Volume four of this slapstick-meets-soap-opera series features events so dramatic even the author expresses surprise in one of her breezy side-notes. The major development? Taki, lead singer of our hero’s arch-rivals ASK, corners Shuichi in a subway station and (with the help of some hired goons) gang-rapes him. More specifically, he threatens to reveal Shuichi’s illicit relationship with Yuki if our hero resists. Determined to protect his beloved, Shuichi invites Taki to bring it on (the actual rape is suggested, not shown). Apparently, rape is just part of the price of love. Maki doesn’t entirely gloss over the trauma of the experience; the aftermath, in which Hiro takes Shuichi home to care for him, is quite touching. Shuichi bounces back from the rape with remarkable speed, but Yuki is not quite so unaffected. When Hiro confronts him to tell him what happened to his lover, we see Yuki’s mask start to slip. Enraged and guilty, Yuki exacts violent revenge on Taki and his bandmates (whose reaction to the rape was to call it “tacky”). He then vows to “protect” Shuichi by disappearing from his life and marrying Ayaka. Shuichi, in turn, resolves to put Yuki out of his mind–a resolution that lasts about two hours. It might seem like all is lost, but don’t worry. With a little cross-dressing, a little slapstick, a few role-reversals, and a startling confession, Shuichi and Yuki’s relationship is back on track.
It’s disturbingly easy to get sucked into this series, with its unique mix of passionate drama and snappy humor–disturbing because one quickly becomes accustomed to the manga’s twisted emotional world. Like the heroines of 1970’s romance novels, Shuichi will suffer anything for a tiny crumb of affection or respect from his beloved alpha male. It’s not that Yuki is unsympathetic–his character does gain some depth–but Shuichi’s low standards for respectful treatment are disturbing. Yes, Gravitation is a comedy. In many ways it’s a clever parody of traditional shoujo and shonen-ai romances. It’s certainly funny; how can you resist lines like “You sounded like an elephant with his nuts stuck in a circular fan”? Still, with its careless disregard for reality, Gravitation is a very guilty pleasure.