Love Stage!! – 07

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The opening romance is cut short by Ryouma, who’s furious with despondent Izumi and storms out. Izumi goes back to sleep and dreams of Lala-lulu’s world.

There, he’s about to join Evil Lala-lulu’s side — he even gives the good guy gone bad speech — but is saved at the last moment by Good Lala-lulu.

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Izumi wakes and reads hundreds of missed calls and texts from Rei. Izumi realizes Rei really cares about him, and that he’s always known this but been too stupid to admit it.

Ryouma returns with a surprise: he had Izumi’s manga reviewed by no one other than Lala-lulu’s creator (and Izumi’s idol)! Izumi’s mind is blown, both by Ryouma’s ability to get such a thing and by the kind words from Lala’s creator, which amount to “you suck now but have passion — keep that passion and gain experience.”

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Izumi comes to terms with tackling life’s challenges and resolves to go back home and enter show biz.

Rei is happy to see him and collapses in exhaustion (having been awake for 60 hours straight) and all is well.

Izumi tells Ryouma that he’s like a brother to him and Ryouma kisses him good night. “take a good look. i’m not your older brother” (end episode)

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“Dreams and Hope are nothing but Illusions” – Evil’zumi

And with that, Love Stage!! slams the ball out of the park. I can not stress how well this episode works as a closer for the series. The actors are all clearly introduced and their roles have a natural direction to follow — and if you omit the rapey-part of episode 3, all the relationships make plenty of sense.

Yes! the show will continue on to a happier ending a few episodes down the line but, for me, I’m taking this as a great stopping point. Everyone is happy. Everyone is hopeful and there’s nothing to look forward to but some serious BL from here on out.

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“Dont you dare mock my feels for you” – Ryouma

Was Love Stage!! worth a watch? Yes! I’m glad i took a chance on it. (at least for this long) However, so many elements of the show either don’t work due to my own gender biases OR don’t work because of the show’s.

Seriously! There’s no way Izumi’s mom would be considered funny for not caring where he is if he were female. (and recently raped and missing for 60 hours) No more than any of the weird yuk-yuk jokes make by Rei over the rape itself. The results just come off creepy and are so consistent that I don’t feel the studio would agree.

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Still, at the end of the day, Love Stage!! delivered a decent drama — and one in a genre I would not usually have watched. It held my attention with decently above average annimation, solid voice work and a deeply desturbing early season twist. For that, all I can say is Thumbs up!

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Love Stage!! – 06

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Ryouma is finally confronted by his Agency about his relationship with Izumi. Except, everyone assumes Izumi is female. 

Rei takes this opportunity to launch Izumi’s show bix career. Except they have an angry fight because Izumi wants to become a manga artist.

A deal is struck: If Izumi’s submission is accepted in the manga contest, Rei will support him and, if not, Izumi will dive into show biz without hesitation. (end act 1)

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Izumi’s work is rejected. Izumi is rejected. Izumi stumbles through the rain to Ryouma, the only person he feels cares about him.

Izumi spends the night, barely unmolested, only to end up there early the next morning. Cliffhanger sexy time! (end episode)

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“Mister President, Please dont stand on your desk.” – unnamed assistant.

Love Stage’s sixth outing was not exactly the height of drama, but it kept itself sincere (mostly) and had several good lines of dialog. That said, its sincerity was all over the place in tone and I found it a little jarring to bounce from Izumi’s teen-angst life drama to Ryouma’s sex-angst drama. Sure, LS went out of its way to establish a reason for these two characters to have a post rape connection — even a reliance on each other — but the script can’t escape how different the two characters’ stories are in tone.

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Oh! Haha! Rei wasn’t worried about Izumi getting raped. Je was worried Ryouma would see Izumi’s manga. Good joke!

Addressing the juxtaposition of those scripts appears to be a frequent stumbling point. In fact, I’d argue most of the awkward/horrifying humor (see above) stems from the script’s attempt to blend a happy go luck ‘loser comedy’ with the hard edge of sex drama and social messaging. Why else would it present a mega nose-bleed scene for Ryouma as he oggle’s Izumi’s sleeping body? Why else would he fantasize about Izumi not wearing ‘panties’?

Even when the humor works, it feels out of place. Especially from the Lala-lulu break out segments, where Izumi fantasizes about his favorite Anime character roughly contextualizing an aspect of his own narrative. Lala pokes decent, if not cheap fun at the magic girl genre and she works — but only for “Izumi’s Show.”

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“I know I have rational thought in me, somewhere…” – Ryouma.

You’re probably wondering why, despite my criticisms, episode six is rated 8 this week? Well… it all comes down to the closing scene:

Ryouma and Izumi have a lovely morning but Ryouma wants Izumi to do the right thing and call home. Izumi, still being childish and upset, flippantly says he wants to stay with Ryouma forever instead and hides under the covers. Ryouma, calmly but forcefully rips off the covers, mounts a now startled Izumi and asks him if he’s forgotten who he’s talking to. Izumi turns away and says:

“Just do it. I don’t care anymore.”

Then we get a sailor moon style sex scene and the episode is over…

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This reminder that Ryouma is a rapist and that Izumi has been playing with napalm is the thread seriously missing from the past 2 episodes. Maybe it needed to be missing to make this scene as strong as it was. Regardless, and regardless of how you feel about the subject matter, the scene was powerful, thought provoking and well delivered.

Is Izumi now onboard with BL? (at least in a completely apathetic way) Will Rei and Izumi’s family handle the fall out? Where will next week take us?

Have to wait and see!

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Love Stage!! – 05

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Texting, Texting, Texting, Messages, Messages and Messages, Everybody has something to say to each other, especially when they aren’t in the same room. Also bad manga…

This week starts off with another Izumi daydream of achieving success as a manga artist and this time it’s actually pretty funny: Izumi’s imagined ‘break out comic’ is presented as it is in the real world—hilariously crude and nigh incoherent.

Meanwhile, Ryouma has transitioned into full-on-fem style over-bearing girlfriend and texts Izumi constantly. (He sent 27 while Izumi slept in class) Why doesn’t Izumi block the number, you ask? Well…he tried, and Ryouma convinced everyone he needed to be on suicide watch.

Nice.

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Moving along, Ryouma drops by Izumi’s college for a visit and invades the manga club. What follows is a mostly innocuous string of nerds talking about nerdy things that Ryouma ignores, marked by moments of Ryouma flattering Izumi’s (lack of) talent like a doting girlfriend.

It’s an interesting role reversal, in a way, since Ryouma filled the raging masculine bull/rapist role only 2 weeks previous. Now it’s Izumi’s turn to keep Ryouma in line and make sure the day runs smoothly.

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Izumi’s manga is awesome and I don’t understand the kind of person who wouldn’t enjoy reading it! No Seriously! Someone has to print this!

Partly due to Ryouma’s flattery and partly due to a looming deadline, Izumi makes a crazy decision to invite Ryouma over to help ink. Thankfully, the scene is tame and Ryouma turns out to be a good helper. He’s arguably a better artist than Izumi and helps draw a solid background.

They finish the work in record time and Izumi falls asleep. Then Ryouma kisses him in his sleep, which is a mellow return to rape-town, but, now that Ryouma’s in the fem role, it’s not quite as horrible. Still creepy though.

Then Ryouma gets a call from his manager before he can land a second kiss. He’s in trouble for the voyeur’s photos we assumed were taken last week. Before he goes, he lands some more Sleeping Beauty kisses…maybe more than a few.

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Love Stage!! got its pacing right, at least during the opening this week. It was charming and a lot of it unfolds in bursts as Izumi reads on his phone. Rather good comedic timing, really.

However, by the time we get to the manga club…meh? Ryouma and Izumi’s love story just feels mushy, if not unterrible as romance slice-of-lifes go. The manga-drawing-marathon session offered a little reprieve and the opportunity for Ryouma to find a non-physical attribute to like about Izumi was needed but…still meh?

Truth be told, I’m running out of steam for Love Stage!!—and it’s worth noting that I’d be just as low on juice if this were a hetero-romance show. In some ways, I see why the rape mayhem was needed two weeks ago. Without that, sincere or not, I’m not sure LS has much to get all that excited about. Not for 13 episodes, at least…

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Love Stage!! – 04

LS4_pic1“It must be hard to have a guy suddenly confess his love to you” – Ryouma

Shouga comes to sympothize with Ryouma, who is a gloomy mess and doing poorly at his job. To break Izumi out of his post-rape funk, Rei tells Izumi he’s been molested by a man before and answers a few questions. Izumi feels better and more confident that he isn’t somehow tainted by BL and has an unintended show down with Ryouma, who apologizes and convinces Izumi to stay friends, as long as they take it slow…

This week’s Love Stage does it’s best to move on from last week’s rape-fest. Ryouma is shown as deeply remorceful over his actions (as a rapist), Rei is shon finally comforting Izumi and sharing common ground over the apparent horrors of man-rape in the entertainment management business, and Izumi is shown bouncing back from post-rape-victim-funk when he learns that being aroused while being raped is not the victims fault. More specifically, Rei convinces him that it doesn’t mean he’s gay.

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Then Ryouma chases Izumi through the streets to apologize and catches up because Izumi’s escape is blocked by bear-headed sumo wrestlers. They have a lengthy conversation, where Ryouga basically says every hardship he’s ever had (almost all because of Shouga) has been bearable because of his memory/lust for Izumi. Then they share phone numbers and Izumi agrees to stay in touch as long as Ryouma takes it slow.

The disconnect, at least for me, as how LS presents everything. Sometimes, characters respond to the drama like it is: sexual assault. Other times, they take it as just some embarrassing thing a dude did because he was so worked up over a cute fem-boy.

It doesn’t help that the show still throws 4th wall breaking weirdness into the mix like the sumo wrestlers (which would be funny/weird in another show about a less serious topic). It also doesn’t help that LS goes way way way out of it’s way to show Ryouma is a sympathetic character… just makes it even more creepy.

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Other reviewers have equated these plot choices as integral to the BL/yaoi genre. That may be true but they seem odd to present if Love Stage’s goal is to present a more approachable version of BL to the audience. I really must wonder how many viewers were repulsed enough to stop watching?

Meanwhile, it is implied that their conversation was over heard by an unknown party, probably up to no good. What will this mean for Ryouma’s career? What will this mean for Izumi’s chances to stay as an anonymous manga loving man-boy-girl? Depends on how much you care about the show anymore, I guess.

For now, I will continue watching. If only to witness the next, off handed, indifferently handled horror it unleashes.

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Love Stage!! – 03

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Izumi discovers he broke Ryouma’s ‘special lucky marble’ and freaks out but can’t find a replacement. Ryouma, who doesn’t care, uses this as an excuse to ‘confront’ Izumi and get over his gender confused lust. Confrontation turns into date rape and wuwWWWHUUUUUUUUTTTTTTTTTTT????!?!?!??!

This week’s Love Stage!! presented more of what we’ve come to expect: cute characters, charm and a little embarrassment humor over that little gender confusion from so long ago. Then Ryouma sexually assaults Izumi when they are along at Izumi’s house and is only stopped because Shouga was secretly watching them.

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The whole assault scene is treated with the same whimsical style Love Stage!! treats everything, which certainly made it more jarring/surprising/uncomfortable. Think old school ‘sailor moon’ transformation sequence, except with 2 guys and 1 of them is begging the other to stop and the other is in a passionate gonna rape your orally mode.

Yeah…I don’t know how to respond to this.

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What makes this week’s episode so difficult to comprehend is how indifferent Shouga and Rei are about the attack. It’s all so ‘oh, that explains things’ in a way that I think more people would be repulsed by if Izumi was actually a woman. The show doesn’t even address it as an assault. Just that Ryouma has serious issues ‘yuk-yuk’ because the woman he fell in love with is a guy.

For goodness sake Love Stage!!—if Izumi was really a woman, would the rest of your show tell the happy, charming tale of how she falls in love with her first RAPIST?? Boy, that would be worth some cute chuckles wouldn’t it??

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Love Stage!! – 02

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Izumi makes it to the photo shoot, has somewhat understandable panic attacks, which only make Ryouma fall for him harder. As he did 10 years before, Ryouma helps calm Izumi down, which also wins a bit of Izumi’s heart. The commercial is filmed and both characters have a strong respect, tipping on affection, for each other. Then Izumi’s secret is blown and Ryouma runs off angry, hurt and sexually confused…

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This week opens with a dream sequence I was way too dim witted to catch onto until it was over and, Man! What a hoot! Cute, artsy sequences, magic girls fighting plant monsters hand me going… and then back we went to the real show and I sure felt sheepish.

Beyond the obvious, this week also gives us a lot more of Shouga, Izumi’s older rock star brother. He pretty much controls Izumi, but not in a bad or creepy way. Shouga’s just the only one who can motivate Izumi in the first place… usually with creepy magic girl body pillows.

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What I liked last week remains the same: the cast is up-beat, nice and positive. Izumi pretty much shrugs off the social chaos of his gender reveal, his parents are supportive and happy regardless, and the family manager is beginning to understand how Izumi works (and cared about Izumi before hand, regardless).

Even Ryouma, who has a totally understandable name-calling freak-out moment after learning Izumi is a boy, also has a serious “What the heck does this actually mean to me?” moment, sans dialog, as he’s driven away by his manager.

I also really really appreciate that the show just jumps right in and reveals Izumi’s gender by the second episode. It tells me the show will be about consequences and “what’s next” more than a when will it all come crashing down house of cards event.

Also, body pillows!

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Love Stage!! – 01

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I am RABUJOI’s resident Pessimist Reviewer. I’m impatient, hyper critical, caustic and, as an artist myself, particular about what makes a show visually worth watching. So, it is only fitting that my punishment for trash-talking Rail Wars!, Sailor Moon and Glasslip be to unearth ‘what is good’ about several shows on our B-roster.

My first show is Love Stage!!, a water color style rom-com about Izumi, a directionless, effeminate college boy and his struggles to find an identity within his massively tallented show-biz family.

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Love Stage!! is about consequences, decisions and misunderstandings. You see, 10 years ago Izumi played the ‘little girl who catches the bouquet’ in a wedding commercial and his co-star Ryouma, who was never told Izumi was actually a guy, has carried a torch for Izumi all this time. Fast forward to today and the wedding company wants to film a reunion commercial with the original cast, now with Izumi as the bride to be.

The ensuring chaos is fairly predictable: Izumi obviously doesn’t want to be a trap, his parents want him to take the job because he hasn’t figured out what to do with himself yet, and Ryouma is an episode away from experiencing a serious surprise!

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What is not predictable, and what makes Love Stage!! worth watching, is how Izumi comes to realize his crack-pot dream of becoming a manga artist is never going to happen unless he actually works on it — and he does really start putting work into it. In this way, Izumi himself is the first character to realize his own misunderstanding, and we see him make a decision to correct it and live with the consequences.

What also makes Love Stage!! enjoyable is how sincere and positive all the characters are. Izumi’s parents, while pushy, never shout at him for falling short of their expectations or making poor life choices. Nor does Izumi mope too long over the mess his life has been and the mess his life is about to be. Love Stage!! is just a warm, happy show and I respect that in a sea of otherwise broody or whiny rom-coms.

Also, i swear Izumi’s dad’s mustache is glued onto his face!

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