This is review number three hundred and eight three. This anime is part of the Summer 2014 lineup, and the anime is called Love Stage. It’s a ten episode anime about…butt stuff. It’s a Shounen Ai, and it’s a really good one. Seriously, I like this a lot. It’s a pretty good anime to review after a long absence, right? Let’s read on.
Izumi Sena comes from a family of popular people. His dad is a popular singer, his mom is an actress and his brother is part of a popular band. He is being pressured into going into showbiz as well. It starts by doing another commercial like he did when he was a kid. A popular actor named Ryoma Ichigo requested that the original cast of the commercial come back to shoot a “ten years after” commercial to commemorate the special day. Ryoma has other motives though. He has always been in love with the girl he worked with ten years ago. That girl is Izumi, and Ryoma doesn’t know. He has been in love with a guy for ten years strong, and reality has something to say about that. But…what if Ryoma doesn’t mind that little detail though?
Taking the Pants Off
This anime is yaoi…ish. Technically, you can call it a yaoi, since it’s about two dudes having sex, but it’s actually Shounen Ai. This is the fascinating thing about anime. Yaoi has penetration, and it’s basically hentai for people that have a thing for two dudes having sex. As long as nothing pen*s shaped is inserted in a hole of some kind then it’s really just Shounen Ai. Ok, so you’re not watching yaoi. It’s just Shounen Ai. In other words, I want people to watch this anime. If you’ve had Boku no Pico, then this is really a step down from that.
Before I start my review, I should warn you that this is the best Shounen Ai anime to ever display its yaoi elements. The problem with yaoi adaptations is that it’s so gawd damn filthy that you just can’t show it on TV. This is porn, so no TV station will pick this up. Love Stage takes a wonderful approach to honor the yaoi of the original source while also making sure nothing filthy is shown on TV.
They do this:
I mean, gawd. I love JC Staff, because they’re the only studio that does yaoi adaptations, but their best Shounen AI shows like Junjou Romantica and Sekaiichi Hatsukoi doesn’t really show the best part of the adaptation. In fact, the kissing is even sparse. Three couples in Sekaiichi Hatsukoi barely did anything truly yaoi in the show. I think it’s because of the restrictions of adapting porn for TV. You don’t do it, and I understand. JC Staff still captured the “romantic elements” of being in love with a guy though and that’s admirable. It’s not just outright gay, but it’s innocent love minus all butt stuff.
Love Stage seems to be the most daring of all the yaoi adaptations though. I think the mentality for yaoi has loosened up, for some reasons, so there’s just a lot more yaoi in this Shounen Ai. The couple in Love Stage even kissed, a lot, like too much even for me.
And this anime has a lot of bed scenes, like the seme literally being on top. Like what a wonderful world we live in right now.
The images above are basically the only reason to watch this anime. Did you like what you see, you filthy bastard? Then stop reading this review, and just go watch it. In terms of how much of the original source is represented, Love Stage is really the closest Shounen Ai to be proud of its yaoi roots. The anime is also the tamest of the yaoi adaptations I’ve watched, so this is really the best introductory yaoi anime for people who are curious to try it. With ten episodes, you’re getting the best of what the filthy genre has to offer…minus the butt stuff. But I’m fine with no actual sex, because I honestly don’t want to see it. Or do I? Why the hell did I watch this?
Anyways, this anime is very traditional yaoi. It features a very annoying uke (bottom) that seemingly can’t sit still with a face that screams “please, someone f*ck me”. He is just cliché uke, and I actually find it very fascinating. Just look at that face:
Look at that same innocent face here:
He is paired with a not so traditional seme (top) though. Seme often have stern attitudes with strong resolves, and they take the lead in the love making. Part of what makes yaoi a fun read is that the uke would often fight back, but the seme is so good at the butt stuff that the uke eventually gives in. The seme in this anime is as annoying as the uke. He is as uncertain as the uke, and he can’t sit still as well. He does have bursts of seme stern-ness, but it doesn’t happen that much. There is a very fun twist to this though.
The couple didn’t start out rock hard gay for each other. In the story, the seme is in love with a girl he once worked with ten years ago. He loves that little girl so much that he has a picture of the little girl in his cell phone. So yeah, he’s a pedophile, but no one has to know. When the opportunity to work with the same girl arises, the seme realized that the little girl he has loved for ten years is actually…a guy. He is obviously confused, but he soon realized that you can’t erase ten years of pedophile adoration. He still loves the little girl, even if the object of his affection is actually a guy.
There is this wonderful uncomfortable-ness with the characters that I can personally relate with. My very first yaoi is a short story manga by Minami Haruka. It’s called Bathroom Grooming, and it was absolutely filthy. I am, sadly, a completionist, so I finished the damn thing. The shock of seeing two slender guys have sex just doesn’t seem right. The same alien idea of being with a guy is shared by the two main characters. They try to combat their affection knowing it’s wrong, but they eventually give in. Still, the novelty of the story outright calling its BL wrong is pretty funny. The uke even asks advice like “will it hurt?”, and yeah, actually, does it hurt? Actually, no, I don’t want to know.
There is this innocence with the story that I actually admire. At its core, this is two people with a puppy love for each other. It’s cute and it has all the saccharine charm of falling for someone you genuine love. It just so happens that the other person is a dude. The thing that makes this anime inviting to people unfamiliar with yaoi is that it addresses all the questions most people have with the genre. Is it really ok to love a dude even though you’re a dude? Does it hurt? Can being with a guy be as arousing as well? Is nipple play fun? The anime brings up these questions with the absolute innocence of someone completely confused with the entire thing.
In fact, the main reason why there are so many kissing scenes, despite the anime covering only three volumes of the story, is to actually convince non-yaoi fans to give into the butt stuff.
Yaoi can be as innocent as any ordinary romance. In fact, some yaoi are too f*cking girly than normal romance. Most yaoi focuses too much on how much the uke is indecisive about their love, but it often ends with the stern seme just f*cking the uke in the end. Yaoi is just a lot more liberated than your typical romance, since sex is a normal part of the formula. You can blame the people consuming yaoi for that, because I can assure you no one reads yaoi for the story. I mean, I don’t. I have yet to meet one that does, but I am over generalizing, so I do apologize.
With that being said, the only drawback in this anime is the story itself. It’s not just cliché, but it’s formulaic to a tee that it’s not interesting. It also drags the pacing a bit to the point that it can make you impatient with the story. The entire thing also feels a bit forced. The subplot of the uke being in family of celebrity is just dumb, but it’s a standard in yaoi. There are no ugly people in yaoi, and even supporting characters have to be slender and well built. The story kinda takes that concept too far by having the uke’s brother as a handsome rockstar and his parents as popular people. The seme is even a famous actor, because why the hell not? We can’t have ordinary high school students making gay love, because our readers are impressionable male high school kids. Yeah, that demographic prints yaoi money. Anyways, the story really just serves as a structure for the romance. It doesn’t really matter that much, but you need to space out all the gay scenes into reasonable distances so a story is needed. It still flows pathetically normal though with no real weight coming from the story. There are no stakes, and it only serves as a mechanism to get the seme and the uke in bed together. Those scenes are absolutely adorable though, so I guess it all works out in the end.
I’ll also be fair to point out that the anime only covered a small amount of the manga, so the story might’ve blossomed after the anime ended. I won’t really bet on it, but who the hell knows? The story is also enjoyable because of the uke’s manager. He is this stern guy that looks out for the innocent lamb. He manages the uke’s affair, and I love how he is always in the shadows ready to catch the guy when he is down. He has this small story arc about his devotion to the family, and especially to the uke, that I really like. The scene above is also the second most satisfying thing in the anime for me. His story arc reaches a satisfying peak with those words. “I refuse”, and it just made me smile since the entire thing just felt sincere. He is also the most enjoyable character in the anime, so I am glad he manages to make the clichéd story interesting.
The manager’s arc is my second favorite moment, because the best thing about the anime is the sex. There is no actual penetration, but this Shounen Ai adaptation actually acknowledged the gay sex. They presented the foreplay complete with its innocent charm that makes yaoi irresistible, and it has a lot of licking. Too much. But five years of reviewing anime, I have never felt so satisfied seeing yaoi respectfully represented in anime. The pace is so relaxed, and the actual bodies meeting each other are just wonderful to look at. The payoff is not as satisfying, since no sex actually happened, but it’s more than I expected given how much JC Staff tiptoed around this subject in their past Shounen Ai anime.
This also means that this is now the standard of yaoi adaptations. Further yaoi anime will now meet what this anime accomplished, and I am f*cking excited to see that happen. It’s been two years since this anime’s release though, and I’m not sure if there’d been any new yaoi that came out. Still, I am hopeful for this filthy genre. Shounen Ai has progressed, and the possibilities for more physical adaptations are just around the corner.
For those that have seen the anime, and are curious about the actual filthy sex scene, then click THIS and THIS. I warn you though. This is yaoi at its rawest form, and unprepared minds shouldn’t click it. Although, the screenshots in this review is already filthy so I say go for it. Regret it if you must, but this is just to complete the yaoi experience. I hope you enjoy.
As I said, JC Staff presented this anime and I love them for it. I especially admire Ken’ichi Kasai for directing this anime. This is his first Shounen Ai, but he is a main stay for JC Staff. I love how faithful he is to the manga, and he actually paced the anime like the manga. This is particularly hard to do, since manga moves a lot slower than you’d prefer in anime, but the director really kept the adaptation close. I think scriptwriter Michiko Yokote also did tons to make the adaptation enjoyable. She captured the token characteristics of the seme and uke, their dynamic and even the subversive element of the story. She is a veteran in the industry, and she has series composed a lot of my favorite anime including xxxholic. I am just super thrilled yaoi is finally given justice, and it’s thanks to these awesome people.
Sight and Sound
Mikiyo Tsuda, under pen name Taishi Zao, illustrated the manga. She worked on Princess Princess, which is this weird story about an all guy academy having slender pretty boys dress up as girls for the benefit of the student bodies’ pent up libido. Her style is pretty standard yaoi though, but she has a knack for using the visuals to tell a story. In terms of the characters, their build and their faces are cliché yaoi material. I mean, it isn’t anything special but it’s effective to deliver the filthy content of yaoi. The seme has the stern body build while the uke is a lot more slender and girly. In Love Stage, she even made the uke as innocent and dominatable as possible. I love that little bit about Love Stage, because the uke’s face really adds a lot to the visual storytelling, especially during the sex scene. I’ve read up on just the sex scene that the anime didn’t feature, but I am amazed at how visually striking it is. There are scenes of fingers going some places and tongues going another, and I cannot f*cking look away. The visuals are just so gawd damn inviting.
I think the director realized this as well. In terms of animation, Love Stage looks under budget. It even has the default color a low budget company like Diomedia would have. No offense, but JC Staff’s color scheme is a lot more crisp. Just look at Prison School. The colors bring the anime to life, but I think the limited approach is also on purpose. Of course, JC Staff is smart not putting too much of their time and effort on a yaoi. The limited style also works though, since the “manga appeal” of the piece is captured wonderfully. The pacing of the manga and the anime is pretty similar, and I think the low budget animation adds to the appeal. There is still effort on the reactions though. Both the seme and the uke give exaggerated reactions, and the animation is still respectable enough to feature them in a wonderful fashion. I also love the fine line between the manga. The way the background characters aren’t colored just looks fascinating to me. If you look closely, the background characters are actually drawn with great detail, but they just didn’t color them in. In order to capture a manga-like feel, they deliberately left the color out and I just love that small detail in the show.
The anime’s OP is “LΦVEST” by SCREEN mode. This is a really cute song about puppy love, nand it does embody the anime perfectly. It talks about never giving up on a love that is true, and it’s just sweet all over. It’s just like this anime, and I think the OP sequence captures the sweetness of the anime to a tee. I love how it screams BL, and the sequence isn’t shy about it. It features all the characters, but, more importantly, it features the romance in a wonderful montage. I look back at the OP sequence with fondness, and it’s really one of my favorite OP. The anime’s ED is “CLICK YOUR HEART!!” by Kazutomi Yamamoto. It’s basically the same song as the OP, but it has its own unique personality. It also implies a more BL aura than the OP song, and I find that pretty funny. It’s still about puppy love and how sweet it is though. The ED sequence is the same as well, with the BL prominently displayed.
7/10 “The story is clichéd as hell, but the yaoi elements are played up really well. This leads to a rather enjoyable anime experience.”
As I said, the story is pretty predictable and it drags on without any real payoff. It is also beyond cliché, so it’s hard to really appreciate. It is balanced off though by the wonderful yaoi elements. The familiar yaoi story, the seme and uke dynamic and the kissing scenes are enough to compensate for the lack of a more interesting story. Still, the story doesn’t really matter that much since we’re all in this for the BL and that is presented a lot better. For fans of yaoi, you’ll enjoy what this anime has in store. For people curious, this is a good place to start on the filthy world of yaoi. This is tamer than other stuff, I assure you. The anime experience is pretty great if you give the show a chance. I recommend it.