Love Stage 1×6 Review: What Kind Of Test Is That

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We’ve come so far in terms of character development in the span of just six short episodes. While Ryouma’s questionable restraint around Izumi is still an ongoing issue, he’s evolved from the cliched pop star into an altogether caring character that I’ve developed a large amount of sympathy for. Rei isn’t just a guy in a suit, but rather a surprisingly strong parental figure and an amusingly sarcastic individual who has actually become my favorite character in the entire series. Even Izumi, whom we’ve had a pretty thorough understanding of since the very first episode, is revealing new sides of himself that we haven’t seen before. The only down side in this episode was the startling lack of Shougo. Except for a brief fantasy moment on Rei’s part, the extremely protective brother figure was nowhere to be found. I guess he’s busy, like, being the head of a popular band or something. Damn.

LS3Before we even get into the content of the episode, I just want to take a moment to appreciate Rei in all his amazing glory. I usually don’t like the straightforward business-type characters but, as I said, he’s so much more than that. I was recently informed that there was a series of light novels that focused on him and his relationship with Shouga called Back Stage and I just couldn’t help but blow through all the translated material in one sitting. It’s rare for me to latch onto a character this strongly, and even rarer still for that character to be a straight-laced business type. There’s just so much personality bubbling beneath those cleanly pressed suits that I can’t help but latch onto him. The show and even the manga barely scratch the surface of his character, too, which meant that once I started seeking out other material, I was even more enthralled. I’m fully leading a Rei appreciation life at this point and I want more.

But enough of me fangirling over Rei. He’s amazing. You get that by now. This review isn’t titled “In Which I Fangirl About Rei for Many Paragraphs,” though I may recommend the light novels in a future installment of my Yaoi Recommendation Series and do just that. No, my friends. This is a review of the actual episode that aired this week. This episode showed a surprising amount of growth for Ryouma, Izumi, and their relationship, though not all of it was exactly positive. But that’s okay. Not everything in everyone’s life is sunshine and roses since that would actually make for a really boring show.

LS2For Ryouma, that growth came in the form of him prioritizing Izumi over his own career and other interpersonal relationships. When confronted with the controversial photographs of him and Izumi, he could have denied everything, outed Izumi, and tried to save himself. He didn’t. When Izumi showed up at his door, he could have called Rei immediately and had him taken home, which is what pretty much everyone else would have wanted. He didn’t do that either. He could have physically taken advantage of Izumi when he was in the tub or when he fell asleep in his bed, but those were things that also didn’t happen. Instead, he focused on Izumi, even making him breakfast and coffee in the morning and encouraging him to contact his family so that they didn’t worry. In fact, I loved pretty much everything about Ryouma this episode right up until the last couple of minutes, but more on that in a bit.

Izumi’s character development this episode was a bit darker.  So far his struggles have mostly had to do with him staying out of the spotlight and battling a family that want him to be a star just like they are. His manga pursuits have been pretty carefree and have consisted of him hanging out with his fellow otaku and the manga club. Being told that he has “no talent” for manga has been his first major rejection in his pursuit of his own aspirations and dreams and the effect on him is severe. He immediately runs to Ryouma, seemingly because he doesn’t want to face Rei’s “I told you so” expression and because he really just doesn’t have any other friends. His behavior at Ryouma’s apartment bring up a lot of questions about his feelings and state of mind. It’s clear that something major has shifted (or possibly snapped) in Izumi and he’s not the same person that he was at the start of the episode. Exactly what that change is, though, is left somewhat open ended.

Up until now, Izumi seemed to be really annoyed by Ryouma and rejected his feelings, only accepting a reluctant friendship with him as another effort at deflecting attention that Ryouma’s outbursts inevitably attract. The first sign that he was becoming more accepting of Ryouma came during the last episode when he reached out to him for help with his manga, but that still could have been explained away as an act of desperation. Izumi showing up at Ryouma’s door after being rejected is the biggest sign that something has changed in a very short time. He then continues to act in unexpected ways. He clings onto Ryouma and spills his heart out to him, stands up completely naked in the tub giving Ryouma a full frontal show, and pretty much lays claim to Ryouma’s bed as he sleeps off his disappointment. The most shocking bit of behavior is the cliffhanger of the episode when Izumi seems to “give in” and tells Ryouma they can have sex if it’s what Ryouma really wants.

LS4We’re left wondering if Izumi truly has feelings for Ryouma at this point, or if he’s too depressed to care what happens to him. He already fell into a pile of trash, got drenched in the rain, and nearly drowned in the bathtub out of a depressed disregard for his own well being. Even if he does have some small spark of feeling towards Ryouma at this point, their first time should definitely not be while Izumi is depressed and apathetic towards the world. It especially shouldn’t come immediately on the tails of someone who vowed they wouldn’t hurt the other person essentially confessing that they might lack the willpower to actually keep that promise. But before we can see what actually happens those annoying little stars danced across the screen signalling the closing credits. Damn them.

It’s one hell of a cliffhanger, that’s for sure. It’s going to be an agonizing wait for the next episode. The continued “dubious consent” trope that’s so prevalent in so much of the yaoi genre still sets me on edge, but overall I’m very happy with where these characters are headed. I’m rooting for Ryouma and Izumi to find a balance with each other. I want them to get on the same page and make each other happy. They are as different as night and day, but sometimes that’s exactly what a person needs in their life. I really feel like these to characters need an opposite at this point and I’ll be happy when their feelings finally line up.

Author: Angel

Stephanie “Angel” Wilson is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and has essays published in Fandom Frontlines.

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