The SpotlightBy Kris Kleckner, Producer, 2004
The lights flare, the music pulses and your heart is pounding as the best romance of 2004 takes the stage – Gravitation
A couple of years ago, a friend handed me a tape and told me I just had to check out this new show – it was amazing – intriguing - utterly captivating. Knowing absolutely nothing about this show, I popped the tape into my player expecting to see something like a cross between Evangelion and His and Her Circumstances. Instead, I discovered a very normal (although extremely hyperactive) Shuichi Shindo - a kid simply dreaming to be a rock star like his pop idol Ryuichi Sakuma and his band Nittle Grasper.
So I thought, okay, maybe something like Chance Pop Sessions or American Idol? Is this just going to be about another band looking to make it big? Oh no – not even close. Within the first 5 minutes of the show, I quickly discovered Gravitation was one of those shows that simply sucks you in and never lets you go. Sure the show is about Shuichi and his band Bad Luck trying to top the charts, but at heart, Gravitation is an absolutely amazing story of the power of love. And I knew after seeing the first episode that we had to produce this show for the States.
Now, most of the fans out there were shocked, although extremely happy, when we officially announced this title. Who would have ever thought that this little show would get picked up? After all, it was by a group of relative unknowns in the US at the time (Maki Murakami's manga weren't being released yet) and let's face it – it is shonen-ai (boys x boys). Oh yeah - I can hear a bunch of people reading this article groaning and swearing they'll never pick it up just because of that fact, but I really believe that the anime community at large is not so narrow minded; and if you are – you're really missing out on something extraordinary because, like love, Gravitation isn't about gender, it's about how people feel towards each other - pure and simple. In fact, one of the main concerns fans had when we picked up this title was that we would switch Shuichi's gender to a girl. It would have been quite easy to do. However, I strongly felt that it would lessen the show, and being a true otaku at heart, I hate to see any show edited from its original form.
Now once we had picked up the title, casting it was a bit tricky. Since the show revolves around the music industry, the vocal tracks that Shuichi and Ryuichi sing play a huge part in the show (and believe me once you hear the music you're really going to want to have that soundtrack!). But messing with Japanese songs is always tricky. First, you have the fans in the States who want to hear the original Japanese vocals. Then, even if you wanted to dub the tracks, you have to find all the individual bands and record companies that cooperated on the show and get their permission to basically alter their songs. In the end, we decided to leave the Japanese vocals intact. Of course, this made casting much more difficult because it meant we had to find someone who matched the original singer close enough that it would seem believable that it was the same person. (For those of you who read the credits of the show, you'll notice that Tomokazu Seki, the original Japanese seiyuu for Shuichi, didn't do the vocals for the songs either – most of them were done by Kinya Kotani.)
Casting for this show…well I probably shouldn't give everything away in this article. I have to leave something for the DVDs after all! Needless to say, working on Gravitation was a great joy. It's a terrific love story with an amazing mix of drama and comedy (not to mention music!) that will make it one of the best remembered love stories for years to come. So this June 29th, make sure to pick up a copy of Gravitation DVD 1: Fateful First Encounter. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed producing it.