Love Stage!! Volume 5
This boys’ love manga series about two young actors has now been running long enough that it’s time to flip the premise. Previously, the more experienced Ryoma was pursuing Izumi. However, events in Love Stage!! volume 5 (published by SuBLime) amusingly make the opposite necessary.
In volume 4, Ryoma was concerned by how pushy, abusive producer Kisaragi was getting his claws into Izumi. He’s so worried about his new boyfriend that it affects his performance. So Kisaragi “hypnotizes” Ryoma to allow him to focus on the show they’re all working on.
Now, this series is obviously a fantasy, as most prominently seen by how young Izumi turns out to be a genius actor with no training. (In earlier books, there were nods to how it was because he was raised in a celebrity family and had picked up a lot unconsciously.) But I do like the behind-the-scenes bits of making a TV show, even if spending all day on one scene seems unrealistic.
And of course, there’s the magical hypnotism, which works too well. Certainly, you have to suspend your disbelief, but the devices — this, and a later literal cliffhanger — exist to bring the characters’ emotions into view. They’re Maguffins, and they aren’t picked at or overly rationalized, just introduced and gotten out of the way so the cast can deal with the ramifications.
The story is by Eiki Eiki, who keeps finding new ways to have these two cute boys flirt with and seduce each other. The art is by Taishi Zaou, who does a wonderful job keeping the pages full but easily readable, with the necessary strong focus on emotion. It’s not all faces, either, with plenty of scene-setting and backgrounds as well.
Last volume, I really disliked Kisaragi, but he says some sensible things here, and although success matters to him a great deal, he’s trying to do some good things. That’s another thing I like about Love Stage!!, that the characters are more than stereotypes. They have dimension to them, which makes them more likable and easier to root for.
Let’s not forget, though, that this is BL. There are sex and seduction scenes, as well as a hilarious segment where the girlish Izumi becomes determined to “become the seme to end all semes — a super seme that will rock the entire BL world!” Since the seme is the aggressive, dominant partner, watching the unlikely Izumi commit to play this role is silly, but underneath, it reflects his determination to be proactive in getting the relationship he wants, a message we can all appreciate.