Review: Love Stage

Uwah~ it’s been so long since I’ve tried a new BL.This brings back memories.

If you had the leisure to visit my MAL, you’d know that there was a period when I’d been so fascinated over yaoi manga. It was new to me. I sure was young then.

What am I saying? Reading yaoi at a young age.

Anyway, all I’m trying to point out is that I’ve been so exposed to this demography to the point that I’ve become hesitant to try yet another one. Read some and you’ll notice that there’s quite a trend.

  1. PWP (story? What story? Is that something you can eat?)
  2. Inexplicable attraction among protagonists (most probably physical)
  3. Use of force (!rape)
  4. Het character realizes he like–loves  his assaulter because he didn’t want anyone’s touch but his.

Alright, let’s talk about Love Stage.

Love_Stage!!_volume_1_cover

To be honest, the summary and cover photo gave me the vibe that this anime can turn out to be another Love Celeb (one of the most terrifying shoujo manga out there). Won’t you agree? Ryouma definitely looks like the type to pin a boy down, bully and sexually harass him. There were red flags everywhere! And dear me how I hate cross-dressing.

But I watched it anyway. Oh well, it’s not like I have anything better to do and I haven’t had yaoi in a while so.

1. The Story.

/slow claps/ I’m glad I didn’t back down despite the red flags because, out of the many BLs I’ve watched and read, this has one.

There’s actually a commercial to shoot but the little girl who’s supposed to do it with Ryouma is running late. They can’t stop the shoot because the director’s going for the nice weather and lighting so no choice. They have to look for a replacement.

Enters Izumi.

With his cute face, he can pass for a girl and there goes your story. Ryouma innocently falls in love with a boy.

And !surprise, at the commercial’s tenth year anniversary, they want to shoot the whole thing with the original cast.

The premise is so conveniently made (you really can’t just replace an actor suddenly because hello, contract!) but it somehow works.

For me.

Next!

2. Portrayal of love.

If there’s one thing to appreciate in this series, it should be how Ryouma’s love is portrayed. How do I even begin? Is it puppy love? Unreasonable and groundless? Nah.

A love that’s nurtured for ten years. Ten years. I’m really a sucker for this kind. Ryouma’s love is so complicated that I don’t think I’ll be able to explain it amply through this review.

It sure starts out superficially because, at first, Ryouma just thinks Izumi has beautiful eyes. Later though, you know it can dig deep.

You see, if you look closer, it’s just been Ryouma’s idealistic mind playing here. He’s young back then that you’ll find it impossible to believe he can keep liking Izumi. They didn’t interact much and in that short and casual interval, Izumi pretty much messed up and made a fool out of himself.

But in the long gap that Ryouma lost contact with the cute girl boy, a lot has happened and he needed something to keep him rooted. A string of hope he can hold onto so as not to let go of his dreams of becoming an actor. When projects didn’t come. When he allowed himself to be harassed to get through the harsh world of the industry. When other celebrities beat him to the top spot.

Izumi had been that string. For me, at the onset of the series, he didn’t love Izumi as he is. He loves the idea of the girl he created for himself to keep going.

Can you just imagine shattering his fantasy by saying that his first love is actually a man? Tell that to Tsuruga Ren and let’s see how he will react.

It’s actually a nice conflict, won’t you say?

It would’ve been fine if Ryouma’s gay or bisexual but no. Both characters started off as heterosexual.

3. Force (!rape)

Force and harassment became an issue at episode three. The usual formula is broken though when Ryouma grovels for apology and vows not to do it again. The anime surprisingly recognizes that without consent, it’s wrong. He doesn’t put the blame on Izumi and say that he’s at fault too because he acted cute and careless and he’s just irresistible er…oozing with pheromones. He doesn’t leave in fear of rejection. He’s enough of a man to own up to his mistake and face the possible hatred Izumi can bear against him.

Sorry, Takanaga-sensei. I love KSB to death but I just can’t help but compare.

Now, the friendship part is a little bit too idealistic for my liking but there, there. It’s convenient. Let’s let it slide.

4. How do you fall in love?

Ryouma’s in love with Izumi. That’s clearly been established the moment he said that he’s still in love with the guy despite knowing he’s a man and a dweeb at that.

Let’s shift the cams to Izumi. How should an originally heterosexual character fall in love with the person of the same sex?

What I really hate about yaoi is how the unresponsive party usually falls in love. Typical scene goes like this: he’s being sexually abused by his partner. No strings attached. They’re having sex because he owes him money or because he’s being blackmailed into doing it. Then our unresponsive protagonist suddenly gets attacked by another man who isn’t his usual partner. He realizes while his clothes are stripped and his nipples pinched that such activity is gross. Why doesn’t he feel disgusted and violated when it’s him? (Well, he does say ‘no!’ or ‘stop that!’ but he doesn’t mean it the way he does now.) Why does he feel that his touches are kind but this one’s just forced that it makes him want to puke and cry? Why?

Because he loves him.

And he admits his feelings soon as his knight in shining armor comes to his rescue.

Really.

I won’t deny that this formula didn’t appear in Love Stage. The realization is executed quite similarly at episode 10 (sans the appearance of the knight in shining armor). What’s different though is that Ryouma and Izumi didn’t communicate through sex alone. They didn’t even do it ’til the last episode. Ryouma actually did things that warrant admiration from the dweeb guy next door. After reading and understanding Ryouma’s motive when he painstakingly delivered Izumi’s first rejected draft to Saotome-sensei, I knew then that it’s the kind of love that deserves an answer. A love that doesn’t seek to complete but to encourage growth. Ryouma did it not to impress and become Izumi’s knight in shining armor. He did it to make Izumi feel that he doesn’t have to give up at first try.

So

haha I might’ve read it too much but this is basically what I think and feel. That’s why I’m giving it a 9. I really enjoyed this one. It seems shallow and fluffy but it’s quite complicated. I appreciate this kind of anime at 3am.

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