination, but the three elements are fairly distinct.
It’s a shame, because the first of these ingredients, the main draw, promises an enticing dish, but the others spoil the flavour and leave behind a taste that in the end is overwhelmingly sour.
Gravitation is a short series: 13 episodes. There is also a two-part OVA, which predates the series by a year or two, and presumably paved the way for it; the series covers some similar ground, but with a less rushed narrative and higher-quality animation. Both suffer from the same failings.
I really wanted to like Gravitation. The beginning was auspicious, with a promising love story centred on the typical anime same-sex coupling of a stern, emotionally repressed older character and an optimistic, cheerful younger one. The former worries the latter doesn’t care, while really their love of life is teaching them how to open up, and all the rest of it. (See also: Loveless, Maria-sama ga Miteru.) I identified rather more with the austere, emotionally repressed writer with a dark past, Yuki Eiri, than perhaps I would like to, and the winsome, cuddly, needy Shuichi Shindou admittedly seemed adorable. So far, so good. Yes, the flashback angst was a little overwrought and the push-pull dynamic got a tad repetitive, but if there was anything I cared about in this series, it was the central characters.
But they were left woefully undeveloped, because instead the series decided to get cheap adrenaline rushes from concert scenes, and I was subjected to probably the worst rising-band storyline I’ve ever seen. Yes, Beck made me sneer once or twice, but it was a mirror to the world compared to Gravitation. Bad Luck, Shindou’s band, go from unknowns with barely any material to million-selling artists after one or two publicity stunts. Yes, it’s J-Pop (the band has a guitarist, keyboardist and singer, but sounds like a nightclub), and whiffs of Johnny’s abound, but the story is so ridiculous, with so many daft insertions of how real-life drama affects every aspect of Shindou’s professional life that it really annoyed me.
But the comedy killed this series for me. Like Furi Kuri, it just wasn’t as funny as it thought it was. There were amusing parts, undoubtedly, but after the ninetieth ridiculous costume, explosion, stupid SD face or fatal-looking slapstick fall, I never wanted to see Shuichi Shindou again, the annoying little tit.
(originally written 30.3.06)