「Φ（ラブ）STAGE 男達の流儀」 (Rabu STAGE Otokotachi no Ryuugi)
“LOVE STAGE: Men’s Style”
Today’s mode of presentation is a refreshing break from the standard tales of dialogue. The theme of creating a third-person narrative fits well with today’s plot, full of revelation and transitioning into a new phase of life. It was nice to see a bird-eye view of certain scenes, giving a distanced perspective from the whole story. While this was a refreshing mode of narration, it also allowed an easier transition into the various flashbacks presented this episode. Given that it was also very diversified, ranging from videotape viewings to secret cameras and outright flashbacks, the entire episode was well thought-out. I’ll definitely say it was one of the more cinematically enjoyable episodes this season.
Back on topic, those revelations were a treat. For those of us that didn’t know, it’s been confirmed that Shougo and Rei share a special relationship (the chances being very high that they eventually had sex), considering how Shougo was the first to welcome Rei into a new world. It’s also been revealed how Izumi was influenced to be the person he is today, with all the doting he gets from his brother and…second father? Frankly I’m impressed that Shougo was able to get away with doing Izumi’s homework–it’s surprising then how Izumi was able to pass an entrance exam for college. With these two pieces in place, we finally start to see a cohesive picture of the Sena family. It makes more sense why Rei has been in the service of the Sena family. It makes sense why Izumi is who he is today. Most importantly, we get an important outline on the dynamics of the Sena family and the continuous support group that’s surrounded him all these years. It’s nice to see a healthy family that doesn’t have any major faults in a romance. It seems too often that at least one family in a romance is screwed over in some way, thus distancing family out of the romantic equation. Here, it’s a pleasant way to synthesize the Sena family into Izumi’s life, playing an important role in shaping his identity.
Speaking of identity, it looks like the ‘wedding girl’ persona is out the door. I was surprised that they decided to link the commercial to Izumi, yet it makes sense. Izumi gets a debut while surprising the world with his amazing crossdressing potential. Things look really volatile right now for Izumi’s career, as the press could either be enthusiastic or downright cruel. Although the show has been fairly generous towards Izumi, this episode represents a marked shift in Izumi’s potential troubles, going from worries of a mangaka to that of a very public level. The leadup to the debut itself was sufficiently comical, doing both a good job showing off Izumi’s fears while reasserting the confidence that everyone has in him, mostly from Rei and Ryouma. They’ve supported him all this time, but now the stakes are changing, where Izumi will need some serious support from his loved ones if he messes up. So what if Izumi’s comic doesn’t make it? He’s still young and has time to practice, as his role model stated succinctly last episode. Here though, we’re talking about messing up for the world to see. That stuff can be way more damaging to one’s life, both emotionally and socially. The Sena family is already wildly successful, so the next few episodes will spotlight Izumi has he steps up to the standards set by his predecessors. This stuff is exciting and I’m glad that the show has slowly been leading up to these high-stakes sort of dynamics. I sure hope they milk it for all its worth, since it would be a shame if they just focused on the romance from here on out.
Speaking of love, it seems Izumi cannot escape the yaoi at this point. As I’ve stated before, Izumi makes for an interesting character due to his emergent bi-sexual personality. It’s not a sort of sexual alignment that you see often in anime–straight, gay, lesbian, they all get hit as bases, but what of the bisexual? Perhaps we see some bi-sexual implications with say, the presence of traps, but that’s more like a cop-out where the explain-away is that they confuse the trap as a girl. Here we see some real interesting bi-sexuality, not only in gender, but also in dimensionality. Where Izumi has originally been only head-over-heels for Lala-Lulu, a 2D female, we see Izumi now truly falling in romantic love with the 3D world with a guy. It’s almost like a statement on maturation. Izumi perhaps never viewed Lala-Lulu sexually, but rather as a center of worship in a stereotypical otaku style. Now that Ryouma keeps giving Izumi all these kisses, Izumi is slowly finding feelings for the guy who’s supported him in the physical world, however flawed he may be. A graduation from otaku worship to romantic bonding, so to speak.
However, going forward, I really wish that the show would take non-sexual approaches to developing Ryouma and Izumi’s love. A redone date would be great, or perhaps some heartfelt conversation on a balcony would be good. I get that the audience is looking forward to the kissing and extended sex, but I believe just as much time could and should come from Izumi and Ryouma really getting to know one another and talking about their past and future. That would really put a smile on my face, and then afterwards they can totally be like rabbits. I just find that Ryouma is a little too aggressive in giving Izumi kisses (though this episode, he had a semi-decent reason to do so) and would like to see more consensual bonding happen. Hey, that’s just me though. Let me know below what you think! Was this a great episode, or did you guys have some qualms? Either way, we’re chugging forward with the plot and there’ll be even more to discuss next week!