Love Stage!! Volume 1
It takes something special for me to enjoy a yaoi title, since I’m not a natural fan of the boy/boy sex genre. In the case of Love Stage!!, that extra element is humor in a celebrity context. The title’s story is by Eiki Eiki, it’s drawn by Taishi Zaou, and it’s published by SuBLime Manga.
The premise is goofy but fun. Izumi’s parents are famous. They were filming a commercial involving a wedding 10 years ago, and Izumi, a boy, got roped into dressing up as a flower girl at the last minute to keep things rolling. He was really cute that way, too. So cute that his co-star, a boy named Ryoma, became obsessed with him, thinking he was a little girl.
Unfortunately, Izumi was not a natural performer, and he was so traumatized by the experience that he wants nothing to do with fame or acting. He’s become an otaku, in love with the manga character Lala Lulu, and dreaming of making his own manga, now that he’s in college. (Sadly, he has no artistic talent. The drawings of his drawings are so scary bad they’re funny.)
Izumi’s older brother Shogo is a popular musician, and the family is managed by the focused Rei, while Ryoma has since become a hot young actor. The company behind that 10-year-old commercial wants to do a reunion spot, which requires everyone do whatever they can to convince Izumi to participate again. (Shogo’s approach is to use his celebrity to obtain super-rare Lala Lulu merchandise with which to bribe his younger brother, an approach that demonstrates real knowledge of what motivates fans.) This all wraps together some of my favorite manga subjects: fame, creative dreams, the clash between fantasy and reality, and pushy families.
You’ll notice I haven’t said much about the love story. The events getting to that point are entertaining enough on their own. For instance, it’s adorable when Ryoma tries to calm down Izumi. I liked the lengthy lead-in to seeing Ryoma and Izumi together, since it makes them characters, not just sexy figures. Speaking of figures, Taishi Zaou’s characters are stereotypically manga-styled, which is just right for this story, with a gorgeous male idol and a goofy boy capable of passing for female. The storytelling is solid and emotionally expressive.
Typical of the genre, there’s a bit of non-consensual action, as Ryoma, who’s never been interested in boys before, keeps thinking that seeing Izumi naked will shock him out of his crush. Thankfully, events are interrupted before they go too far, and the series premise is established: Ryoma wants Izumi. Izumi wants to draw manga. Everyone else wants Izumi to realize his acting talent. These characters are charming, and I want to see more of them. Love Stage!! is a lot of fun.