After the trauma of the previous volume, Gravitation‘s fifth installment offers its characters a welcome respite. Shuichi, who has moved in with Yuki (whether Yuki likes it or not), is delighted and confused by his lover’s attentive behavior. Yuki has thawed considerably now that Shuichi knows his Dark Secret (revealed in Volume 4). Meanwhile, the drama has moved over to the record label. Ryuichi Sakuma, Shuichi’s idol, has returned from America with his larger-than-life bodyguard (known only as “K”). K, who resembles an escapee from a Quentin Tarantino film, mistakes Shuichi for his charge when Ryuichi slips his leash for an incognito visit to the zoo (because dressing up as a bear is great way to blend into a crowd!). By the time K realizes his error, it’s too late to find the real Ryuichi–Shuichi must go on stage in his place. His success ruffles Ryuichi’s feathers, and Shuichi finds himself in the uncomfortable position of competing against his idol. Things heat up even more when Tohma Seguchi, the record company president, announces that Nittle Grasper is getting back together. For Bad Luck, this means losing bassist Noriko (a former member of NG). In her place, the record label sends mysterious, talented young Suguru Fujisaki. Suguru may look like a child, but his musical chops and his arrogance put Shuichi on the defensive; there’s definitely more to Suguru than meets the eye.
Volume 5 may be the most enjoyable yet, as Maki Murakami turns her attention from relationship drama to rock ‘n roll. The scenes with gun-toting K are hilarious, and the story hurtles along at breakneck speed. My one quibble is that as one of Murakami’s bishonen (Japanese “pretty boys”), Shuichi appears to have grown female body parts–boys do not have the kind of midriff we see on our hero in the manga‘s various pin-up illustrations. This style of drawing is a shonen-ai convention, but it’s still jarring. Is this meant to downplay the story’s homoeroticism? Does it make it easier for the manga‘s female audience to identify with the protagonist? No doubt art critics (and psychologists) would have a field day.