「ナンノシレンデスカ」 (Nanno Shiren Desu ka)
“What Kind of Test Is This?”
So it finally happened. Rejection and the shattering of one’s dreams, spitting in the face of one’s hard work. It must be hard for Izumi to swallow right now, but as an audience member, I can’t help but feel that this path was a little too obvious. While it’s surely refreshing and funny to see Izumi’s skills in this state, there was no doubt from the start that all of Izumi’s happiness would come crashing down when someone sane finally broke the news to him. It’s also not surprising that the person consoling Izumi is Ryouma, considering how eager the rest of his family is to use this opportunity to guide their youngest into acting. Thus, a little of the magic is sort of lost when the path is so clearly laid out. I remember in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo how similar themes of failure are portrayed, except in that show, it wasn’t so clear who would win and lose in each of their individual battles. Their skills were apt enough by any standard, but the main message–“your best sometimes isn’t enough”–rang bitterly throughout the show. Here in LOVE STAGE!! though, it would be foolish for any of us to cheer Izumi on seriously. If by any chance he’d won, it would’ve been out of luck and convenience, rather than any merit of his skills.
However, it seems the message of the show isn’t about failure, but rather the misguided efforts of one’s dreams. The show heavily hints that Izumi is destined to enter the actor life, as evidenced by his apt acting skills during the wedding commercial. As such, much of the focus is on the subtle efforts of Rei, Shougo, and Izumi’s parents to guide him onto that path. They all are looking out for him without much selfish intent, but it’s also clear that in Izumi’s heart, his passions lie somewhere where his skills do not align. This leads us easily into our next section, because there is exactly one person who still believes in Izumi and, ironically, becomes the only person who really looks out for Izumi the person, rather than Izumi the misguided son.
Considering how Ryouma acted last episode, he exhibited a surprising amount of self-restraint this episode. Save for some uke-seme dynamics towards the end, Ryouma was respectful of Izumi’s situation, especially taking into account how emotionally fragile the poor mangaka is. Seeing Ryouma curled up besides Izumi’s bed was a sight to see and I was really glad that he didn’t steal any kisses that time. He did get rewarded through that bath scene though–fanservice for the audience must be had after all. It’s a bit of a convenient leap how Izumi and Ryouma reunited, but I think this whole setup is leaning towards something much greater and less convenient. With the whole press conference being set up, it’s looking like Ryouma may stand up for Izumi once more, though how exactly is still up in the air. It’s a subtle evolution, but the relationship between Ryouma and Izumi is definitely changing, more so for Ryouma than his crush. He’s messed up a few times, but hey, no one is perfect. What does matter is the respect and diligence that comes afterwards, which is definitely something I’m seeing from Ryouma, and something I want to see more of.
The dynamic of dominance is slowly fading, where instead of Ryouma succumbing to his desires, instead is fueling his love with kindness and understanding, rather than some sexual power struggle. This is great, and I hope the target audience here is enjoying that part of our main couple. After what was a rough tumble in episode 3 and 4, we’re finally seeing the fruits of what this show can be, and it sure tastes delicious.