In order to heal the wounds in Eiri Yuki's heart, he and his vocalist lover, Shuichi, travel to New York to visit the grave of Yuki's first love and tormentor, Yuki Kitagawa. They discover that the first Yuki has left behind a young son, Riku, and so the odd couple take the boy back with them to Japan. When Shuuichi receives a kiss from nutty rival band leader, Ryuuichi, Yuki flies into a jealous rage, and he and Riku disappear, leaving Shuuichi to search for them in vain.
I adored Gravitation. It was, and probably still is, one of my favorite series of all time and I love it to pieces. Thus, I found myself more than a little disappointed with this long-awaited sequel...
(I apologize beforehand for the sloppiness of this review. I wrote it several years ago, immediately after the release of Gravitation EX. Thus, because Gravitation remains so dear to me, this review is a lot more emotional/subjective than I would like it to be. I may rewrite it in the future.)
ART - Maki Murakami's style has changed dramatically once again. The change was already pretty drastic by the end of
the first series - you could NOT tell that it had been her that had drawn both volume 1 and 12 if you just compared the art (hell, if you compared the story at those two points... you probably wouldn't be able to tell either). But I still liked her style at the end of the series. It had been a good, nice, progression and everyone was just hot at the end. Now... her style seems incredibly, cliche shoujo with very round heads and hugehugehuge eyes. The proportions of people seem to be off - especially for Shuichi, Ryuichi, and Tohma - they just looks really, really weird. Hell, a lot of people do; the only person that doesn't seem to have changed is Eiri. It's all very inconsistent and really annoys me. Some of the panels also seem really sloppy and rushed - this one shot of Tohma just looks like bad fanart. :/ The only plus side I found in the art was that the new character - Riku, looks good. Oh, also, she pretty much redesigned Tatsuha... now he looks like Greed from the Fullmetal Alchemist anime... which isn't bad, I guess, but it's really random.
STORY - Y'know... Gravi's story sort of got more and more ridiculous as it progressed with more and more ridiculous elements (giant panda mech, nuclear attacks, etc) being inserted in for humor's sake. Of course, all of those points were awesome and hilarious, but the central bit of the story never really changed that much, which made all of those things okay. One of the things I like most about Gravi was that it really had two stories and plots that weren't really that interconnected. The focus on the music industry was a fantastic point and it was what set it apart from other generic shounen-ai titles (and this is possibly why I've still yet to find another shounen-ai title I care for). Biggest gripe about Gravitation Ex? It completely nixed that aspect of the story. Like, completely. It's GONE. It's all about Shuichi and Eiri now. One-sided romance with no other story or sidestory to give you something else to focus on now and again. Hiro, Fujisaki, and Sakano had disappointingly little screentime and even that wasn't much. They were only there to provide useless commentary and I sort of got the feeling that Murakami only put them there for the sake of them being there. Very, very, disappointing.
The main plot of Gravitation Ex wasn't horrible, exactly,... I mean, I guess it had some decent/interesting themes going. I just really didn't like how Murakami decided to go about doing it. There were a lot of gags and poking-fun-at-otakudom jokes, but they were badly placed and/or really random. A lot of things didn't seem to fit that nicely and... well, see below.
CHARACTERS - Ryuichi was my favorite character in Gravitation. He was awesome, hilarious, and random. He turned into the most horribly OOC sonuvabitch ever. Seriously, it felt like a horrible fanfiction and I guess it isn't really that surprising given what Murakami's done with the Gravitation REMIX doujinshi (how the heck do you make doujinshi for your own series?! Is it even to be considered doujinshi? Just because none of it was canon?). But yeah... I really hate what she's turned Ryuichi into. And hell, even Tohma was pretty OOC, even with his established paranoia and overprotectiveness. Their new personalities both clashed horribly with the ending of Gravitation. Hey, Murakami? Did you just completely forget about Tohma's scene with Mika in the hospital? Hell, what happened to Mika!? And their kid!? Fucking hell. Pissed me off especially knowing that there is NO time jump from the end of Gravitation to Gravitation Ex. Gravi ends with Shuichi and Eiri heading off the NYC. GraviEx starts with them arriving in NYC. NO TIME JUMP. WHY ARE THEY SO DIFFERENT? It's like she forgot how she made her own characters.
Ryuichi and Tohma aside though, Shuichi and Eiri remained, for the most part, unchanged, and I guess that's good. But because the aforementioned two characters were so out of whack, their interactions were all fucked up and I guess that contributed a little to the... oddity of how everything felt. K and Reiji seemed like extremely stereotyped versions of their old selves - like they had no personality beyond the running joke, which is sad, because that's not true. They really didn't contribute much to anything aside from trying to kill each other. Tatsuha was pretty much the same, but his relationship with Ryuichi seemed fucked up because Ryuichi was fucked up. I really, really didn't like the suddenly blatant SM overtones in the dialogue either. I think Murakami forgot also how to censor herself. This is not a REMIX doujinshi! Yoshiki, thankfully, was pretty much the same. S/he is sort of awesome and I really liked the scene where s/he explains why Shuichi has to watch Riku. xD I also really like Riku. He's a nifty kid. ...Those are probably the only positive things I have to say about characters...ugh.
OTHER - As a whole, I really liked how TOKYOPOP had previously handled the translations. They were fun and entertaining and fit really well for the most part. They added a lot of colloquialisms and worded a lot of things a lot more casually than a direct translation, but that's what made it so good. The only real mishaps there had been was with the translations of some names in the early volumes, such as Toma for Tohma and NRG for NG, both of which they retified in the later volumes... For some reason, it seems like they've taken a step back. All of a sudden, Tohma is now Touma (which might make a little more sense because the hiragana would have generally been transliterated as "tou" instead of "toh" - it mostly just annoys me because they've stuck with the other spelling for like 10 volumes and that's the spelling that's already generally accepted. Why the hell change it now?). Also, a lot of things seemed to have been rushed through. The lettering work was inconsistent - the sizes varied A LOT between bubbles... For the smaller bubbles crammed with lots of text, it suggests that they tried to cram way too much in there. There's a line between clever and creative translations and just making shit up okay. Rereading the first chapter of the volume that appeared online so very long ago - a lot of the dialogue is different from that version (which wasn't done by TOKYOPOP). ... But some of the differences are in favor of that GENZO version, and others are in favor of the offical TOKYOPOP version so... I don't know. It just didn't seem quite up to par with the original series, I guess.
OVERALL - I'm not impressed at all. I'm the opposite of impressed. I almost sort of regret buying the book so quickly - but there's a trust that sort of builds on the quality of the original series, y'know? After a while, you just sort of love a series unconditionally and expect everything to be good. ... A rather stupid thing to do though, considering how many awful, awful sequels there are out there (*coughGundamSEEDDestinycough*) and how many authors/mangaka disappoint at the very last minute (*coughFullmetalAlchemistanimecough*). Murakami left an note at the end of the volume jesting that she planned to continue Gravitation for another 2378237289 volumes, ie, indefinitely. So presumably, she doesn't have a set course of action and is just going to run with it some more because she knows it's damn popular. Well. Although, I'm horribly disappointed with the first installment of this sequal, I'm not going to write it all off just yet. I mean, admittedly, I did still laugh here and there and that was also one of the reasons I liked the original series so much. It always made me laugh.
But I'll definitely be reading the next volume at the store before blindly purchasing it. ._.
The sequel to the Gravitation manga was highly anticipated, and to be fair, it didn't let it's side of the bargain down. For those who read the first series the second will be a welcome change of pace. It's a lot calmer, with Murakami developing her characters past their initial introduction to the series. The art work shows a dramatic change to all of the characters, re enforcing the idea that Murakami wants to shake off the old "SHUICHI IS A MORON" statement. Even though he still has his moments, I thought the first manga was fantastic, I can't wait until she carries the series
on. There is also a very, very large twist which literally made me drop my book. If you felt hollow at the end of book 12 of Gravi, BUY THIS! You wont be let down~