「チョットダケナラ」 (Chotto Dake Nara)
“Just a Little”
In a nutshell: it felt good to see Izumi and Ryouma bond over something so silly, it felt bad to see that Ryouma still doesn’t have the self-control to keep his body to himself, and the episode, once again, raises up issues of double standards.
Now, the discussion in detail.
On one hand, I really liked this episode. Izumi’s slow forgiveness of Ryouma is a welcome pace–we saw this hesitance last episode and it’s great that we saw it continue here as well. Additionally, it also makes sense that Izumi bonded so quickly with Ryouma over manga, despite how ridiculous their rose-tinted glasses are. For Izumi, there are two major events going on in his life right now: the clingy and desperate guy at his heels and a manga award high in the sky. While he’s received support from Rei over the first issue, before this episode, no one truly supported Izumi’s dreams of being a mangaka. People recognize his innate creative talents, yet acknowledge his passions only as a misguided sink. Thus, when Ryouma became his first ever fan and supporter, it truly represents the first time someone has actively supported Izumi’s dreams without judgment. Yes, Ryouma might actually be the worst judge of art to tell Izumi the sad truth, but the value comes from someone finally giving Izumi affirmation for his efforts. The message kind of gets obscured by the ridiculous scenario and hilarious bits (Ryouma master artist), but upon reflection, the positive dynamics were less unnatural than met the eye.
On the flipside though, Ryouma is one sad clingy individual. Stalking, obsessive texting, clinginess, and absolutely no backbone, it’s strange that no one has labeled him as the most beta guy this season, even more beta than Izumi. It’s everything you don’t want from a guy, except most of it gets excused by certain audiences because of his charm and looks. The creepy attitude wasn’t the worst part though, but rather another violation of Izumi’s personal space. Don’t get me wrong though–the execution of the scene itself was actually something of an achievement. None of this “something interrupts at the last moment” bars the kiss, which is a surprisingly refreshing thing to see, at least from my experience. Izumi’s “kyaa!” moments were also ridiculously adorable, reminding me of a kid who just can’t have one cookie from the forbidden jar.
However cute it is and how much it fulfills the target audience’s current tastes, it’s still distasteful. I’m not going to say it’s persay “wrong” to portray these kinds of violations of personal space where it’s meant to introduce conflict, but I will say it’s personally distasteful. Heck, if this scene played out after they officially got together I would’ve thought it was the most adorable scene, but before just doesn’t sit so well. Perhaps I’m a stick in the mud and the wrong person to be judging the sexual content in this show, but these sorts of romanticized elements are just bad taste, in my opinion.
Now the question here is: would we see similar reactions given that Izumi were a girl? What about if Ryouma were the girl kissing Izumi the guy? Interestingly, each gender pairing has their own connotations connected to them, each seemingly more or less uncomfortable to watch than the other. Is it because of established gender norms? Maybe it’s the genre expectations that provides a different reaction. Or maybe, maybe it’s a detachment of self and reality, a sort of fantasy world where the bad intentions of characters don’t make these scenes too terrible to watch. What do you guys think? Although I don’t want to entirely turn LOVE STAGE!! into a discussion like this, I think it’s an important issue to address, so I wish to see your guys’ thoughts on the issue.
How the show will go from here though–I have no idea. Did you guys see that preview? We might as well be actually watching episode one of Lala Lulu, but we should also look out for the huge scandal that’s about to hit both Izumi and Ryouma in the coming weeks. However, perhaps this is the catalyst that’ll cement these two together, as they have to face their feelings head-on, in a public setting. No doubt we’ll see the support of Rei, Shougo, and Izumi’s parents, but who knows how other people will react, such as Ryouma’s parents, his manager, and of course his sure-to-be-disappointed fans.