This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Love Stage!!. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to homophobia, toxic masculinity, kidnapping, confinement, blackmail, obsession, harassment, fat-shaming, violence, spiking, rape, stalking, nonconsensual porn, and sexual assault, as it appears in the manga.
Izumi doesn't fit in with his family. His mother was a model and is now a famous actress; his father was a stage actor and founded the SenaPro talent agency, and his older brother is the frontman for a famous band. It would be an understatement to say he has talent running through his veins. However, no matter how much innate talent he may have in the entertainment industry, Izumi has no interest in pursuing a career in that field. Instead, Izumi has dreams of becoming a mangaka, just like the creator of his favorite series, Lala Lulu. There's just one problem: he's terrible and has no idea.
That's the least of his worries, though, as he is now faced with a new issue. His mother wants nothing more than to act alongside one of the hottest actors of the time: Ryoma Ichijo. Fortunately, the opportunity arises as she is asked to reprise her role in a wedding commercial she, Izumi's father, and Ryoma starred in a decade ago. Unfortunately for Izumi, Ryoma will only take the role if the original cast returns. He hopes that he'll get to meet the little girl he worked alongside in the commercial, as he's been in love with her since they met all those years ago. Unbeknownst to Ryoma, that little girl was none other than a cross-dressing Izumi.
After some convincing and bribery with Lala Lulu merch, Izumi agrees to take the job. How will he handle Ryoma's advances? More importantly, though, how will Ryoma handle finding out the woman he's held a torch for all these years is actually a man?
This is super cute. I nearly didn't read it due to the cover art because, oh my word, it is super stylized. Not to mention, Ryoma's head seems to almost float off of his neck with how far it is. While we get the occasional odd proportions or their necks are oddly long, the art is beautiful overall. It is very consistent and super clean, and Izumi is absolutely stunning. The only thing I am not a fan of is the shading of the mouths. Something about the intensity of the upper lip shading is rather distracting and isn't my favorite style choice, but this is otherwise awesome.
I do want to talk about the bad art, though. Very rarely do I like to discuss bad art, but it's a must for this series. Izumi wants to be a mangaka, but he is absolutely terrible, and we are blessed with plenty of examples of his artwork. It's so hilarious. I would usually be upset that there was poor art, but seeing Izumi's terrible artwork within panels of beautiful artwork had me positively cackling. It creates a hilarious dichotomy that I desperately wanted more of. I wish we could actually buy and read Izumi's manga because I would love to see it in real life, but I'll settle for the snippets I can get in the main story.
It is worth noting story-wise, though, that this takes almost every BL trope out there and turns it up to the max for parody and comedy. There is cross-dressing, memory loss, sibling complexes, and the like. That could be a win for some people or a massive turn-off for others. I enjoyed most of it until we got to the memory loss section. I am not a fan of the memory loss trope, as it generally just hurts my feelings, and even for the sake of parody and comedy, this was no exception. Seeing Izumi be called a freak by the man he loves because Ryoma has forgotten all about him is just too sad for my little heart to take. It was even worse since he openly flirts with a woman in front of Izumi. It was just too much for me.
Finally, something I have to mention because it's so rare in BL, we have a reverse scene where the top and bottom are switched. I personally love versatile scenes, but it isn't all that common. It only happens once at the very, very end of the series, and it has a warning ahead of time so you can avoid it, but it's one of my favorite sections in this entire series. It's funny, cute, and smutty, all my favorite things wrapped into one. I wish we had more like it in other series, but I'll take what I can get.
This is definitely intended to be a comedy, so it's not meant to be taken seriously. It's super dramatic, with little drops of smut throughout. If you're looking for a serious romance, turn away now because this isn't it. You can't go wrong here if you're looking for something pretty that doesn't take itself too seriously. This is a winner in my book.
Have you read Love Stage!!? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!