A newly wed bride throws out her bouquet from the alter into the crowd, where it is caught by a small boy and girl who then share a brief happy moment. This was the basic gist of the commercial for the wedding magazine ‘Happy Wedding’ that Izumi Sena and his mother starred in as a child. His mother played the bride, while he, dressed as a girl, played one of the children due to the original actress being unavailable.
Now, ten years later, Happy Wedding wants to celebrate their anniversary by creating a sequel to this commercial using the same actors, this time focusing on the children from the original commercial. But despite the fact that Izumi’s entire family are in show business – whether actors, singers or producers – he doesn’t want any more part in this world, and his real dream is to be a manga artist who draws happy moe girls like his waifu Lala LuLu. One other thing…the other child actor from the original ad has grown up to be the legendary actor Ichijou Ryouma, a young man of such caliber that in securing him for the shoot, his terms had to be agreed to. And his terms were to make sure all the actors were the same…specifically the cute little girl he was so taken with ten years ago. It seems that he fell in love with Izumi without knowing his true gender.
I’m not sure how many people realize what a miracle Love Stage!’s existence is, so allow me to go through the points. 1) it’s the 2nd BL anime to air in a single season, if we’re going to count DMMD as BL. It’s rare enough to get a single BL anime a year, let alone two a season. 2) It’s not based on a crappy manga by Nakamura Shungiku and her infamous ‘angry glarey uke and smugfaced asshole seme’ template 3) It’s not animated by Studio Deen.
I still went into this cautiously optimistic because although I seem to remember what I read of the Love Stage!! manga wasn’t bullshitty and horible like every other BL manga that becomes an anime, it has been a really long time. But hey, guess what? Love Stage!! has managed the previously impossible and its first episode is presenting a BL anime to us that is legitimately pleasant to watch (don’t mind that knocking sound it’s just me rapping on my wooden desk.)
It’s cheesy, yes, and there’s still a few BL tropes running around the place. Izumi, the obvious uke, is girly and blushes a lot, while Ryouma, the obvious seme, has ridiculously defined lips and a chin that could cut a cake. (I also seem to remember him being a bit of a douchebag after he realizes Izumi was a boy, but he at least wasn’t at the moronic douchebag heights that your average stereotypical BL love interest exhibits.) But the writing is surprisingly decent and Izumi is an incredibly likeable character right away. The show also looks great – something I didn’t entirely expect. The colours are crisp and there’s a lot of attention to detail in both the character art and the backgrounds, and both the opening and ending are really pleasant on the eye. I was initially skeptical about Izumi’s weird yellow/purple gradient eyes, but in a somewhat rare case of gradient eyes in anime they at least seemed to serve some kind of purpose – their ‘unique colouring’ was something that Ryouma remembered about the ‘girl’ in his past, for example. It still took a bit for me to get used to, but after I did I could really appreciate how nice all the other colours in the show looked. Compared to the other BL anime of the season, DMMD…there really couldn’t be a more noticeable gap in quality. It just goes to show the difference a studio and animation team that clearly give a shit about what they’re working on makes.
The voice work is also top-notch and incredibly funny- and also includes the amusing trivia tidbit that Rei, Sena’s family’s bespectacled manager, shares a voice actor with Rei from Free!, while Izumi is Nagisa, which makes the two shows amusing to watch back to back. Which would also make it kinda funny if this was the other show I ended up blogging alongside Free!…it’s possible, but we’ll see.
You know, I’m excited. Love Stage! is hardly the best BL manga out there, but it’s still enjoyable enough and decently funny, and it’s, so far, gotten a really good anime adaptation that isn’t animated by Deen and is animated well. I really hope this means good things in future for BL manga, because I would love to see more actual good adaptations of actual good manga that aren’t just horrible stereotypes of the worst of the genre. Maybe an Itoshi no Nekokke anime isn’t just a pipe dream?