“Healthy relationship practices for you to indulge in without guilt!”
- Episodes: 10
- Genre: Comedy, Romance, Shounen Ai
- Airing Date: July 2014 –September 2014
- Studio: J.C. Staff
Love Stage!! Preview (No Spoilers)
Sena Izumi comes from a family of performers who are all eagerly awaiting his entertainment debut. Yet Izumi would rather lock himself away in his room only concerning himself with his favorite manga and anime. Bribed with anime goods by his doting brother, Izumi agrees to assume the role of a little girl he played as a child 10 years into her future. When his co-star turns out to be none other than mega-popular Ichijou Ryouma who also happens to believe Izumi is a real girl, things become more complicated! What will happen to Ryouma’s intense feelings when it turns out the sweet, pure girl he loves is actually a dweeby hikikomori guy?
While being a funny show fujoshi can drool over, Love Stage does a lot of good things that are often left out in BL manga or anime. It has a less problematic/abusive relationship than other hot boy-on-boy media, yet still shows a steady progress in their relationship.
1. Ryouma wholeheartedly supports Izumi’s unachievable dreams
When Ryouma learns of Izumi’s hobby of drawing manga, he is perplexed but ultimately supportive. He’s not pretending to like it in order to make Izumi like him, Ryouma is just so infatuated with Izumi that Izumi’s awful art style appears as modern abstract art to Ryouma. In episode 5, Ryouma even agrees to help Izumi finish his manga despite being tired and busy himself.
When a manga publisher tells Izumi he has no talent, Ryouma insists other people’s words matter less than Izumi’s love of drawing. Maybe it won’t amount to anything, but the fact that Ryouma is there to support and encourage his partner even when it looks hopeless shows just how much he cares.
2. There’s a lot of love going around
As a recluse otaku, it’s no surprise that Izumi already has a love interest… anime girl and Magical Angel Lala-Lulu! Manga, figures, dakimakura, he has it all! You might think as the sexy seme, Ryouma would want to be the only thing occupying Izumi’s mind but he’s very mature about Izumi’s other relationships. This extends to Izumi’s family as well! The Sena family are very tight-knit, and Ryouma is respectful to everyone, even going so far as to turn to Izumi’s big brother for love advice!
3. Consent is so important
Many times in BL, one guy forcing physical intimacy on the other is how the relationship progresses. While in fantasy this can be pretty hot, it’s an incredibly pervasive trope that doesn’t exactly lend itself to healthy relationships. Love Stage!! does have such a scene where Ryouma forces himself on Izumi first as an attempt to disillusion himself. Episode 4 shows the effects of this forced encounter with Izumi being unable to leave his room for days and Ryouma feeling miserable for having hurt Izumi. Ryouma apologizes profusely and just asks to be friends knowing he can’t expect Izumi to share his feelings. This new, respectful start of friendship is what ends up leading the boys to love! Later in the show, in a fit of despair, Izumi verbally says he’s ok with Ryouma doing whatever he wants to him. However, Ryouma sees the tears forming in Izumi’s eyes and stops himself, never wanting to hurt Izumi again.
4. When the two have problems in bed, they expand their knowledge
While certainly not the worst sin, a lot of yaoi pretends that two guys with little knowledge of man-on-man sex can just go at it and everything is perfect. In the Love Stage!! OVA, Izumi complains sex hurts too much and Ryouma’s pride is shattered. Izumi asks his friend and mentor Rei who’s much more experienced for advice. Izumi pours over BL manga learning how to be a seme but when he meets up with Ryouma, full of confidence, he learns Ryouma has also been studying how to be a better lover. It’s ok to not be perfect at first, and their sweet love-making is made all the sweeter by how much they tried for each other.
5. Izumi and Ryouma inspire each other to be better people
Lots of BL manga have one of the guys be an unruly or nasty person to everyone except the love interest. As a hikikomori, Izumi was usually only concerned with anime and cared little about his famous family’s expectations for him to make his entertainment debut. Being rejected and overlooked for people not trying as hard made Ryouma develop a sense of superiority and coldness to others. As the two become closer, they see how their actions affect not only each other but those around them. Izumi decides to go into show business to become a better person, make his family happy, and for the sake of his manga. He doesn’t want to continue being selfish and running away from things he doesn’t like after seeing how Ryouma and Rei suffered for it.
Whether you’re a sucker for cute, considerate tales of BL or viewing more forced situations makes you uneasy, Love Stage!! is a shining example of how a genre can break stereotypes and still be very enjoyable. Izumi and Ryouma’s healthy, respectful love for each other is both hot and heartwarming, and we hope to see more anime in the future that follow suit!