「ドッチガタダシイノ」 (Dochi ga Tadashii no)
“Which Way Is Right?”
Before I start, thanks to the comments last episode for pointing out my mistake about Rei’s flashback. I do appreciate when honest corrections are made!
Anyways, this week’s set of 20 minutes was chock full and I liked it. While Ryouma’s actions are pretty much expected at this point, I was surprised by how Izumi certainly approached things this episode. His obsessive nature compliments Ryouma’s, while his curious nature is slowly (yet awkwardly) opening him up the world that is a same-sex relationship. However, his newfound popularity serves to be more a burden than a constructive experience, especially considering that cliffhanger at the end! Let’s dive into the character that has been rebranded as イズミ.
A few episodes ago, I was pleased with how well intertwined Izumi’s otaku nature played into his natures. Here, he’s practically one-upped himself once again, to comedic delight and slight worry. Switching from viewing Ryouma as a creeper to becoming one himself makes it almost adorable–I suppose if it’s mutual, it balances out…right? I’m quite impressed that Izumi was able to become such an avid Ryouma collector in such a short time. It’s only been like less than a week and he’s already gotten enough merchandise put the average Ryouma fan to shame. Although Izumi is changing as a public figure, his private life is steadfast, with his only focus shifting from the 2D world to the 3D one. This sort of continuity of his otaku nature makes Izumi feel like a consistent character. He is developing in certain regards, but the Izumi we’ve come to know is very much still there, for better or worse.
Izumi’s curiosity also shows no bounds when it comes to asking the questions that need to be asked. Man, that scene with Rei and Izumi was both really awkward and hilarious to watch. It’s nice to see that Rei is trying to be truthful for Izumi’s sake, all while trying to not scare him off too much away from his love interest. I’m still surprised that Izumi has such a strong support group around him–maybe I’m just really used to third-party conflicts always screwing things up around this time. Thankfully this means Izumi’s curiosity will propel him into that relationship with Ryouma faster, just in time for the series to end. It’s sad that we don’t get to see more of Rei, who is a robust character in itself, yet serves his purpose well as a supporting character.
Despite this, by the episode’s end, there just had to be a conflict in the end. It looks like Izumi will okay judging by the previews, but I’m interested to see how Izumi’s manga club will tie into his new lifestyle. Despite having a distinctive character design, we don’t know much about Kuroi and his relation to Izumi, as well as how Kuroi feels about Izumi’s new stardom. This new development will cause trouble for Izumi as well as Ryouma and Rei, who may feel some sort of guilt for being unable to protect their beloved friend. On the other hand, it’s apparent that Izumi’s own parents seem to have confidence in his safety, or at least the gut feeling that he’ll be alright.
I wonder how this conflict will resolve Izumi’s current trouble–preparing to accept his feelings for Ryouma. This easing into Izumi’s feelings feels quite well paced and believable, since he’s practically acknowledging a side of himself that he was unaware of for years. Just like when teenagers struggle with the concepts of lust and love for the first time, those just discovering their other aspects of their sexuality must be just as confused and hesitant. Through all the silliness that is Izumi’s curiosity, it does well to highlight the confusion that comes with newfound sexuality and love. The great thing that puts the cherry on top though is that Izumi is well past the stage of outright denial, as is usually the case in tsundere love interests. We instead see an Izumi that’s curious and trying to find out exactly how to describe and approach the feelings he has for Ryouma. It’s a shame that we only have few episodes to see this important growth in Izumi (this show increasingly feels more suited for two-cour each episode), but the pacing that’s been done thus far has been fantastic. Though it doesn’t feel like Izumi’s rushing through any decisions, we’ve definitely seen enough evolution in his character from episode one. Unlike many slumps that comedies seem to face in their middle section, LOVE STAGE!! has kept itself fairly strong thus far. Let’s cross fingers for a very satisfying finish.