「ユメナラヨカッタノニ」 (Yume Nara Yokatta no ni)
“If Only It Had Been a Dream”
LOVE STAGE!! has enough comedy, story, and good production values to draw a non-BL crowd, but this episode ultimately reminds us what kind of show we’re in for. The appetizers are over–the main course is now beginning.
From the previews in episode two and the warnings that some commenters left, it should be no surprise that we got some Boys Love today. The scent of the dominant-submissive dynamic that pervades the genre found its way here; for moderates and myself, this is a turn-off, despite how well the story tried to make it relevant. This portrayal of casual molestation isn’t something that sits well with me–I wasn’t okay with it in Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun and I sure am not about to change now. I get that this is supposed to appeal to female fantasies and that we see this kind of stuff in ecchi shows all. the. time. However, I’ve never really been a fan of it, much less when its clear that there is one person who doesn’t want someone’s hand down there. I’m going to hope that Izumi has some backbone not to forgive Ryouma so easily, lest we start falling into really stereotypical BL dynamics.
If that scene was too much for you and you’ve made it this far, I don’t blame you for quitting at this point. Although I’m still thoroughly enjoying this show for the comedy and likeable characters, I get that some people just can’t get past the explicit scenes. The fact that you at least tried out the series is great enough. For everyone else still on-board though, let’s talk positives about the story.
Apart from that sensual scene, the romantic development between Ryouma and Izumi is progressing quite well. There were a few easy corners here and there, but overall the plot has progressed fairly organically and organized. I feel bad for Izumi’s current state, but hopefully the worst for him is over. Now that Ryouma is starting to accept to his boy-loving side and with Shougo there to help him with that, I’m sure we’ll see some of the sweeter things that Ryouma can do for Izumi. Ryouma will sure need it considering how he traumatized Izumi, but again, given the OP and ED sequences, I have hope that the story will provide ample reconciliation that doesn’t take the easy route just for smut and sexy times.
In terms of production values, LOVE STAGE is doing great in maintaining its level of quality in all aspects. The rough and tough of the mid-period is still something we’ll have to cross our fingers for, but so far things are looking good. Animation errors and laziness are few and between, with the comedic bits still receiving a great level of animation detail. It’s fairly clear that this is one of J.C. Staff’s more favored works this season. Although it seems foolish from a business standpoint that the company is putting a lot of effort into this show, it represents a slow shifting trend within the anime industry to tap into the fujoshi market. J.C. Staff wants a piece of that pie and LOVE STAGE!! is one of its forays into that market. Whatever their intentions though, they’ve got a good show going for them nonetheless, with the money they put in clearly showing.
As for the source material, the compact cast strikes a balance–while we focus on the main four characters of Izumi, Shougo, Ryouma, and Rei, the side characters do not steal the spotlight from them, instead opting to progress the plot without opening too many possibilities. The result is a very balanced exposure between the main four characters, all of whom are receiving a sufficient amount of development. Apart from the obvious cases of Izumi and Ryouma, we now have insights into Shougo’s relationship with his brother as well as hints as to Rei’s past. If it wasn’t for the balanced limelight on each of these four, such developments would not have happened by episode 3. The show is very efficient in this manner and I appreciate it already–I feel sympathy for all four characters, for very different reasons.
So now that we’ve passed three episodes, where do we go from here? Is it worth it following this show to the very end? The simple answer: of course.
After what has been a terrible dry spell for romantic comedies, we have been extremely lucky to have gotten two great romantic comedies (though Gekkan is more ‘comedy with a side of romance’ than a romcom) as well as pure comedies as well. It’s been a great laugh-fest so far this season, but also a great season in creating likeable characters. LOVE STAGE!! excels, and will excel, in this regard. What we have here is a story of four characters that really care for one another, but the circumstances that brought them together have clouded that idea. Apart from the obvious Shougo x Izumi, Shougo and Rei share a hidden history together that indicates a mutual softness for one another, and Izumi, despite his dedication to Lala Lulu, has amazing potential to fall for Shougo. Ryouma himself has already fallen for Izumi, but dispelling 10 years worth of a lie will be a major roadblock. Thus in the meantime, he confides in his enemy, Shougo, to help him through the confusion.
This strongly connected group of four characters is what has made this show enjoyable, apart from the laughs that they generate with their antics. To see how they resolve their differences and grow closer to one another will be the major hook for this show, where it is not just Izumi x Shougo we should observe, but rather each character’s connection to the other three main leads. This character richness isn’t something to be easily ignored, but will be for the sole fact that this is a BL show. If it had been a show of say, four girls, such as Hanayamata, things would’ve been much different, but sadly this is the way things are now.
Thus, I hope for those of you still on for the ride, that we can enjoy a series that not many will get to appreciate. I look forward to writing about this show every week, as it has become a personal favorite of mine this season. Thanks for following, dear reader, and I’ll see you next week!