Anime: Love Stage!! (Complete Series)
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 14, 2016
Retail Price: $59.98
Once in awhile, much like a prophecy - an LGBTQ themed anime comes along and is met with overwhelming love, which was directed at the anime and manga series Love Stage, licensed for a home release by the selective anime distribution company Sentai Filmworks. Love Stage was created as a yaoi series (boys love) that attracts endless fangirls to root for a romantic relationship between two men, but Love Stage tries to add an different element to this one, being fame and a gender mix-up that is also the biggest introductory plot points that kicks off the comedic romantic drama. Enter Izumi Sena and Ryoma Ichijo, the two central characters in Love Stage that play love interests with a childhood connection.
Izumi Sena comes from a coveted family with deep roots into the entertainment industry (his older brother is a singer/songwriter who also benefitted from the parents fame) however after Izumi’s stint with child acting, he no longer sought out to be involved in the business directly. The incident that made him shy away from the limelight was an embarrassing moment while filming a commercial (the gender mix up mentioned earlier.) Now as an adult, Izumi places his passions into manga where Izumi hopes he can find his niche as an author/artist of his own manga. Izumi lacks the motivation to maintain steady grades in college and isn’t sure if his hopes will pan out, but things change as Izumi is approached to reprise his role in partnership with a mega-star to Japan. That very commerical happens to be the experience Izumi hated, having been mixed up with a girl - and the man who played the young boy in the original still is under the impression that Izumi is indeed a female.
Opposite Izumi is Ryoma, who took a slightly different path after the commerical many years ago. Ryoma pursued a career in entertainment which eventually paid off and solidified Ryoma as one of the biggest stars around, but he always maintained that soft spot in his heart for the “girl” he encountered all those years ago in a small commercial. When Ryoma strikes at the opportunity to cross paths again, he can’t help but eventually find out the girl of his dreams is none other than a guy - hence the yaoi genre of Love Stage. The initial reaction is realistically confusing for a seemingly heterosexual man, but Ryoma has to start questioning his feelings and the possibility that he may have just fallen for Izumi the person, regardless of the gender.
Now that you know the bigger aspects of who they are individually along with the decision to see what is possible for the pair - you might think it’s a touch of romance already, but many times it is suggested to be a more physical attraction on behalf of Ryoma. It’s a new sensation for both, but it does tend to gravitate towards less of a bond and more of a manifestation of physical intimacy. It wouldn’t be appropriate to say they didn’t bond or have deep moments, because there was certainly growth between the two - such as the support for one another’s passions and persistence of considering the other’s feelings, so it does tend to balance out when they add something more than the traditional yaoi storylines. Realistically I couldn’t necessarily see this playing out as a genuine relationship, but taking it for an unconventional romance and some comedic threads in its makeup makes it a journey that will have something genre fans will enjoy or induce nose-bleeds.
Love Stage is an anime series that from strictly a visual aid - one could assume plays into stereotypes (which it sometimes can) but it is also a ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ situation that has more to offer. When talking about LGBTQ themed anime series, there are more negative representations than positive, but Love Stage finds some genuine fun and bond building in the midst of the female catered fanservice. The animation of the series has plenty of colors to make it feel like a lively production, with character designs rising above the average series for it’s entirety of 10 episodes. Though there is no english voice cast, the Japanese produced series has a cohesive relationship to solidify it as a careful series with plenty of fun to be had visually, comically, and sometimes even romantically.
Overall Score 7/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
- The comedy behind the manga creator storyline was by far my favorite recurring joke throughout the series.
- Ryoma made a few choices that concurrently made it difficult to see him succeed, but the pairing did make more sense by the end of the series.