The BL genre in anime is a difficult thing to discuss, because way more often than not, the yaoi and actual boy on boy romance is either so drowned down or so unintentionally offensive (Rape is cute!) to actually represent the yaoi or shonen ai genre as a whole.
Because of this, most ´yaoi´ anime to come out are either adapted from a Nakamura title, low-budget OVAs that get little to no attention or an awful adaptation of a nitro + chiral game (I´m looking at you, DRAMAtical Murder.)
That said, what would happen if an established, big-name animation studio like, oh I don´t know, JC Staff were to make a full, one cour, budgeted yaoi anime that´s not adapted from a Nakamura manga or a gore BL game? Well, we´re just about to find out.
Sena Izumi was born in an entertainer family – with a father who is a musician, a mother who is an actress and an older brother who is the vocalist of Japan´s hottest rock band, the pressure for Izumi to succeed is high. Unfortunately he has no real talents to brag about, and he´s actually a an otaku college student who aspires to become a mangaka like the creator of his favourite magical girl manga, Magical Girl LalaLulu.
While Izumi lives his life in relative peace (and a bit of pressure), he winds up appearing in a TV commercial dressed up as a girl as he is reunited with Ichijou Ryouma, a young actor who Izumi met ten years ago.
It´s good to see that there exists romance outside of highschool.
So, about Love Stage. I think it was surprisingly good. It´s shocking to see a studio put so much love and care in a BL adaptation. Honestly. This alone deserves some kind of merit.
Sure , some of it is a bit convenient and some developments couldn´t help but fall in yaoi clichés that everybody secretly hates (Ryouma pinning Izumi down against his will and the whole crying-uke thing, for example) but it actually felt very refreshing and I´m glad that they stayed on the loveable, bright and cute side rather than the angsty road that many of it´s yaoi counterparts like to dwelve in. In short, J.C Staff knew what they were doing, because with only 10 episodes they kept it simple, and sometimes simplicity is the best way to go.
These characters, man. Are you tired of silly, emo pointy-chin bigoted semes that look about 20 years older than their love interest? And what about the whiny, crying, tiny tsundere ukes that have the body of children? If so, rejoice over the existence of Love Stage.
Ugly aesthetics (I´ll get to that later) aside, the personality of the characters are worthy of gold, especially Izumi. He´s an otaku who just really loves his magical girl pillow, he´s inmature, sucks at drawing and is so optimistic that you can´t help but feel bad for him because, man, does he suck at drawing.
Ryouma, too, is an ambitious character who gets angry easily and yet he´s ready to help anyone out. These characters aren´t just there to have sex with eachother, these characters are the simple and comedic version of humans.
Not everything in their lives revolve around eachother, they have dreams, hobbies and can pretty crappy people sometimes, the thing is, it believable, they are not stereotypes and they are (for the most part) not replaceable. You may gave seen crying-pretty-boy before, but you have probably never seen a crying, pretty boy otaku spoiled kid with a life-sized pillow of a magical girl and a gay crush on an actor who has also dressed up as a girl twice because of his looks.
As for the animation and character design…sigh.
I mean, the censorship made me laugh a lot, atleast. I mean, look at it, just, look at it. Pink clouds? Blue clouds? What are you thinking, Love Stage? What made you think that this was a viable option?
In all seriousness, the character design, the thickness of the lines and the proportions were gross, that´s the only way I can describe it. Where are their waists? where are the curves of their bodies? why are their eyes so thick? their hands! their shoulders! their lips! Why!
This is a shame, because the drawings of the manga were actually quite pretty and a lot less obnoxious than this. Thankfully the thick lines and awful proportions weren´t as noticeable in motion. Barely. But it´s still a bit annoying.
The music is everything you´d expect from an anime about gay guys having a gay love quarrel, although I´m surprised that it was a woman singing both the opening and ending. They were meh at best, even if the ending had me bouncing in my bed for, like, 5 seconds.
Subjective-Objective Final Verdict.
No, we still don´t have an adaptation of a serious, well-written yaoi manga and no, this probably won´t change anyone´s preconceptions of the yaoi genre as a whole because of the faux pas it made with the assault scene, but we have Love Stage!, a show that is objectively a bit rushed, a bit cliché and a bit silly, but far from bad.
Love Stage is the first shonen-ai anime that I have seen in which I can say that, yes, this is a good, cute and happy anime that should be watched.
If you liked Love Stage! I recommend you give Gravitation a try, and, all in all, I give Love Stage!! a fabulous 8 out of 10 and a recommendation to definitely watch it if you are into this kind of thing or if you want to dip your toes into the yaoi world, Love Stage is probably the gateway for you.