Anime Spotlight: Love Stage!!

Introduction

Love Stage!! is an anime based on a manga written by Eiki Eiki and illustrated by Taishi Zao. The anime is produced by J.C. Staff, and is directed by Ken’ichi Kasai. The series aired on Japanese television from July 9-September 10, 2014.

As of this writing, Crunchyroll holds the North American streaming rights for Love Stage!!, and Sentai Filmworks holds the North American home video rights for the series.

About Love Stage!!

Izumi Sena is the main character of the series. He’s born into a family of celebrities: his mother is major actress in both films and TV dramas, his father is a singer who starred in musicals and is now the owner of a talent agency called Sena-Pro, and his brother Shogo is the vocalist for a rock band. Izumi has no interest in showbiz, and he’s an otaku who wants to become a manga artist. His parents, along with their manager, Rei Sagara, keep trying to push Izumi into going into entertainment.

Ten years ago, when Izumi was a child, his parents starred in a commercial for a bridal magazine called Happy Wedding. The little girl who was supposed to appear in the commercial didn’t show up because her flight got canceled, so Izumi’s mother suggests dressing Izumi up as a girl. The director loved how cute he looked, so Izumi ended up starring opposite a boy named Ichijo Ryoma. Ichijo has now become a wildly popular actor.

Sena-Pro is approached by Happy Wedding magazine for a 10th anniversary commercial that would include all of the actors from the original commercial. Izumi wants nothing to do with it, and asks if they could get a girl who looks like him. He’s told that Ichijo has said he will only do the commercial if the original girl comes back. After having some pressure put on him by his older brother, Izumi agrees to do it; he looks at it as a chance to try cosplaying. We also learn that Ichijo has been interested in the girl he starred with in the Happy Wedding commercial all this time.

When Ichijo learns that Izumi is really a boy, he doesn’t take it well at first. But as time goes on, Ichijo finds himself thinking about Izumi. Ichijo goes to see Izumi and thinks if Izumi strips down and shows he’s a guy that Ichijo will stop thinking about him. When Ichijo succeeds, he sees Izumi crying and asking Ichijo to stop. Unfortunately, Ichijo seems to become attracted to Izumi’s pretty face, and the series evolves into a boys-love story.

My Impressions of Love Stage!!

After watching the first episode, I saw that Love Stage!! was leaning more toward the comedic side; from what I saw, the comedy seemed to work for the story being told. I also thought that the series showed a lot of promise.

Episode Three, however, made me a little uncomfortable when Ichijo tried to force Izumi to strip down and then became rather romantic toward him when he saw Izumi’s face. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that this scene featured two guys; in fact, it would have bothered me just as much if this scene had taken place between Ichijo and a female character. Honestly, if Shogo hadn’t come at just the right moment, Ichijo could have potentially raped Izumi. And that would not have been cool at all. But it still wasn’t cool how far Ichijo had managed to get before Shogo’s interference.

By the end of Episode Four, it was very blatant that the series was heading into boys-love territory; as I watched the remainder of the series, I thought that the boys-love aspect was handled rather well.

The series ended pretty much as I expected it to, with Izumi and Ichijo becoming a couple. With the way this episode ended, it could work as an ending for the series, but if there’s more content in the manga that hasn’t been covered, there could always be the potential for a second season if the first season performed well enough. All I know at this point is that there’s an OVA that’s scheduled to be released in Japan with an upcoming volume of the manga, and I have no idea what that’s going to cover.

Conclusion

Overall, I thought Love Stage!! was an ok series, but it’s not something I’d personally rush to see again anytime soon. I’m not saying that because it’s a boys-love title, because if this had been a series with a straight couple that was done in this manner, I’d feel the same way. But I’m glad I got to see this as a free stream and be able to say that I’ve seen it once.

However, if you’re a fan of boys-love anime, then you’ll probably have a strong appreciation for Love Stage!!

Love Stage!!: Episode 10 – “Love Isn’t Enough”

Love Stage!! features an otaku named Izumi Sena who was born into a showbiz family. While his family wants him to go into entertainment, Izumi dreams of becoming a manga artist; unfortunately, he doesn’t have the talent that would be needed to pursue his dream. Ten years ago, Izumi found himself placed into a commercial his parents were involved in when a little girl cast for the commercial couldn’t make it, and he was dressed up as a girl. His co-star in that commercial was Ichijo Ryoma, who has gone on to become a very popular actor. When an offer to participate in a 10th anniversary commercial comes up, Izumi is forced to dress up as a girl again to reprise his role. It turns out that Ichijo fell in love with his co-star ten years earlier, thinking Izumi was a girl.

Now that Izumi is recognizable to people without his glasses on, he gets mobbed when people see him. While trying to escape, he runs into a group of thugs trying to shake down a businessman for money. When the thugs recognize Izumi, they realize he’s a better target. They attack him to determine whether he’s really a boy or a girl, and are at first disappointed when they see he’s a boy. However, when they see how cute Izumi looks with his scared face and tears, they decide they want to have a go. As they attack, Izumi realizes the only person he wants touching him that way is Ichijo; with this realization, he finds inner strength and is able to shake off his attackers, whether it’s through kicking the crotch, throwing dirt in the eyes, or swinging a bag into a guy’s head.

When Izumi escapes, he runs into Kuori, one of the guys from the manga club. Kuori admits to Izumi that he’s an assistant to Saotome-sensei, the mangaka behind Lala-Lulu, and tells Izumi about what Ichijo did in order to get an audience with Saotome. Izumi is so moved that he realizes he loves Ichijo.

This was sweet, but at the same time, it was rather convenient. As a viewer, it felt like too much fell into place easily in order to advance the story along to a desired conclusion.

We see Izumi rush to Ichijo’s house, the two finally have a go at it, and they declare their love for each other. Unfortunately for Izumi, it’s more painful than he anticipated. It should be mentioned that while the audience saw nothing explicit, there were cutaways to various other places in the house instead of covering Izumi’s body with sky. That seemed like an odd way of censoring things in earlier episodes, but I read a comment about this being symbolism that really made sense. Prior to this point, any interaction of this kind was not consensual between Izumi and Ichijo, and that’s when the sky would appear on Izumi, as a symbol of him thinking of anything except what was going on at that time. When you think about that way, the “sky censoring” isn’t as stupid as it initially came off to be.

It’d been hinted at earlier that Rei has experience with being with another man, and this episode drops hints that Shogo is his partner. I don’t know how he can stand it, though, with how whiny Shogo can be. And Shogo’s whininess was definitely off the charts during this episode.

This series ended pretty much as I expected it to, with Izumi and Ichijo becoming a couple. With the way this episode ended, it could work as an ending for the series, but if there’s more content in the manga that hasn’t been covered, there could always be the potential for a second season if the first season performed well enough. All I know at this point is that there’s an OVA that’s scheduled to be released in Japan with an upcoming volume of the manga, and I have no idea what that’s going to cover.

Overall, I thought Love Stage!! was an ok series, but it’s not something I’d personally rush to see again anytime soon. I’m not saying that because it’s a boys-love title, because if this had been a series with a straight couple that was done in this manner, I’d feel the same way. But I’m glad I got to see this as a free stream and be able to say that I’ve seen it once.

Information on the Psycho-Pass 2 Anime

The official website for the Psycho-Pass 2 television anime series has announced the new series’ staff and cast, and that the series will be debuting on Fuji TV’s Noitamina block on October 9, 2014.

Tatsunoko Production replaces Production I.G as the animation production studio, but Naoyoshi Shiotani returns to direct the series. Yuugo Kanno returns to compose the music, Tow Ubukata is doing the series composition, and Jun Kumagai is writing the scripts.

The cast includes:

  • Kana Hanazawa is Akane Tsunemori
  • Kenji Nojima is Nobuchika Ginoza
  • Keiji Fujiwara is Sakuya Tougane
  • Ayane Sakura is Mika Shimotsuki
  • Takahiro Sakurai is Sho Hinakawa
  • Shizuka Itou is Yayoi Kunizuka
  • Miyuki Sawashiro is Shion Karanomori
  • Masumi Asano is Risa Aoyanagi
  • Marina Inoue is Mizue Shisui
  • Ryohei Kimura is Kirito Kamui

Ling Tosite Sigure is performing the opening theme “Enigmatic Feeling” and EGOIST will perform the ending theme “Fallen.”

There are also two promotional videos for the series that are available for streaming. I’m embedding the videos below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view them due to region blocking.

HaNaYaMaTa: Episode 10 – “Hot Spring Camp”

HaNaYaMaTa is an anime series that features a 14-year-old girl named Naru Sekiya as the main character. She likes fairy tales and is worried about her lack of other interests; her worries are compounded by the fact that her friend, Yaya, is so talented. One day, Naru encounters a blond-haired girl named Hana, who is dancing yosakoi. Hana transfers into Naru and Yaya’s class, and she keeps pestering Naru to dance yosakoi until she finally relents. After some effort, Hana is finally able to establish a Yosakoi Club at school that includes Hana, Naru, and two friends of Naru’s (Tami and Yaya, though Yaya says she’s a member in name only). Yaya eventually becomes a full-fledged member after her band breaks up.

At the beginning of the episode, we learn that Machi is officially joining the Yosakoi Club. There’s now three weeks until the Hanairo Yosakoi Festival. Tami suggests that they have a training camp, and she can get them a room at a traditional inn where her father often puts up foreign guests and always has a room on reserve. Talk about a lucky break! This is one of the few times that HaNaYaMaTa falls into a “typical moe” trope; in this case, one of them just happens to have access to something major that the group needs in order to get something done. And this inn happens to have a hot spring, so this could potentially be seen as HaNaYaMaTa’s “hot spring” episode; fortunately, only a short amount of time is actually spent with the characters in the hot spring.

When the group goes to Hana’s place to plan the training camp, the audience is introduced to Hana’s father. During this scene, Hana also gives the backstory as to how she came to Japan in the first place. Her parents are divorced, her father moved to Japan, and she moved in with her father after her mother was too busy with work. I appreciated finally getting some backstory for Hana, and it looks like this will play an important role in the next episode.

Machi ends up being a good addition to the group; not so much for her dancing ability at first, but for her attention to detail. She reminds the group that with the addition of a new member, they will have to make adjustments to what they’re doing to accommodate another person. And when they’re at the training camp, Machi is the one who discovers that the registration period for the festival closed three days earlier.

Not surprisingly, Machi gives them a hard time about not getting something as basic as that done. However, Machi did surprise me when she insisted that they keep on practicing after the others seem to want to give up after learning they missed the registration deadline. Near the end of the episode, we get to see that Machi has truly gotten into what the Yosakoi Club is doing and seems to be enjoying herself. When it comes to missing the festival deadline, Sally finds a way to get the girls into the festival after all…

When I saw that the girls had missed the registration deadline, I found myself wondering how the series would progress since I had assumed that the series would end with the girls going to the Hanairo Yosakoi Festival. But I should have known that a show like this would have found a way to get around that roadblock; and when I saw how they got around the obstacle, it’s something I would have expected out of this series.

But while the girls have the good news of being able to participate in the festival, the preview seems to be hinting that something could potentially keep Hana from joining them; right at the end of the episode, we were given the impression that Hana’s mother is in Japan, so I suspect her mother may have decided that her workload has eased up and can have Hana living with her again. It’ll be interesting to see if I’m right on that guess.

Anime Book Review: The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917

The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917 is a book by Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy. The book was originally published in 2001, and a “Revised & Expanded Edition” was released in 2006; this review focuses on the “Revised & Expanded Edition.”

The book claims to have over 3,000 entries for shows, studios, creators, and anime history, and that it’s aimed at both “newcomers and battle-hardened otaku.” By the time I finished reading this book, however, I wasn’t entirely convinced that this book is either for newcomers or “battle-hardened otaku.”

The biggest issue I had was the number of mistakes I found in this book for the properties that I’m familiar with. While I don’t expect a book of this nature to be 100% accurate, I was astonished by just how many errors I found; considering I know only a small number of properties that are included in the book, this is actually a rather high error ratio. And if this error ratio were to remain constant throughout the whole text, then that would mean there are a lot of errors in this book.

The worst error I found was the entry for the Fruits Basket anime series. For one thing, the Chinese Zodiac curse is never mentioned at all in the writeup; in fact, the authors of the book claim the Sohmas are “sorcerers and shape shifters” in order to explain how the characters can change into animals. This made me wonder if the authors actually watched some of the show, and if they did, how much attention did they pay to it?

Another big error is in the entry for Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, where the authors incorrectly state that the Crescendolls are rescued by a female pilot (when, in the anime, the pilot character is very obviously male). If I’m finding these kinds of blatant errors in properties I’m familiar with, then how many other major errors are included in the book?

Another issue I had with the book is that the authors insisted on using the titles that the properties were released under in the United States, rather than English translations of the Japanese titles. As a couple of examples, you can only find Space Battleship Yamato under Star Blazers, and you can only find Yu Yu Hakusho under Poltergeist Report.

Also, when writing the descriptions for the properties, the authors tended to talk about the American version first, and then explain the differences between the English and the Japanese versions. Since this book is talking about Japanese animation, I believe that focusing on a show’s Japanese origins first and then talking about the changes made to it when it was brought over to the West would have made more sense.

I also had problems with how inconsistently the authors handled some things. The biggest gripe I had with inconsistency comes with how they treated shows that were popular in the United States that were comprised of more than one show. In the book, you can find separate entries for Robotech, Macross, Southern Cross, and Mospeada.  However, for Voltron, there are not separate entries for Beast King GoLion or Dairugger XV.

This encyclopedia is also filled with quite a few snarky comments. The worst case of the snarkiness is the entry for Pure Love, where the entire description of the property is a snarky comment. While the snarky comments can be amusing at times, I felt they were overused by the authors.

When reading the book, it felt as if the authors tried early on to be level-handed, but as they got further into the book, they started showing their biases more and more, which is illustrated by the fact that the amount of snarky comments goes up as the book progresses.

Overall, the authors did a decent job with the historical aspects of anime. However, I do have to complain that in the section about “Censorship and Localization,” they never mentioned the editing of innocuous Japanese references from properties that was rather prevalent in the 1980s, such as calling rice balls other kinds of food if they appear in a shot, and cutting away from Japanese text as quickly as possible.

While I may have a number of issues with The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917, I have to say that its most redeeming value is that it provides titles for various anime shows and how they inter-relate. However, I’m not sure that this book in and of itself is worth the money it takes to purchase it. In this day and age of the Internet, you are likely to find more information on the fanpages for the various anime properties included in this book. And considering that it’s been about eight years since this revised edition was released, it’s already rather out of date. It might be fun to peruse it if you can find it through your local library system to see what it says about older shows, but it’s not as good of a reference work as it was when the book was originally published.

Also, considering how many more shows have been coming over to the West in recent years due to simulcasts, a project such as The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917 is probably better to be done in an online fashion as an e-book rather than through a printed medium. At the time The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917  was first released in 2001, no one could have predicted just how much anime would be brought over to the West as the years went on.

After writing the above paragraph, I learned that a third version of this book will be released on December 16, 2014 in both hardcover and as an e-book. According to the writeup, six additional years of information has been added to the third revised version

I wrote this review after reading a copy of The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917 that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Information on the Forthcoming Tsukai no World Break Anime

The official site for the anime adaptation of the Tsukai no World Break light novel series has launched, and has announced that anime will be premiering on Japanese television in January 2015.

The anime is being produced by Diomedea, and is being directed by Takayuki Inagaki. Hiroshi Yamaguchi is doing series composition, and Masakazu Ishikawa is doing character designs for the anime.

So far, the following cast members have been announced:

  • Kaito Ishikawa is Moroha Haimura
  • Ayana Taketatsu is Satsuki Ranjo
  • Aoi Yuuki is Shizuno Urushibara

A preview for the series is also streaming, which I am embedding below. I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view the video due to region blocking.