Izumi is the black sheep of his very famous and talked about family, the Sena’s. The Sena’s consist of a famous father who is recognized for his talent as a singer, a gorgeous model mother, and even an uber talented brother who is also singer from a popular band. The youngest named Izumi on the other hand, wants to do his best to avoid the spotlight that his family each takes turns soaking in, and embodies the definition of a true otaku. Izumi can be found locking himself in his room with his favorite belongings and assortment of manga, enjoying the escape from reality. The aspiring manga artist had a brief encounter with the entertaining industry previously, when he was used to fill in as a young girl (apparently Izumi was just THAT pretty) for a commercial with a young man named Ryoma, who went on to become a notable actor with endless fans following his every move. Now years later, Ryoma and Izumi are asked to reprise their roles, and Ryoma hopes to find the “girl” that he fell in love with all those years ago…But Ryoma is in for a gender-bending surprise when the truth comes out. Here’s a look at what PopTalk with Aedan and Amrita think of the first volume of Love Stage, available now through SuBLime.
Aedan : Love Stage, while being a romantic based series, provides consistent laughter throughout the course of this peculiar connection between Izumi and Ryoma. Making the lead character someone who is surrounded by talented individuals with major influence, and yet characterizing him to shy away from the spotlight or hoping to lead a more normal life is a refreshing take on a fame-centric plot. I enjoy the legitimate tendencies that establish Izumi as an extreme otaku, with dreams of becoming a manga author/artist so he can remain somewhat unknown. Ryoma could be one of the most recognizable faces to the public eye – and initially you’d think “well their doomed!” but the previous childhood connection leaves readers hopeful. Just about everyone should recognize having that one childhood crush who may think of from time to time, but Love Stage takes that and pushes the boundaries – and although Ryoma may have mixed up Izumi’s gender (how pesky) he realizes those emotions still exist despite physicality. A very important message from a manga, love the person not the body, and possibly that everyone isn’t always who they appear to be.
The two characters are bound to run into many troubles with varying opinions on celebrity lifestyles, and this being their first relationship with a man, which is more than a shocking revelation for Ryoma… However this introduction to the story will be an interesting one to observe, seeing the pair discover personal underlying emotions. Izumi wants to avoid notoriety to the fullest, despite others ploy to act on his potential and Ryoma on the other hand has come to adore the recognition from his fans and peers, but nevertheless the feelings developing seemingly chip away at the walls of a developing relationship. There is one moment in particular that shouldn’t go unnoticed however, as Ryoma is seen aggressively pushing himself on to Izumi which was completely unsettling. Ryoma’s rough demeanor is showcased in this moment, and is thankfully cut short by Izumi’s brother who swiftly knocks Ryoma (rightfully) unconscious. This is one specific issue I have with the character of Ryoma, and almost immediately the author begins to show him exhibiting signs of remorse and regret, but as a reader I won’t be so quick to forgive his brash tendencies.
Besides the main two, Izumi’s family provide a well rounded group of characters, with the overprotective and sweet older brother Shogo who enables Izumi’s sometimes entitled attitude, but you come to love his character that you quickly can forgive his actions. There is also Rei, the family’s manager, who practically plays the role of best friend and parent to Izumi, giving him his opinions on how to handle scenarios, and staying updated on his daily life. Both Rei and Shogo have little examples of repartee that signal something that could develop over the course of the manga series. Romantic relationships aside, the personal relationship dynamics in Love Stage are sure to entice any anime or manga fan in some capacity.
+ Pros: A different take on a relationship that switches off between a courtship and awkward acquaintance that could either fo incredibly well or extremely bad. Time (and volumes) will tell.
- Cons: Ryoma's crude behavior and momentary harassment really rubbed me the wrong way about him overall, so I hope that he can attempt to make amends moving forward.
* Overall Score: 8.5/10
Amrita : Love Stage has many strong suits, but the strongest aspect of this hilarious and fluffy romance was its characters and the strengthening bonds shown between these characters. Izumi and Ryouma’s love story has quite a peculiar start, what with Ryouma mistaking Izumi for a girl and then suddenly learning the opposite years later. This particular yaoi, like most yaoi’s, contained a moment between Ryouma and Izumi that came pretty close to being dubious content. Ryouma becomes a tad forceful with Izumi, but is stopped by Izumi’s hilarious and odd older brother Shogo. I found myself loving Ryouma’s character the more I read on despite his brief, inappropriate interaction with Izumi. Out of all the character’s in Love Stage, Ryouma intrigued me the most due to his struggle to come to terms with the fact that he’s in love with a boy; Ryouma’s feelings didn’t spontaneously change after he found out Izumi is really a boy and that was the truth he needed to come to terms with. By the end of the first volume, Ryouma has accepted his feelings for Izumi and has taken a step forward in trying to gain Izumi’s forgiveness with the help of Shogo, which was a pleasant surprise.
Izumi is just as strong of a character as Ryouma is which makes Love Stage even more enjoyable. Izumi is an otaku in every sense of the word; he obsesses over his idol Lala-Lulu and collects merchandise of said idol. I really liked how Izumi didn’t automatically fall in love with Ryouma. In fact, by volume 1’s end Izumi still isn’t in love with Ryouma. They have an obvious connection and Ryouma has awakened a slew of feelings within Izumi yet these feelings haven’t developed into love just yet. It’s a slow burn and I loved every minute of it!
The supporting characters, Shogo and Rei in particular, fleshed the plot out and provided us additional characters to love and support. Rei, who is the family manager, acts more like Izumi’s parent than a manager whereas Shogo spends his time slacking off and spoiling his precious baby-brother every chance he gets. At its core Love Stage is a romance, but its addition of humor throughout was a big selling point for me. One of my favorite moments in the 1st volume happened to be a comedic moment between Ryouma and Shogo. After Shogo stops Ryouma from forcing himself on Izumi, Shogo decides to give Ryouma a piece of his mind (and his fists) the next time he sees him. As you can imagine, that doesn’t end up happening. Ryouma shows up, on-set, extremely depressed and begins to hilariously tear up and sniffle upon seeing his “brother-in-law” Shogo who immediately drops his vendetta and becomes concerned for Ryouma’s health. These on-set shenanigans lead to Shogo helping Ryoma, instead of harming him which was pretty endearing. I hope to see these two interact more in future volumes and I’m not going to lie…I kind of ship them together! Obviously Ryouma belongs with Izumi, but there’s nothing wrong with shipping someone on the side.
Overall, Love Stage is a prime example of a manga that just sweeps you away with its romantic and comedic atmosphere, making you fall in love with the characters being presented to you. I highly recommend Love Stage, not just for how well-known and popular it is in the yaoi-realm, but because it’s a genuinely enjoyable manga. Bring on volume 2!!!!
+ Pros: Humorous and engaging characters (its quite easy to become fond of certain characters in just this volume). A sweet romance that takes its time and is in no rush to get the main characters together. Love Stage's humor is uncanny and this volumes highlight. Its a good introduction to a stellar series.
- Cons: I wasn't fond of the brief dubious-content and I wish the background characters had more moments to shine (Shogo in particular). In certain moments, the humor seemed oddly placed when it should have taken on a slightly more serious tone. Overall though, Love Stage!! is a must read!
*Overall Score: 8.8/10