「スキジャタリナイ」 (Suki ja Tarinai)
“Love is Not Enough”
Wait a minute, it’s already over!? I wasn’t planning on writing a finale post for another two weeks! Apologies for the gross delay (on this post and on Hanayamata, which will be double posted tomorrow), but the show must go on (details at the end). Let’s give a bow to the show that provided lots of laughs and moral support to its characters, despite all the stumbling blocks it had in between.
That beginning scene at the construction site had its good and bad points. Good in that it allowed Izumi to defend himself and his body (all in the name of love), but bad in that it trivialized the gravity of the act with the tone being set. So Izumi, midway though the scene, has been molested, with a heavy possibility that he could get raped. The scene so far is alright, considering how it ends up setting the stage for Izumi’s defense. However, what bothered me was the immediate switch to a lighter tone when the guys found out that Izumi was a guy. Suddenly, these delinquents are turned into caricatures of people who cannot resist Izumi’s charm, switching the tone of the scene to one of impending loss to a really bad “I’d still hit that” joke. The tone switches over to Izumi’s sadness, but that switch of tone was perhaps not the smartest idea.
I point these scenes out not because I have a stick in my bum, but because I want to call out bad taste when I see it. Every show is free to trivialize any issue they want, but it doesn’t absolve them from criticism, BL shows included. This example is part of a larger problem of what I’ve had with LOVE STAGE!!: the lines of consent that it constantly crosses in questionable ways. For Ryouma to cross these lines, it’s partially justified–his character is one that is meant to be flawed, which causes him to constantly question his integrity as a person. That’s a smart way to do character development, as well as illustrate some of the sketch scenarios that people would never try in real life (such as kissing your unconscious crush) for fulfillment value. On the other hand, this scene was just…weird and inappropriate. It’s not a great shining point for the show to make Izumi’s risk feel comical.
However, for every bad moment there was in portrayals of consent, the show did two great moments for portraying a supportive network for Izumi. It can be a bit tiresome at times for there to be an “us vs. them” mentality in certain romantic comedies. The teachers hate him, but his friends love him. The girls despise her, but the boys adore her. In these types of situations, there are distinct groups or important individuals that have to create this antagonistic atmosphere, which results in the protagonists suffering in some way. For LOVE STAGE!! to paint a large support group that doesn’t have to have a clear opposition was a godsend in making this anime be a feel good romance. Izumi’s parents, instead of being background door-greeters, are given enough screentime to emphasize their support and love for their youngest son, marrying a family element that often is ignored in anime. Rei may get mad at Izumi, but never at critical moments. Even through all the awkward questions, runaway stress, and sloth-like nature that comes from Izumi, his patience was steadfast. Shougo was a good brother to the end, even though his intentions may have not been the purest. Even his club members are patient towards him, making sacrifices to assist him whenever he stumbles in life. I am glad that the series continued this trend to the very end, all without introducing some unnecessarily heavy opposition meant to generate drama. The tabloids were only antagonizing enough to serve their purpose, all without mentally scarring any of the main characters.
Of course we can’t forget Ryouma, who clearly won Izumi’s love by the end of the day. His is an example of perseverance and actual effort, despite many stumbling blocks along the way. He’s not perfect, but we like him that way. He is nothing like the overconfident and over-abled protagonists, nor is he completely oblivious to his situation or how he affects others. Ryouma had to climb a ladder like everyone else, has moments of doubt like everyone else, and is sensitive to when he’s wrong…like everyone else. Despite all the bad things that I may have said about Ryouma, he is actually a great character and a really relatable one at that. The dude makes mistakes, but at least he tries to own up to them as best he can. Even then, he’s not perfect at owning up, which lead to a string of mistakes that makes his character more endearing than despised. Just as the story hinted at with his backstory, Ryouma just gets up every time he messes up and constantly tries to fix his wrongful ways. That’s powerful character development, and a development that I believe rightfully earned Izumi’s love (and lust). When it all came together for Izumi and he realized his true feelings, it was a natural moment to witness, not feeling rushed in the slightest. Through hard work and dedication, these two finally got together, with a bond that’s been formed correctly–through trial, error, and gluing it all together carefully.
Even though LOVE STAGE!! rushed its conclusion after the bed scene and confession of love, everything leading up to this moment didn’t feel that rushed at all. It was a naturally paced romance intertwined with the drama of failure and rebirth. While it is a shame that we don’t get to see Izumi pursuing his dreams of being a mangaka, or Ryouma’s continued bonds with the boy he loves, or Rei and Shougo’s relationship, we did get to see our two main characters grow, which is why I give LOVE STAGE!! my seal of approval. Along with the reasons stated above, along with great scriptwriting, animating, and directing, LOVE STAGE!! has earned its place as a good boys love and romantic comedy anime, for simply making its characters…grow.
A very dangerous tendency in romances is to have characters that appear to be developing over the course of the show, but in reality are just static caricatures who have their layers peeled whenever convenient. The male softens for the female because he had a soft spot all along, or the female was always weak at the knees because she used her strength to hide her weaknesses–these are characters that simply ‘create another side’ of themselves as time is appropriate. Accordingly, the revelations would sound like, “he’s not such a jerk after all!” or, “she’s got a soft spot when it comes to X,” which aren’t surprising revelations in the context of a romance.
What LOVE STAGE!! did was take two characters–both with inherently negative flaws that were shown from the start–and whittled those flaws away through sheer determination and effort. This was done not by simply adding a new dimension to the character, but by rather using the traits given to them at the very start and continually using them to better themselves. For Izumi, his manga-obsessive nature was a detriment to his future and socialization right from the start, but at the same time also helped fuel his determination to become a better artist, a better actor, and a better lover. For Ryouma, his uncontrollable lust and insensitivity was his initial burden, but thanks to the sense of humility he’s had since he was a child, one mistake won’t break his resolve to earn Izumi’s love and trust, as well as master his own self-control. We knew about these positive traits from the start. As such, it felt very natural and planned out when these character developments happened, because their internal characterization was working together to modify itself, rather than slapping some new traits in to keep things temporarily fresh. This sort of reinvention through a framework made the main couple of LOVE STAGE!! feel dynamic, alive, and most importantly, accomplished. Their romance was one that was not initially set in stone–Izumi was completely creeped out by Ryouma at first–but with enough time and actual effort, their romance finally kindled, all by episode 10.
Again, while I am sad that the series has ended so abruptly, I don’t hold many bad feelings against it–the show achieved much more in 10 episodes than what any other romantic comedy could do in 12. Although this was not a show targeted towards me, I thoroughly enjoyed watching it to the end. Along with Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou, these shows have renewed my faith in romantic comedies, where the caliber to be both funny and meaningful still exists.
A meta-note on blogging.
Thank you dear reader for all of your patience. I apologize once again for being amazingly late, but this grossly late post signals the beginning of my sabbatical away from the blog. College life has suddenly gotten a whole lot busier and I am unable to write about anime again until the spring season rolls around, at the very least. I was hoping I would be able to stay strong until then, but I severely underestimated how busy life would get, and my blogging schedule has suffered in the process. Therefore, after I cover the finales for Hanayamata and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun for Stilts, I will be retiring until at least Spring 2015. I assure you it was a pleasure to blog continuously for these past two and a half years, but I have to take a break, both for my sanity and for the sake of timeliness that you guys deserve. It’s out of respect for your guys’ time and my own. I will be double posting Hanayamata tomorrow for anyone who is curious.
Again, my apologies for anyone who has been inconvenienced these past few weeks by my lateness, but I could not have possibly predicted how swamped I am right now. I recognize this means the end of blogging for now, but it’s not a permanent farewell. I’ll be back soon, hopefully with a renewed allocation of time, as well as a renewed vigor to blog the shows that deserve to be talked about! Thanks to everyone that has been following me these past two and a half years, it has been a pleasure. I’ll see you guys later, and thank you dear reader for sticking with this show–and me–to the end. ^_^