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FROM THE ASHES: Segment # 22

The Gravitational Pull of Love

Today we do something a little different. Rather than covering one film or series, I will be covering a franchise; briefly covering each of its media representations, and reviewing it as a whole. This months reviews will cover stories that show relevance and solid representations of social issues and experiences of the LGBT community. It is often difficult to find a story that covers this subject respectfully in any form of media, but particularly in anime, but I shall do my best. To start off, I chose the poignant and lighthearted story of Gravitation.

With the struggles of the LGBT community and musical artists (in this week's story particularly) of the world always being glorified for being parodies of themselves in film and animation , I can think of no other franchise that takes and turns that trope and subject matter on its head more truly to heart and with a hearty nature and a touch of the dramatic, than Gravitation. Starting with the manga both written and illustrated by Maki Murakami from 1996 - 2002, the 12 volume saga tells the tale of the lovable and zaney Shuichi Shindo and the cool and collected Eiri Yuki; it tells of how they met, how they express their feelings to one another, and the many struggles they come to face in their relationship. With an incredibly vast and colorful supporting cast of characters, a humorous yet realistic exposition on the drama in relationships, great comedic timing and references throughout, and a sense of sexuality that's not over played, it's no wonder Gravitation has sold over half a million copies of the manga. That success eventually launched the opportunity for an ova adaptation in 1999, and anime series in 2000. While chronologically, the ova takes place after the anime, it was released first. Both were highly successful and well received, particularly by the shonen-ai and yaoi fans in America, leading to the tagline " America's favorite shonen-ai couple".

For a series in a genre that relies heavily upon fan service and humorous in-jokes, Gravitation became noteworthy for being accessible to audiences and not reliant on provocative imagery, but rather subtle and evocative imagery which let the readers use their own imaginations. The charming and lively stylization of the characters by Maki Murakami also contributed to their appeal. The ova was directed by Shinichi Watanabe (1964-) of noted fame for works such as: Excel Saga, Puni Puni Poemi, Tenchi Muyo GXP, The Wallflower, and of course the Gravitation ova. His vision and adaptation cemented the characters being presented in a certain way which only expanded into the anime series, directed by Bob Shirohata. Some of his works include: Hetalia Axis Powers, Hetalia World Series, Diamond Daydreamers, The Tamayori Princess Saga, and Gravitation. Even though the anime only adapts material up to volume 7 of the manga the bulk of the romance and drama is built up successfully. Yes the story is a great comedy, with spurts of the genuinely dramatic, but the heart of the story is still the two lead characters and the journey of their tremulous romance. The range of social and personal issues covered in this series is immense. From accepting one's self, coming out to one's family, the invasiveness of celebrity, the vicious nature of fame, the heartbreak of miscommunication, the depths of depression of artists without their muses, the cost of naivety in show business, lack of trust in ones partner, the path to self reliance, to countless other issues, this story touches on so many topics.

While the plot does predominantly focus on the journey of fame and fortune quite a bit and does go off on obscure and odd tangents sometimes, I still found the chemistry of the two leads engaging enough to want to know what happens next. No, this is not Shakespeare, but the love of two people and their mad scurry to understand each other and themselves in a sometimes uncaring world, relates to all of us at some point. While there's so much more I could add about the many people involved with this franchise, and how great it really is in a sea of knock offs and diluted stories, I won't, because then we'd be here for quite a while yet. Nonetheless, Gravitation is one story I can recommend to those who are open to its subject matter and style of expression. I understand that it's not for everyone; but respect is. At its core, Gravitation is a comedic yet lovingly told story of two people and the twists and turns their relationship takes. Please enjoy.

From The Ashes, V.~

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