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Gravitation Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

17 min read
Rock 'n roll and young men in love. This is why I enjoy anime.

Rock ‘n roll and young men in love. This is why I enjoy anime.

What They Say:
Love – the one force that simply won’t be denied! Walking through the park, aspiring rock star Shuichi’s latest lyrics flutter away and land at the feet of a stunning stranger that takes his breath away. The stranger happens to be the famous novelist Eiri Yuki, who completely crushes the young singer by telling him he has “zero talent”. Now, Shuichi’s so annoyed that he’s managed to finish his song just so he can find and confront Yuki! But, are his actions really motivated by anger, or has he fallen in love?

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and an English language dub, both of which are in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. We also get an English 5.1 mix encoded the same which adds a bit more oomph and impact in a few scenes but is still working from the stereo source. The series has a really good stereo mix that has some solid oomph to it when it comes to the music scenes – which stand out with their warmth and overall impact – and some of the action sequences where the sound effects make good use of the stereo channels. Dialogue is for the most part center channel driven but it’s got a good range to it and comes across well. Combined with a solid music score, the audio for these two tracks comes off very good and free of problems during regular playback. Like some other older shows moving to high definition releases, the audio is where it can make some good gains and this music-heavy series definitely done.

Video:
Originally airing back in the fall of 2000, Gravitation is presented here in its full-frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across three discs with the OVA getting its own discs. Animated by Plum for the OVA and studio Deen for the TV series, the show features a lot of really good vibrant colors throughout, particularly when it comes to the purples it seems, but also in many other areas. Combined with the good backgrounds and the overall feel, the colors look great, solid and generally free of problems. The high definition aspect eliminates the problem of cross coloration we had with the DVD releases but there’s still some line noise to be had during various panning sequences which are just built into the animation itself. Solving the cross coloration is a big help here and getting more solid backgrounds and solid color fields helps to bring a lot more life to the show.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard-sized Blu-ray case with a hinge to hold the two TV discs while the OVA disc is against the back wall. The cover artwork gives us our two leads in illustration style which is definitely something that stands out as we get the two of them laying together and being very close. The color design definitely pops with the hair and outfit with the pinks and purples and I like the overall look of it because this style is really rare. The logo is kept to the bottom in its traditional form we’ve seen for a few releases now that looks good and fits in with the overall color design. The back cover puts our two leads together again and showcases their personalities well along the right. The left breaks down the summary of the premise in a short paragraph while the extras are laid out clearly below it. The technical grid lists the way the show is encoded in a clean and clear way with accurate details while also getting a few logos in the mix as well. While there are no show related inserts included we do get artwork on the reverse side with the two leads together laying about and showing a bit of skin.

Menu:
The menu design for the show works the clip side well as that takes up the middle portion of the screen. With a kind of jagged approach similar to the cover, the right side is shadowed but the left side breaks down the navigation with the standard selections here. It has the logo along the top and using yellow and black as the defining colors for the navigation strip it has a strong look to it overall. The clips are fun as they set the mood well as does the music. The functionality is solid throughout and it works well both as a pop-up menu during playback and as the main menu upon loading.

Extras:
For the TV series, we get the clean opening and closing – spread across the two discs – as our only extras. This is cut down from the previous DVD releases that had a lot of liner notes and also included a character gallery. With the OVA, we get the clean opening and ending as well as the two sneak peeks. Again, the lack of liner notes from the original release is unfortunate.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name, Gravitation is a thirteen-episode TV series that aired in the fall 2000 season.coming after a two-part OVA series was produced in the summer of 1999. THe manga from Maki Murakami began in 1996 and wrapped up in 2002 with twelve volumes, though the anime doesn’t deal with the manga ending. The series was a rare one for me at the time as I broke one of my rules with it in that I started reading the manga series before the anime even. I still like going into a series with as little knowledge as possible so that it’s a fresh experience but the easy access of the manga and it being a well thought of property had me caving in on it.

Gravitation is at its center a romance show. But it’s a romance show that doesn’t focus solely on that but brings in the comedy that ensues, the passion of youth and lots of music. We’re introduced to the recently graduated Shuichi Shindo, the lead singer for the band Bad Luck. They’ve managed to land a deal of some sort with N-G, the company that’s run by a former band member of the ultra-popular Nittle Grasper. The president of the company, Seguchi, is working on his latest band named ASK. They’re the cocky up and coming new boys on the district and are getting ready to really hit their stride. While they’re getting most of the attention, Bad Luck is getting some work done with their manager, Sakano, a protégé of Seguchi’s whose managing his first group. The other half of Bad Luck is Hiro, his long-time friend who handles the guitar and essentially plays the straight and deadpan foil to Shuichi’s over the top antics. He’s the rock in the band to be sure.

One of Shuichi’s other jobs is to write the groups lyrics. He’s got about ten days before they make their own debut by opening for ASK in a one-song performance the Zepp Tokyo so Shuichi is under a lot of pressure to come up with a really great song that will match their energy. This, of course, drives his manager nuts since Shuichi is all over the map about everything. But the situation gets even worse after Shuichi proudly comes up with some material only to have it fall into the hands of some strange blonde guy he comes across in one of the cities parks in the evening. The rather serious stranger reads the lyrics and simply tells Shuichi that the material is awful and that he should give up writing altogether. He’s brutally honest and says it with little care before walking on, leaving a completely devastated Shuichi.

This eventually forces Shuichi to confront things and to try and figure out where he’s gone wrong and goes to find this stranger so that he can force him to come to the concert so that he can prove just how good he is. When he learns that the stranger is actually Erie Yuki, a rather famous romance novelist of the day, he’s even more determined to show him his stuff. When he does this though, the situation goes completely out of control as the guy ends up using Shuichi to intimate to a woman that he’s involved with him. And before he realizes it, Shuichi finds that he’s got strong strange feelings for Yuki. Each time he confronts him, Yuki keeps shooting him down and pushing him away, something that’s very strong with the type of voice the character has. Yuki’s trying to figure out why Shuichi keeps coming to him and in a situation where nobody is sure what to do, he ends up kissing Shuichi.

Their strange and stormy romance really kicks off from this point as each of them affects the other, both in their relationships with others and in their work. Shuichi keeps going to visit Yuki and goes on about his day and the troubles he runs into, such as his manager being fired and made just a producer while they get a new band member to flesh out the group in an effort to fill in what’s missing from it. Each of the times he goes to Yuki, Shuichi is almost childlike and childish about what’s going on, but Yuki pays him little mind and ends up forcing him to grow up some and to realize what he needs to do to really make his ambitions come true. But these are also things that work towards Shuichi’s learning more about Yuki and exploring his feelings for him.

Gravitation is a series that has a lot going on in it. While the romance is in the forefront, there are subplots going on that have Nittle Grasper’s lead singer coming back to Japan after debuting in America and getting involved in things. There’s the rivalry that crops up when ASK starts to feel like they’re not getting the attention they deserve due to the way Shuichi’s antics end up getting them more of the limelight than expected. And add in a varying number of relationships between families that get exposed as it progresses and it’s a very amusing little mess – in a good way. The music sequences are also something that’s given some good space, letting the characters really get up there and sing (ignore all lip flaps!) and not just doing cutaways and instrumental pieces. This show has some of the feeling of the idol series we’ve seen before but it’s got a much rougher and rawer edge in a lot of places.

Shuichi doesn’t get rough or edgy though, but ends up being more round-faced than anything else, especially after Yuki keeps taking advantage of him. He’s like a kid whose discovered all his Christmas presents and is just giddy thinking about them and it’s written all over his face. The relationship between Yuki and Shuichi is done perfectly. There’s denials that Yuki keeps putting up but he’s the one that makes the first moves more often than not. There are a lot of bare-chested scenes throughout the show of the very pretty men and the romance between the two leads is quite a lot of fun and had us laughing out loud a lot during the early episodes before things get a lot more serious.

As the show continues on, Bad Luck has their journey of changes as they progress towards recording their debut single CD. After the request made by Seguchi in the previous episodes, Sakano moves into a producer position for the band while K takes on the position of manager. K’s style, with his being from the American music business, is nothing like anything else people here have seen so his methods cause concern constantly as does his free-wheeling use of his firearms. While his methods may be questionable, they do consistently produce results. And with things starting to gel with Fujisaki now in the group, Bad Luck is moving right along. But K pushes things even harder by getting them their stage debut at the place where Sakuma made his debut all those years ago but with only two days to rehearse.

While Shuichi should be riding high from all of this, he’s actually getting kicked down and out. An accidental encounter with a young woman who was lost turns out to be more than he imagined. She’s apparently Yuki’s fiancé who has come from Kyoto to find Yuki and to make sure things are still going forward. The entire deal is being done without his approval or consent but the families continue to get things going on it. None of this gets told to anyone who doesn’t already know, so Shuichi ends up in a depression and decides that he’s better off by letting Yuki go with the woman he thinks he loves instead of him and that of course affects everything else that’s going on in his life.

As the show moves into the halfway mark, a good amount of focus is given to pushing the band forward to their first release and getting the group out there so that the publicity factor is high when the single does get released. Through some amusing behind the scenes maneuvering by K, a master indeed, he’s able to ensure that Yuki is providing the right kind of incentive to Shindo for him to actually do the work that’s required. It also works out to Yuki’s advantage as well as the two of them continue to really get closer and closer. The revelations that Yuki has made so far are actually fairly minimal, though important, and have helped reshape his view of Shindo and how he views not just the world but people around him.

The return of Nittle Grasper to the stage is another nice addition to the plot since it brings Sakuma into play more and provides something tangible for Shindo to try and strive towards while also giving him a reason to be depressed about his abilities. There’s some good growth related to it here for Shindo that makes a lot of sense and isn’t something that you think of initially. There’s also a lot of really amusing comedy to these episodes. K continues to be a very humorous character though usually deadpan. The moments when he starts shooting into the apartment are priceless and the characters facial reactions had us almost falling out of the chair. Shindo himself provides plenty of comedy as he goes super deformed and all bubbly at times. He’s already a comical character to begin with but when he goes into this mode or does his insane stuff like wearing a schoolgirl uniform or the banana outfit, it just pushes it even more.

As it barrels towards the finale, the drama ramps up significantly. The mysterious problems that Yuki has, which are not fully explored here in the series, have been causing him problems and his recent blood spurting moments have landed him in the hospital again. His closest family members, mainly his sister and Seguchi, confront him about what they think the problem is and how he simply has to stop seeing Shuichi since it’s so bad for his health. Whatever it is that Shuichi has brought into Yuki’s life is adding more stress to him and forcing him to think about events in the past that only accelerate the problem. Shuichi is partially unaware of this mostly because everyone is keeping it secret but when he does learn of some of it and Yuki’s apparent plans to go to New York to get away, it sets him into another downward spiral.

There’s a lot of drama throughout in dealing with Yuki and his past, the revelations we learn about what happened and the person he killed and most of the basics surrounding it. Yuki gets some good time to himself, which while it does allow him to look cool and aloof, also provides some time to get his inner thoughts rolling along and able to figure out just what his mindset really is on the whole matter. Seguchi is brought into a lot of this nicely since he feels some sense of responsibility about all of it and his involvement in both the past and present in how he tries to make things better for Yuki are in the right place but the wrong way to do it, but he still tries. It causes its share of confusion and sets K against him somewhat but it’s not unexpected.

There are some really good light moments as it moves through the end as well to break up the tension a bit. The actual date episode is solid with Yuki and Shuichi going to the amusement park for the day and acting like a normal couple. It’s one of those things that just about every scene with it is endearing and cute enough to make you smile over the happy energy emanating from there. The two, while very different, continue to make an interesting and fun looking couple and when they actually get moments like this, and the moments where Yuki realizes just how he really does feel only helps to reinforce that.

One of my favorite things with the show is watching the changes in Ryuichi when he’s dealing with Shuichi. His “deformed” moments are just priceless and I wish you could see them done with his regular character design just to see how they’d pull it off. His influence has been an interesting part of the series since he’s ended up being both an idol of Shuichi’s and something approaching a friend as he gets more and more into the business. Watching them perform together has been fun and the way Ryuichi encourages and prods Shuichi along is something that a character like his could only get away with.

OVA

Much like the last time I saw this, watching this OVA was a bit odd in a way because it’s the “came first” part of the anime world, not that they’re truly connected in a real sense. With the manga series popular and growing since its introduction in the mid 90’s, Sony tested the waters with some audio dramas that went well. They then decided to make a two part OVA series that is “for the fans” in 1999 which is what we have here. That went over well enough for the TV series that followed in 2000 and interest is still riding high out there as I believe new audio works were produced in 2004 for it.

So having seen the TV series first and then this, it’s interesting to see that other than a few things the OVAs really do feel like they could be a follow-up instead of a self-contained short story for the leads. Once you know the distinctions between the two it becomes much more evident but if you’re a casual fan and just enjoy the show then it’ll have that feel. The liner notes do a great job of listing the differences between the three formats and it’s interesting to see what’s kept in one, minimized in another or eliminated entirely elsewhere. What’s definitely true though in my opinion is that the OVA series is much closer to the manga in style and humor and that it is going on the assumption that you are familiar with the cast as there are no real introductions here. This really is just made for the fans.

The storyline is fairly straightforward as we’re in the midst of watching Shuichi hit his latest songwriting slump and he’s just completely out of it. Yuki has been treating him coldly lately and it’s affecting him all over like always. Never one to do things small, Shuichi’s depressions and mood swings are highly dramatic. When he’s like this, nothing gets done so everyone is in a panic since they’re getting closer and closer to needing to put out the new record. With the knowledge that it’s Yuki as the root cause, they try a couple of different things but for the most part Yuki just keeps his distance and is working on whatever his mystery project is.

As it turns out, he’s writing a song for Nittle Grasper for their live appearance at the 99 World Music Festival in Tokyo as requested by Seguchi. When Shuichi learns of this it just sends him even further into a spiral since he can’t believe the guy he loves would do that without writing something for him as well. It goes back and forth like this for a bit as everyone gets involved and tries to cheer up Shuichi and get him on the right path to writing again. The fun with the show is that it revolves around the frantic nature of getting things done at the last moment with people who are so “of the moment” themselves that nothing ever goes according to plan. But it’s also these kinds of people that can pull off some of the most amazing things on the spot which makes it just as exhilarating and that’s what we get here.

The fun isn’t so much in the story but in the characters and for fans of the manga it just feels like they really just animated Maki’s pages at times and just went with it. It’s a lot more manic, a lot more wild but about the same level in the boys-love arena. There are a lot of wild takes and character deformations and fun that works well with the characters and their already over the top nature. Some of the best fun is watching Sakuma play around like he always does, from the Kumagoro’s that are useful at the most inopportune times to the way he hopped around in a giant speaker. The show has it’s corny moments as well which are mostly made up of the English language sections at the beginning and end of the story that was in the original and some of the moments between Yuki and Shuichi are comical, but that’s part of the appeal of their relationship in that it’s incredibly high maintenance for both of them.

In Summary:
Gravitation will always have something of a special place in my heart as one of the earliest series of this nature that I’d seen. While it’s a shojo series it deals with the relationship between the two men well and really has fun with the dynamics of two very different people. It can be over the top in problematic ways at times and there are the usual power dynamic issues that make a lot of stories of this nature problematic to watch for some folks. But looking at it as a dynamic that does exist rather than pretending it doesn’t is the way to go and it’s enjoyable in a lot of ways. Nozomi’s release loses out a bit on the lack of liner notes for the TV and OVA series but the improved video quality is a big plus for a show from this era while the cleaner and better audio presentation is a big draw for the music side. This is definitely an easy upgrade for fans who want to have the show looking the best it can on their shelf.

Features:
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, TV Series Clean Opening and Closing, OVA Gravitation Sneak Previews 1 & 2, OVA Clean Opening, OVA Clean Episode 1 Ending.

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 385 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.




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