by Rebecca Silverman,
The time has come for Izumi to shift his focus and make his debut in showbiz! But first, let us recap the previous seven episodes for you, fill in a little family background about the Sena clan and Rei, and let Izumi agonize over real-life BL for three minutes. Yes, roughly half of this episode is a clip show, and the second half is divided between new footage concerning what happens after episode seven and background information. While some of the latter is useful and entertaining – plus it makes me wonder if Rei in Love Stage isn't some sort of alternate version of Rei in Kodocha – for the most part, it's the former that we're watching the show for: what happens next. This quarter of the episode is quite good, not to mention pulls off a nice plot twist in its final moments. Izumi's nervousness seems completely in character for him, from fretting over appearing in front of so many people to his horror that he might be in love with a guy and thus part of real-life BL. (To say nothing of betraying Lala-Lulu...) Watching Shogo and Ryouma butt heads is always fun, and this is some of their best yet, with Rei advising us to ignore their pointless display of testosterone. Ryouma is at his least predatory, although he does steal one kiss, and actually serves more to off-set Shogo than to play any sort of romantic role. It works as a tactic for making this about Izumi's debut while still allowing him to be a part of the episode, as does playing up Rei's “motherly” fussing over Izumi. Shogo manages to steal almost all of the scenes he's in, and Daigo's clearly gotten more comfortable with his role as the show has gone on. Mom and Pop Sena get a bit more time onscreen than they've had since episode one, but really, their roles seem only to exist to show how much more parental Rei is. Actually, now that I think about it, Rei has the most scenes in this episode, with even Izumi taking a back seat. It works well, especially because Izumi is such a mess of worry about his approaching debut.
Unfortunately, the other three-quarters of the episode are less enthralling than the Rei-centric new footage. While it is probably useful to see how Rei and Shogo babied Izumi, that could have been worked in to the storyline more naturally, even with a limited number of episodes. The conceit of making this “Love Stage Men's Side” and having a masculine narrator is certainly funny at first – and yes, the special eye catches and logo/watermark show admirable dedication to the joke – but ultimately they're just a way to pretty up a clip show episode. It is great that there wasn't a full-blown recap episode, and this one is still worth watching if you're following the show, but this isn't Love Stage at its best and is most definitely a bit of a disappointment.
Love Stage!! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rebecca Silverman teaches writing and literature and is the author of the fantasy novel A Tale of Apples.
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