Gravitation: Lyrics of Love

The world of pretty boys is upon us. Although shonen-ai/yaoi stories have been common in Japan for a long time, we are finally seeing an influx into the US of tales of effeminately handsome rail-thin young men falling in love with each other. As more women enter into the hobby -- which is no longer a boy's club in any sense of the word -- yaoi becomes more popular. Why are illustrated stories of gay men entertainment for women rather than for real gay men? Who knows? Many theories abound (and all of us have a few), but there is no doubt that they are selling and selling well. And one of the top titles in the genre is Gravitation.

Gravitation: Lyrics of Love is a two-part OVA that jumps into the middle of the story, though it gives enough background that those of us who aren't readers of the manga won't be hopelessly lost. Shuichi's the young lead singer for the band Bad Luck. Although he thinks he's hot stuff, he's devastated when Yuki trashes the lyrics he's written. But despite the insult, Shuichi finds himself strangely attracted to this tall, reticent figure. As the show begins, Bad Luck has already become the "next big thing" and is in the studio cutting the last few tracks for their new record. But there's a big problem: Shuichi's having writer's block...and since it's been announced to the world that Bad Luck's new ballad will have his lyrics, he can't back out without alienating all their fans. But Shuichi can't get his mind off the cold shoulder Yuki's given him lately. How can he possibly write a love song when his muse is being a distant jerk? Unless Shuichi can resolve his dilemma before the Tokyo music festival, the band's name might turn out to be truer than they know.

Gravitation: Lyrics of Love is not the newest program on the block; it dates from 1999, but it looks older than its pedigree. Part of that might be the rough nature of the animation. Though only a few shots look limited by a budget, this was as much a market test for Gravitation as anything else. It succeeded, since a TV show soon followed, but one shouldn't be hopeful of great animation here. Although the disc has slightly muted colors that enhance the aged effect, the program looks good otherwise.

All things considered, Gravitation: Lyrics of Love isn't bad for an hour's entertainment. Like another shonen-ai title I enjoyed, Fake, Gravitation loads on tons of comedy. Unlike Fake, the majority of it wasn't risqué, so it got props for that. The show runs on its humorous energy for a long time; though it eventually sags, I was laughing enough to be in a better mood after watching the show than beforehand. There are a few jokes that just don't work in translation, but it hits more than it misses. And the comedy made the very real holes in the program less noticeable until after the fact.

As with almost every musically based anime, Gravitation can't quite put together a number that looks like the characters on screen are actually performing the tune we're hearing. Also, why can't a concert actually sound like a live performance rather than something devised in a studio? These things probably bother me more than the average individual, having been a semi-professional musician at one point, but they still bug me. The music itself is not quite rock and roll; it's more like a pop band with a couple guitar parts and a dance beat. Although the style wasn't appealing to me, the songwriters wrote some catchy melodies that fit the piece well enough that I'm not going to complain. Someday, though, I'd like to see an anime about a rock band with an original soundtrack killer enough to believe the story I'm watching. (Try out the movie ALMOST FAMOUS if you want to see what I'm talking about.)

Unlike most of the shonen-ai titles I've seen, Gravitation gets a bit more graphic in the area of sexuality. Yes, the more suggestive scenes are dreams; there is no "real" sex in the show, and there is nothing shown per se. But there are a few explicit conversations that leave no doubts, and they bothered me. Now before you come down on me for judging this, keep in mind that I trash ninety-nine love scenes or fan service moments in normal anime for every one I bash in a yaoi anime. But considering the plot of LYRICS OF LOVE, the bedroom scenes were shoehorned in and didn't move the plot along. Call me a prude; I don't care. It made me uncomfortable enough to lower the rating a little bit.

But this goes to a larger problem in Gravitation: the lack of real characterization. If I had really felt there was a sincere relationship between Yuki and Shuichi, perhaps I would have found the sexuality less of a throwaway. Though I'm sure the manga developed their relationship every which way from Sunday, it's just not here. Yuki comes off as an abrasive dipstick who seems genuinely undeserving of Shuichi's affections. However, when confronted with Shuichi's passive/aggressive whines of "YUUUKKKIII!", I suppose it's understandable. When the show delves into romance, it's pap. For most of the show, you can ignore it and appreciate the comedy. But when Shuichi starts pining for the, I mean, pining for Yuki, it's just this side of embarrassing. And I think this might be why young women find yaoi so attractive -- it's fantasy fulfillment without the attachment of reality.

For the very real problems that Gravitation: Lyrics of Love has, I'm still giving it a cautious recommendation. Why? Because the fan of the manga will eat this show up. Because it's still far funnier than it is unbelievable or uncomfortable. And because the show worked well enough that I enjoyed it as a fluffy piece of entertainment, though I won't be returning to it any time soon. If you've read this far, you know whether you're the target audience. I would strongly advise against this title if you have any qualms with shonen-ai or yaoi material. But otherwise, if this is your thing, it's worth a rental.

Gravitation: Lyrics of Love -- homosexual themes, brief but strong sexual content -- B