Projects, Projects, Projects || Quarterly Update (Summer 2020)

Hey guys,

I’d been blogging non-stop all of June that I nearly forgot to do another quarterly reflection on my 2020 blogging goals, as well as update you on what I’ve been up to in my personal life. I teach a few weekly cello lessons as a side hustle, but I’m still technically unemployed for the the next month. It’s not all bad, however, as this time has allowed me to read more, watch more, and of course, write more. (I’m just trying to look on the bright side.) I also did a huge unhauling of parts of my collection that I knew I wasn’t going to re-read or re-watch, so that gave me a little extra cash. But let’s check in on those goals again, shall we?

Goal Reflection


#1 – Read More Posts

This one comes and goes for me. Naja recently gave me a shoutout in the OWLS livestream for loving the way I come in and read all her posts at once (LOL). It’s not exactly my preferred method of keeping up with everyone’s posts, but it’s easy for the days to get ahead of me. I’ll try harder still!

#2 – Write More Succinct Posts

I CAN say that most of my recent posts have been shorter. However, that could come as a matter of subject, as it’s generally easier to write manga reviews (or first impressions) than it is to write anime reviews. From creation to production, a lot more goes into anime. Naturally, it takes longer to capture the entire essence of a show than it does a single book. So yeah, I win this time, but we’ll see how things turn out in the coming months.

#3 – Read & Review More Books

Ummm, have you been around my blog the past month? Hahaha! Well, in case you genuinely haven’t, I spent ALL of June writing about manga—and even then I’ve started doing manga recap posts for some of my fave ongoing series (like Fire Force) that I hope becomes a regular thing. I’ll have links for everything in the section below!

#4 – Write More About Me

I WAS responding to blog reward and nomination posts to fulfill this goal, but have since fallen off the track (except for that fun light novel challenge post). I’ll get back to those. In the meantime, I did address some of the new anime I picked up for my collection, as well as share the joys of having new shelves. Then I talked about my first experiences with EVA foam in the making of a cosplay sword. Lastly, I celebrated 600 blog followers with a month of giveaway codes (thank you to all who joined me). Still, I’ll try to post more about my personal life with some short loose-thoughts posts. Thoughts?

#5 – Build Up My “Personal Brand”

I’ve tried to shift this goal to my YouTube channel, Takuto. I’ve posted eight videos and already have 40 subs (largely thanks to my blog community following me there), but you should totally subscribe if you want to see me face-to-face! I do much of the same stuff there that I do here, but there’s more focus on hauls, collecting, and K-pop, whereas the blog is more for reviews and random musings. I hope you’ll continue to support me on both platforms. ^ . ^

What I’ve Read


Let’s talk manga! As previously stated, I’m trying to chronicle my rekindled manga-reading experience here on the blog, starting with a second “first impressions” of Haruko Ichikawa’s Land of the Lustrous. I was actually planning on selling off the first five volumes, but thanks to an analysis vid I saw on YT, I decided to not only keep the series, but also buy the next FIVE volumes, haha! I’ll get back to the series here soon.

Then we’ve got Atsushi Ohkubo’s Fire Force, which hardly needs an introduction thanks to the anime’s explosive popularity. I did post recapping my thoughts on volumes 1-3, volumes 4-6, volumes 7-9, and I’ve got volumes 10-12 coming very soon. Fire Force started off as a generic shounen action series with a little bit of flare, but quickly grew into a wild story full of conspiracies and hidden intentions not unlike that of Fulllmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. Fire Force is seriously kickass, so be sure to check those out if you’re also reading the series!

All the other manga I’ve covered thus far fell under my Pride Month celebration. Also included in the month were a couple LGBTQ anime. June was incredible for me, as I’m sure you all read about from this post. Here again are those links just in case you missed something:

Ten Count: My First Yaoi Manga Series || Review

Seven Days: Will You Still Love Me When Monday Comes? || Review

Candy Color Paradox: Sweet Yet Sour || First Impressions

Claudine: Sexuality, Tragedy, & Growing Up Transgender || Review

Melting Lover: The Shadowy Side of Affection || Review

That Blue Sky Feeling: Preciously Queer & Wholeheartedly Delightful || Review

Love Stage!! – A Coming-Out Worth Celebrating || Review

Escape Journey: Chasing After Love in a Heteronormative World || Review

I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up: Gentle Romance & Silly Humor || Review

Hitorijime My Hero: Unrequited Feelings & Forbidden Love || Review

Goodbye, My Rose Garden – A Poignant Victorian Romance Between Women || First Impressions

Our Dining Table: Growing Closer One Meal at a Time || Review

Our Dreams at Dusk: Ending Pride Month on a High Note || First Impressions

What I’ve Watched


Aside from the couple Pride Month anime, Love Stage!! and Hitorijime My Hero, we do have a couple throwback watches to this past spring. I was feeling in the mood to tackle my backlog (and watch something mediocre, apparently), which led me to watching Karneval. I thought it was meh, but I can easily see why some may like it. I probably won’t review this one, though. One that I am sitting on a review for still is Princess Principal, however, the epic steampunk spy series starring a cast of young English girl. This series was GOOD.

I also turned my energy to review Shirobako into April’s OWLS post, and while I may not end up reviewing it now, just know that it gets the full recommendation from me! Speaking of OWLS, I decided to rewatch ID:INVADED immediately after finishing it because it’s a super neat sci-fi series. It ended up becoming the subject of May’s OWLS post, so check that out if you haven’t. In a similar vain, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was my OWLS spotlight for the June tour, which I still need to finish!!

The only other anime I have watched AND reviewed this summer was Netflix’s Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045, which was alright at best. I passed it with the “Coffee” rating, but only if the second half (whenever we get it) will be better than the first half.

As for anime I watched but have yet to talk about, I did tackle a huge backlog title with Mawaru Penguindrum! I feel weird for saying this, but did anyone else think it was . . . just ok? (PLEASE don’t hit me!) Maybe I’ll need to watch it again sometime, but I thought the second half was waaay too melodramatic. IDK, y’all let me know.

On the subject of beloved anime, I DID watch the first half of My Hero Academia Season 4 and EVERYONE LIED TO ME. THIS SHIT WAS SO GOOD, WHY WERE YOU ALL COMPLAINING??? Aside for the first halves of seasons 2 and 3, I thought this was EASILY the strongest arc yet. Sir Nighteye is a legend, and Mirio continues to be KING. Looking forward to the second half. Oh, and I watched the first half of Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld as a refresher before reading the last volume of the light novel, which I also completed! It didn’t end exactly how I thought it would . . . but I am totally hyped to see how the anime decides to handle this epic finale!

That just leaves me with what I’m currently watching. When I have free time, I’ve been slowly going through the final season of Sailor Moon, Sailor Stars, now that I have all of the DVDs. Such a beautiful, timeless story, even if the production can be so-so sometimes. I’ll always love Sailor Moon, and FYI I’ll probably be an emotional wreck once I’ve finished Stars because that’ll mean I’ve finally seen ALL of it!!

If you’re interested in my summer simulcast line-up, I’ll be posting that here shortly!

Summer Projects Never End


I dedicated all of June to Pride Month content and posted just about every day for the cause. After taking a week off to refresh myself, I’m back for some odds and ins (like this update) before I back off again to work on my OWLS Mini Con project. (Did you peep the teaser?) I’m absolutely looking forward to it, but it’ll take time, so expect another potential silence before I return on the 22nd.

Following my OWLS project’s completion, I’ll be moving into the final phase of this summer. I can’t say much now, but let’s just say it’ll be BIG. Like, two weeks long, bridging July and August. I’m SO excited for this as well! But again, it’s gonna take a lot of work and time to put together. If I go quiet, just know that it’s because I’m giving my all to this amazing summer project! 🙂

When I’m not working on projects or filming new videos for my channel, I’m either reading manga, tackling backlog anime, or playing Persona 5 again. Yeah, I took a year or two off the game (whoops), but I’m back, and I’ve already burned through a couple chapters since starting a week ago. Loving it now that I’m back into the swing of things.

It sounds like things are well and good on my end—and they are for the most part. But, being stuck at home with family due to the pandemic and suffering from unemployment haven’t gone without their mental toll. Some days I’m exhausted even after waking up, and I just want to take this moment to remind you that your mental health matters just as much as your physical health does during this global pandemic. Don’t neglect yourself. Take time for yourself. Play games, read books, watch movies—whatever makes you happy. Please make sure you’re getting adequate sleep, too, and don’t forget to stay hydrated—your body needs it!!

Peak summer weather is here. It’s hot, some days scorching my skin in the triple digits. As I continue to work hard on my blog and YouTube, I also hope you are enjoying the summer season and some of the good things a warm breeze can bring. Let’s keep in touch, ok? Until the next post, friends, stay well. Much love for all your support. ❤

– Takuto

Pride Month 2020 Recap + Aftermath (WE DID IT!)

Hey guys!

I decided to take a week off following my last Pride Month post to refresh myself after reading and writing for 30 days straight! While on my little holiday, I also filmed, edited, re-filmed, and re-edited a YouTube video recapping my month’s reads and watches for you all. YES, after much exporting headache, WE DID IT, and I can finally rest having delivered on my promises! If you haven’t seen it yet, you totally should! 😉

I’ve had a lot of fun recording videos this past month. To think that 39 people have already subscribed makes me so happy! I put a good deal of work into this one, so if you have watched it, I’m extremely grateful. (Thank you!!!)

What started off as a small feat of tackling my shelves (mainly to validate having bought all this LGBTQ manga) ended up becoming a journey of self-searching and enlightenment. This past month brought with it lots to read, of course, but also lots to learn. These characters and mangaka come from all different walks of life, and as such tackle LGBTQ themes in slightly different lights. No two stories were the same; similarly, I found that all of these reads were worth having on your shelf. Truly, I had an amazing time!

Here is a list of everything I reviewed for Pride Month 2020:


Ten Count: My First Yaoi Manga Series || Review

Seven Days: Will You Still Love Me When Monday Comes? || Review

Candy Color Paradox: Sweet Yet Sour || First Impressions

Claudine: Sexuality, Tragedy, & Growing Up Transgender || Review

Melting Lover: The Shadowy Side of Affection || Review

That Blue Sky Feeling: Preciously Queer & Wholeheartedly Delightful || Review

Love Stage!! – A Coming-Out Worth Celebrating || Review

Escape Journey: Chasing After Love in a Heteronormative World || Review

I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up: Gentle Romance & Silly Humor || Review

Hitorijime My Hero: Unrequited Feelings & Forbidden Love || Review

Goodbye, My Rose Garden – A Poignant Victorian Romance Between Women || First Impressions

Our Dining Table: Growing Closer One Meal at a Time || Review

Our Dreams at Dusk: Ending Pride Month on a High Note || First Impressions


Every like, comment, share, and follow gained over the last month became fuel for me to try my best and to not give up. Some days I just woke up not wanting to write, but it was reading your kind and supportive words that encouraged me to get the next post out. Really, we did this together. THANK YOU for following me on this journey!

Lastly, I want to let you know that I’ll be archiving these works (in addition to their respective review category in the menu) under the “Projects” tab for future reference. (I mean, it is a series of 13 posts PLUS a 28-minute recap video!)

While I’m here, what can you expect next? Well, I’ll be posting my big quarterly update in the next day or two, which will tell you everything that I’ve been doing behind the scenes, as well as what big things I have coming right around the corner. It would seem that now, at the end of a wonderfully long month, new things can finally start to take root. Please look forward to it, as you have my June Pride Month posts! Thank you again for reading this, and ’till next time!

– Takuto

Our Dreams at Dusk: Ending Pride Month on a High Note || First Impressions

First impressions for volume 1 of the manga series “Shimanami Tasogare” or “Our Dreams at Dusk,” story and art by Yuhki Kamatani, and licensed in English by Seven Seas Entertainment. Minor spoilers will be present.


“My Life Probably Ended That Day”

As the new kid, high schooler Tasuku Kanama was able to slip by his first semester thanks to having friends in the table tennis club. But, his world quickly starts spiraling out of control when the other kids find out that he may be gay. Teased and outed for being found with gay porn on his phone, Tasuku prepares to commit suicide when he sees another woman off in the distance jump off a cliff. Panicked and startled beyond belief, what he find upon rushing to the sight of her fall was not what he expected . . .

At the peek of this steep countryside hill, Tasuku finds a “drop-in center” with a lounge open to all who enter. The people there are unusually friendly, but what catches Tasuku’s eye first is seeing woman who jumped off the cliff there, completely unharmed from her fall. The others introduce her as “Someone-san,” and remark how although she’s mysterious and keeps to herself, she is in fact the owner of this fine communal establishment.

Drawn to her presence, Someone-san offers him an ear only if he is willing to talk about his problems. Through speaking to her and reflecting on his own actions, Tasuku realizes that what hurts the most is his own inability to accept his sexuality. An emotional introduction to a much larger story, Our Dreams at Dusk follows Tasuku and all the other gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people he encounters as he tries to come to terms with his sexuality.

our dreams at dusk chapter 1

“Why am I Like This . . . ?”

This first volume does a beautiful job at illustrating Tasuku’s pain and anguish as a closeted gay kid. Anyone who’s ever been in his shoes know the frustrations of having to hid their sexuality from others. Whether to parents, friends, or even simple acquaintances, it doesn’t matter—in a society that shuns the notion of being gay, coming out can be the most relieving OR excruciatingly painful thing, and Tasuku knows this. He’s constantly weighing the relationships he’ll have to give up in order to gain what he wants, and it’s that toxic mindset that haunts Tasuku day-in and day-out.

Tasuku is gay, no doubt about it. He’s in love with a classmate on the volleyball team, or so we are led to believe in this first volume. I’m sure we’ll get more on this in the next volume. Until then, we just have Tasuku and his new friends at the drop-in center. We don’t know much about them either, except for Daichi Haruko, a young outgoing woman who greets Tasuku everyday with a smile. She invites him on her non-profit work, which involves tearing down dilapidated buildings and renovating them for the city.

He likes working out in the summer sun, and he likes Haruko, too. But what throws him into a bit of shock is finding out that she’s a lesbian. Not only that, but Haruko also has plans to marry her girlfriend, a kind gal named Saki, whom he meets one day during their outdoor work. I loved hearing Haruko’s story, especially how she left her old job and moved out to the countryside where she met Someone-san (and eventually created the drop-in center we know today). The place really is special, even down to its foundation.

our dreams at dusk haruko

“There’s a Guy I Like”

Yuhki Kamatani’s Our Dreams at Dusk is a highly expressive and emotional read. This first volume demonstrate’s Kamatani’s strong art style, including her stark use of black in blocking out spaces, using a warped lens view and dramatic lighting for effect, and emphasizing the power of eye contact. Eyes can tell a lot about people, and Kamatani uses strong gazes like such to convey mood and inner turmoil.

Kamatani’s panel construction is also genius; sounds, textures, and feelings carry from panel to panel seamlessly, as if this were a movie printed onto the page. The story moves, even in pages where there is no dialogue. Sometimes the most fantastic or simplest of gestures can be enhanced by the absence of dialogue, like when Tasuku daydreams about touching another man’s face. Even in silence, Kamatani’s magical realism invites supernatural imagery to convey intriguing feelings and ideas (like the sparks that fly whenever Someone-san leaps into the air). These really are some of the most impactful and striking images I’ve ever seen in a queer drama manga!

This is going to be a thought-provoking, psychological read—I can already tell. Looking at Tasuku, I am reminded of the same kind of self-torment that plagues Shinji Ikari of Evangelion fame (the two also look similar). Volume one alone is full of serious meditation and self-reflection, highlighting the importance of inclusivity with Tasuku finding the drop-in center and Haruko extending her job invitation to him. Where the story goes from here, I have no idea. But, I already know for a fact that Tasuku’s coming out will bring with it a powerful coming-of-age tale.

our dreams at dusk imagery


I’m a kid. I’m not brave. I’m always confused. But I felt pretty glad that I didn’t kill myself. I felt that at Someone-san’s drop-in center . . . as the heat of August scorched me. — Tasuku Kaname


Afterword

It’s a shame I didn’t get my rear in gear during the first week of June. Otherwise, I would have been able to provide for you a full series review of Shimanami Tasogare today instead of just a first impressions post. If and when I get around to writing that full review, I hope you will come back to see how my thoughts on this fantastic series have changed. Should my hunch prove correct, I definitely think Yuhki Kamatani’s Our Dreams at Dusk is a masterpiece in the making. Again, I’ll be able to confirm that later, but I DO have the other three volumes and plan on reading them ASAP! I’d love to hear your thoughts on these gorgeous publications, too—just no spoilers, please!

Well there you have it, friends. My Pride Month celebration has officially concluded with the publishing of this post. It’s been an absolutely incredible month full of amazing reads, and I’ve learned so much through reading all these different stories. I WILL be writing a follow-up post (and filming a video!) wrapping up all of June’s Pride reads and watches, so stay tuned for my proper reflections with that. Thanks for reading—it was a sprint to the finish, but we did it! Haha! ‘Till next time!

– Takuto

Our Dining Table: Growing Closer One Meal at a Time || Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the standalone BL manga “Our Dining Table,” story and art by Mita Ori, and licensed in English by Seven Seas Entertainment.


Boys’ Love for the Soul

Despite his excellent skills in the kitchen, salaryman Yutaka has always struggled with eating around others since he was little. This changes when he encounters a hungry little boy named Tane and his much older brother Minoru. Eager to eat more of his tasty onigiri, the two brothers invite Yutaka over to teach them how to make his delicious food. Slowly, Yutaka starts developing an appetite for their warmth and acceptance around the table—as well as feelings for Minoru and his little family. This is the story of love that starts at the stomach, and gradually grows more heartwarming one meal at a time.

This slice-of-life shounen ai manga made waves in the manga community when it was announced for release by Seven Seas Entertainment. At the time, I wasn’t reading much BL, but even I heard about this highly anticipated title and was eager to pre-order my own copy the minute it went on sale. As a one-shot BL manga, Our Dining Table reads quick, closing out the story in just eight chapters. It even includes a short epilogue that, well, I won’t spoil for you. But it’s great, and it brings adorable closure to a story that I otherwise could’ve kept reading for decades.

To make the deal even sweeter, Mita Ori’s art is stuff to drool over. She draws food well. Very well. Too well. I grew envious of Minoru and Tane whenever Yutaka brought his cooking supplies over to their house. Right off the page, you can practically smell the delectable dishes they make together. The characters themselves are also drawn with a soft aesthetic to them, Tane in particular being the cutest little rugrat I’ve ever seen in manga! The way his eyes light up upon seeing whatever they’re having for dinner is an image I’ll never forget. I also love how Mita Ori used Tane’s childish stick-figure drawings as a transition to telling Yutaka’s backstory. Very clever and effective.

yutaka meets tane

Bonding Over Food

In both his personal and professional lives, Yutaka is a character who seems deeply misunderstood by those around him. People can be shallow and selfish, not to mention non-inclusive, and over time, being an outcast just becomes commonplace. We should always care for our friends and family, but things happen, and sometimes you find yourself eating alone at the dinner table each night. This is Yutaka’s life. Or perhaps, I should say was, as now he has Tane and Minoru in his life, and they really do change everything for him. Tane and Minoru aren’t just good company for Yutaka—they’re companions, the kinds you’d want with you your whole life, and I’m so glad they met.

Minoru and Tane aren’t without their sad family story either, though. Their mother passed away when Tane was just a baby, and Minoru has had to step it up as a parental figure to raise Tane in her stead. He loves his baby brother, but not everyone takes kindly to a 23-year-old who drags his 4-year-old brother with him wherever he goes.

It’s a good thing Minoru isn’t alone in his efforts, however; the brothers also have their loving father who makes a living as a potter, and their grandmother who looks after them by sending them off with nutritious meals whenever she can. Not everyone accepts or respects each others’ family lives, so the fact that Minoru and Tane can come from a place of understanding and accept someone like Yutaka into their home really is a delightful thing. It’s like seeing two lost souls find each other in the dark—their own glimmering light complements the other, and as they grow closer, they only radiate with a brighter glow and comforting presence.

yutaka and minoru

A Gentle Foodie Read

Mita Ori’s story about food, family, and friendship takes pride in the little things. Enjoyed are the quiet moments of tender living and merely existing with others, but celebrated are the joys of cooking and the sheer happiness that can come from cuisine when it’s made from the heart. Although Japan’s winter draws closer and colder, the bond between Tane, Minoru, and Yutaka only grows warmer and more wholesome.

Our Dining Table is just about the sweetest, most gentle foodie manga you will ever read. Yes, it is BL, but don’t let that label send your mind down the gutter. Through soft gestures, Mita Ori’s story is wholly dedicated to building meaningful bonds that capture the day-to-day life of two men from very different families, and how they intersect at the crossroads of food.

From cover to cover, this standalone slice-of-life BL manga promises to deliver pleasant vibes and positive energy, even when addressing the loss of a loved one. This is BL manga for the soul, and easily one of the best stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. It is an honestly written manga with solely pure intentions, and however wonderful and filling the ending is, I assure you this—you will only be left hungry for more.

our dining table


I’m so happy. So stupidly, totally happy. To think eating with someone could bring me this much joy. — Yutaka Hozumi


Afterword

Guys, I’m speechless. Really, this is the fastest review I’ve ever written, and while it’s also one of the shortest, I can’t think of anymore praise that I can give this manga. THIS is what a “Cafe Mocha” manga title looks like. It’s not perfect, and it doesn’t need to be. The story, characters, and art style just have to speak to me in a way that I not only connect with but love unconditionally, faults aside. Sure, Mita Ori could’ve elaborated more on Minoru’s father’s job, their mother, or Yutaka’s job. But she didn’t need to—the characters feel alive enough as-is, and the story speaks for itself. I really, really loved this manga, and if you did too, please let me know your favorite part about this endearing little title! I honestly can’t recommend this book enough!!

We’re almost at the very end. Tomorrow, I will at last be diving into Yuhki Kamatani’s critically acclaimed Our Dreams at Dusk. Although it will likely not be a full series review (due to time restraints), I hope nonetheless that you will enjoy my final Pride Month post. Besides, I’ll probably return and do a full review anyway, just not in June. ‘Till then, friends, I’ll be looking forward to it!

– Takuto

Goodbye, My Rose Garden – A Poignant Victorian Romance Between Women || First Impressions

First impressions for volume 1 of the yuri manga series “Goodbye, My Rose Garden,” story and art by Dr. Pepperco, and licensed in English by Seven Seas Entertainment. Minor spoilers will be present. 


A Victorian Romance

England, the early 1900s. Hanako traverses the great seas to England to follow her dream of becoming a novelist. Things don’t work out quite as planned, however, and she finds herself saved by Lady Alice Douglas. The noblewoman offers Hanako a position as a personal maid, and their relationship is fairly normal . . . until the day Alice asks Hanako to kill her. Confused and distraught by her fair lady’s most unusual request, Hanako tries to figure out why her mistress would make such a shocking plea. As she reads deeper into the situation, Hanako and Alice grow closer until something miraculous begins to blossom between them.

Goodbye, My Rose Garden is a historical shoujo-ai drama that is certainly more than your average Victorian romance. Contained within this first volume are the initial attempts made by Hanako to understand her mistress, the reasons for Alice’s wish, and the struggles the two face living in 20th century England. Even with her bountiful library of books, vast intelligence, and enviable presence, Lady Alice still feels a pain that few other upper-class woman could even begin to understand. It is a pain of the heart, feelings of forbidden love: Alice likes women, but she cannot let anyone know or else risk tarnishing her entire family’s distinguished name.

Dr. Pepperco (interesting pen name) handles Alice’s situation with wonderful delicacy and respect. We see not only how Alice’s hidden desires stretch her to the breaking point, but also how her stress starts to take a toll on those who care about her, namely Hanako. One can tell just by the first few pages alone that creation of this manga was also incredibly well-researched. Dr. Pepperco nails the social nuances and public affairs of the time, down to the very stitch styling of the maid outfit’s shoulder fabric. I love the Victorian era for its aesthetics, but I would agree that it wasn’t the best time in history to desire a same-sex relationship.

Alice hug

A Passion For Literature, And Also . . .

The maids of Rosebarrow House are each fun and quirky on their own, but Japanese-born Hanako is by far the most interesting asset to Alice’s fine staff—it’s no wonder Alice takes a liking to her. What drew Alice to Hanako in the first place were her golden eyes. If Hanako’s eyes shine like the sun, Alice’s eyes reflect the deep sapphire blue of the endless sky. I love their character designs so much. (I’m a particular sucker for long blonde hair, so . . . ) Alice and Hanako really do make a cute, complete couple.

Throughout this first volume, we come to see some of Hanako’s hobbies and character traits. For one, she’s an avid reader of English literature, and aspires to be a novelist despite the limitations of the language barrier. Hanako is also innocent, hardworking, and very grateful to Alice for giving her a home in this foreign land. She may be a little naive (as in when she proclaims that “love is free” to a local bookshop owner after Alice tells her that first), but she means well, and only wishes for Alice to be free from her own pain.

To me, though, Alice carries the true heart of this series. To the public eye, she is everything a gentleman would want out of a mistress—what they don’t see is how lonely and sad her expressions become whenever her heart pains her. She calls herself a sinner, but her soul is beautiful and kind. Alice is well-read, well-respected, and highly valued within her elite circle of noblemen and women. But, she’s nothing like those greedy, wealthy pricks who think of nothing but their own reputation. Alice extends her grace to those in need, as she did Hanako, and always holds the value of others before her own well-being. I mean, she would rather choose death than risk ruining her family name. Always holding her head high, Alice is the rarest breed of royal, exhibiting authority and integrity just as much as she does compassion and empathy.

Alice library

Love Among the Thorns

Surprising things can blossom in the garden. Dr. Pepperco paints a vivid, highly detailed painting of Victorian England where, naturally, not all flowers are allowed to bloom under the sun. Historically, things like same-sex love must be kept in the dark. It’s unfortunate, and it’s sad. But it’s true to life, and whatever ending Dr. Pepperco has in store for Lady Alice and her handmaid Hanako, I’ll be in this one until the very end.

This is perhaps one of the most compelling and sincere historical dramas I’ve ever been invested in, and I can’t wait to see what feelings may unfold as the story goes on. Will it end as tragically as its dire, foreboding title tells, or will we perhaps be blessed with a saccharine sweet conclusion? Only time will tell for this poignant tale about two women falling in love in historical Britain.

alice umbrella


You have nothing to thank me for. I merely wish to believe that love is free. — Alice Douglas


Afterword

The first volume of Goodbye, My Rose Garden was even more lovely than I thought it’d be. And yet, it would seem to me that no one is talking about this yuri manga! Why is that?? It’s a wonderful title, even from this volume alone, and I can’t wait for the second to be released in July. If you’re one of the few who have decided to pick up this book, please do let me know what you thought about it in the comments. Surely I’m not the only one reading this marvelous series!

My next Pride Month post will be over Mita Ori’s highly anticipated Our Dining Table, which has been recommended to me like no other these past couple months! I look forward to reading it, and I hope you will stick around to read my thoughts. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto

Hitorijime My Hero: Unrequited Feelings & Forbidden Love || Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 12-episode Summer 2017 anime “Hitorijime My Hero,” animated by Encourage Films, directed by Yukina Hiiro, and based on the manga by Memeco Arii.


Forbidden Love

Few teenagers are more hopeless than Masahiro Setagawa. The poor kid got roped in with the wrong crowd from a young age and now serves neighborhood thugs as their errand boy. He may have believed in heroes as a kid, but not anymore. His life takes a drastic turn one day when Kousuke Ooshiba, a local menace dubbed the “Bear Killer,” swoops in to take down the other gang members, saving Masahiro from their grueling low-life ways.

Time passes for Masahiro, and as he and his former friend Kensuke Ooshiba start attending high school, Masahiro is once again reunited with Kousuke—only this time, Masahiro is a student and his childhood hero has become his math teacher! First a hero, then a best friend’s older brother, and now “Mr. Ooshiba!?” To make matters even more complicated, Kensuke’s childhood friend, Asaya Hasekura, returns to his life with the request to be more than just friends this time around.

It’s starting to look busy in the Ooshiba household, and while Kousuke’s own feelings urge him to protect Masahiro like he once did, this sudden entanglement of the boys’ lives creates quite a complex web of relationships. As Kousuke’s lover, Masahiro will eventually have to decide for himself: to resign himself to his unrequited feelings, or to pursue a forbidden love.

This is one of those anime where the 3-episode rule most definitely doesn’t apply. The opening episodes of this shounen-ai school drama hone in on the relationship between Kensuke and Asaya, which is actually the parent story of Memeco Arii’s manga. After that quickly gets resolved, we shift the focus back to Kousuke and Masahiro’s “Teacher X Student” romance for the remainder of the series, which is significantly messier. Obviously, it’s an age-gap romance, which isn’t my thing personally, but at least the characters carry the weight of the show well . . . I mean, they do, right?

masahiro and kensuke

Poor, Poor Masahiro

I really need a shirt that says “Masahiro did nothing wrong, y’all are just bullies,” cause MAN, this guy has it rough. Living alone (save for his prostitute mother), Masahiro is one of those kids who was forced to grow up fast. While he cooks fantastic meals for Kensuke and his school friends and diligently cleans the Ooshiba household better than momma Ooshiba even could, these are conditioned responses. With his mother out every night, Masahiro has to cook for himself, and when she comes home a drunken mess, it’s Masahiro cleaning it all up the next morning. He doesn’t belong out on the streets with those thugs, but he doesn’t belong in his own home, either.

AND THEN you have a dude like Kousuke who comes in all grown-up and “mature” just to toy with Masahiro’s heart and throw him into gay panic mode. I don’t really know how to feel about Kousuke. Like, he knows Masahiro is immature in life and in love, and yet Kousuke continues to mislead Masahiro with his words episode, after episode, after episode. He’s supposed to be the “hot teacher seme,” I get it, but I couldn’t help but find some of his actions to be somewhat disrespectful.

The other couple of Hitorijime My Hero doesn’t make things much better for Masahiro. Kensuke is your typical fluffy uke who enjoys snacks and fun, innocently going about his friendships with the youthful naivete of a shounen protagonist. I suppose he is the first to accept Masahiro and his older brother’s forbidden love, which is heartwarming cause #family. And Asaya may be the best-looking boy in this series, but DAMN, the dude is HEARTLESS. I think it was supposed to be funny how Asaya would adamantly give Masahiro the cold shoulder and instead demand he cook for him, but I never laughed. (The other male classmates also used him like this, umm, the heck??) All the guys in Hitorijime My Hero besides Masahiro just felt so selfish. Fear not, there’s a happy ending waiting for everyone, but the road to getting a smiling Masahiro has its fair share of irritating bumps.

hitorijime school

Big-Chill BL Energy

Let’s talk art. Encourage Films is a new studio for me, but Hitorijime My Hero appears to be their leading title—and that’d make sense, because the series is one good-looking BL anime. Seeing Memeco Arii’s original character designs fully animated and chasing after their lovers is really something special. Had I watched this series years ago, I probably would’ve fell even harder for the characters. If you’re wanting a more down-to-earth shounen-ai romance, I would pass Hitorijime My Hero based solely on animation alone.

The entire soundtrack is also fits the mellow vibe of the series. Takeshi Senoo (most notably known for his work on the equally chill Aria the Animation) provides amazing orchestral magic to accompany the drama of the series. He balances the slice-of-life energy of quiet lo-fi beats with the more intense romantic pull of gentle string harmonies, almost as if the OST were for a feature film and not a series. It’s simply wonderful, just like the aesthetically pleasing OP “Heart Signal” by Wataru Hatano and the soft ED theme “TRUE LOVE,” which is sung by the various seiyuus from the series.

Now, it IS Pride Month, and it’d be a crime if I didn’t give special praise to the incredible dub directed by none other than David Wald! (He also directed the Love Stage!! dub and voices the bartender in this show!) Austin Tindle’s Masahiro is just a friggin’ gem, I love how nervous and klutzy he sounds all the time! David Matranga’s Kousuke is BIG SEXY energy (the way he said the F word, woah), which feels surprisingly natural for his character. Hearing Daman Mills as pretty boy Asaya was the biggest surprise for me, and I love how he kept the guy so snide and cruel towards others but would call Kensuke nicknames like “babe” and “Kenny” like it was nothing. Speaking of, Alejandro Saab can do NO WRONG as Kensuke, the purest boi!! Even if the characters were hit-or-miss for me at times, I cannot deny that they had superb VAs behind the mic with excellent scripts to follow, too.

masahiro crying

Not the Best, But a Huge Step Up

While I seem to be pulling these LGBT titles out left and right, I actually haven’t watched that many BL anime. Maybe that’s because I know that BL anime kinda have a rep for not being nearly as good (or respectful) as their manga counterparts. That said, I’m not trashing BL anime (if anything, we can only use more!), but Hitorijime My Hero feels like a huge step in the right direction.

Despite the rudeness of the characters towards poor Masahiro, Hitorijime My Hero feels like a very real, human story (unlike the absurd comedy that is Love Stage!!). I know friends who have gone through exactly what Masahiro did, and maybe that’s why I felt so strongly for this kid. He’s a real boy. Fictional, but also just like that one confused, caring, love-struck individual we may know in our own lives—and even through smiles, that person doesn’t actually have the happiest life. It happens, but if we can be there for people like Masahiro—much as how Kousuke, Kensuke, and everyone else was there for him—hopefully we can become our own kind of hero for these people.

masahiro and kousuke night


Don’t worry about what the world wants from you–worry about the world you want. Sometimes, when your heart is telling you what it wants, you just have to listen. — Kousuke Ooshiba


Afterword

I feel like I did this one dirty, but sometimes you just gotta call ’em out when you see it. (I mean, I get that Kousuke was a “bad boy,” but he literally BROKE A GLASS DOOR to enter Masahiro’s apartment JUST because he didn’t answer his phone, I can’t with this guy.) But what did you think of Hitorijime My Hero? Do you also stan Masahiro or did you think he had it coming for him? Let me know down in the comments. I welcome Hitorijime My Hero as a “Coffee” title, and recommend it if you’re looking for a BL anime that’s probably better than most, but still not as good as Love Stage!! IMO. Maybe I’m wrong—you tell me!

My next Pride Month post will be over another yuri manga, the first volume of Dr. Pepperco’s Goodbye, My Rose Garden, so please look forward to that! Thanks for reading, and ’till next time!

– Takuto

I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up: Gentle Romance & Silly Humor || Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the standalone yuri manga “I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up,” story and art by Kodama Naoko, and licensed in English by Seven Seas Entertainment.


A Sham Marriage

Young Japanese professional woman Morimoto wishes nothing more than for her parents to stop trying to get her to marry a man and settle down. Out of no where, her friend from high school, Hana (whom she’s been rooming with), offers to be her wife in a sham marriage. Certainly, this will be enough to deter Morimoto’s parents, right? Well, it works, but this “fake” marriage could now end up drawing out something very real between Morimoto and Hana.

I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up is just as absurd as it sounds. Two adult women (one of which is out as a lesbian) decide to enter a sham marriage by obtaining a same-sex partnership certificate, and all with the intent of warding off Morimoto’s very traditional parents. The way Morimoto and Hana cohabitate is very peaceful and heartwarming, and I like to think that this one’s a round of “josei justice” what with the way these ladies decide to counter the obstacles in their life (including Morimoto’s homophobic parents and the return of Hana’s ex) by showing the world their love. It’s a simple little story that is resolved in three short chapters, but I found it to be a nice showcase of genuine love between two women.

Also simple is Kodama Naoko’s art that accompanies Morimoto and Hana’s story. The manga paneling is spacious and flows well, making it not only easy to read but also a pretty quick one, too. Minimalist backgrounds allows the characters to pop off the page very well. While I do personally prefer more detailed art, Kodama Naoko’s character designs (most notably the hair styling) create a memorable impression of the characters, even if chibi expressions are used for half the book.

morimoto and hana bed

From Roommates to Something More

On the surface, there’s not much that makes Morimoto stand out from the average businesswoman working long hours in the office. A deeper look shows that she really tries hard at her job, however, and that she’s determined to not let being a woman stop her from turning out better numbers than any of her coworkers. Kodama Naoko just barely dips into this sexist workplace commentary enough to make the reader feel for Morimoto’s position.

Her personal life is even more depressing. Morimoto is awkward in dating as a result of being raised by parents who neglected the importance of forming close, meaningful relationships that weren’t based solely on achieving success later in life. This is why having someone like Hana to welcome her home every day is so important—for all we know, these two only have each other to look out for and care for. In fact, there’s a scene where Morimoto stands up to her mom that I thought was very cool, but the best part was that she didn’t do it for herself. She stood up for Hana, for their relationship, and for their mutual love as women. Slowly, Morimoto starts to surprise herself with the amount of control she is finally exerting in her own life, and it’s satisfying to see.

As for Hana, she’s a funny lesbian who doesn’t take no for an answer. But she’s definitely more than a fluffy girl. Hana is just as hardworking and determined as Morimoto can be, and she works tirelessly all day maintaining the apartment and working on her freelance art. She never forces her love on Morimoto, and I appreciated her because of the way she truly cares for her. Maybe one of these days her roommate will come home and Hana can hear from Morimoto’s lips the words she’s been longing to hear since high school: “I like you, too.”

hana

A Sweet, Simple Yuri Read

Short and sweet, I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up accomplished exactly what it set out to do. I suppose it is worth mentioning that also included with Seven Seas’ release is a one-off chapter (also by Kodama) titled “Anaerobic Love,” which features two entirely different girls and their budding romance as elite athletes. It ain’t much, but it’s alright. The real meat of this book lies with Morimoto and Hana’s relationship, and even that isn’t anything too serious.

As yuri title about a straight businesswoman and her gay roommate, I couldn’t help but feel that the story needed more realism to truly stand out against the crowd (that or more chapters). But, I suppose that would defeat the purpose of it being a light shoujo-ai read. If you’re looking for a yuri romance with gentle romance and silly humor, I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up may be just the manga you’ve been looking for.

morimoto and hana hug


I’ve spent my whole life obsessing over the “right answer.” Maybe that’s why I’ve never really considered my own desires . . . my job . . . who I like . . . — Morimoto Machi


Afterword

This was such a pleasant read, and I’m glad I picked something on the lighter side for my first yuri manga. It does help that I’m already biased towards the josei demographic, and that this is a story about adult women and not high school kids, though. I’ll happily welcome I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up as a “Coffee” title here at the cafe, as it’s nothing super substantial, but it’s still sweet enough to recommend to people. You’ll have to let me know your thoughts on this new Seven Seas title down in the comments!

Pride Month is coming to a close, but we’re not done yet! My next read will be over the anime Hitorijime My Hero, so please look forward to it. Thanks for reading, and ’till next time!

– Takuto

Escape Journey: Chasing After Love in a Heteronormative World || Review

A brief review of the 3-volume BL manga series “Escape Journey,” story and art by Ogeretsu Tanaka, and licensed in English by SuBLime Manga. MINOR SPOILERS for Volume 1 will be present.


A Rough Ride

Naoto’s first day of college was turning up roses—until he unexpectedly comes across his high school ex, Taichi, whom he’d dumped after a huge argument. Even though time has healed some wounds, not all scars fade, and Naoto slowly finds himself irresistibly drawn to Taichi once again after seeing just how much he has matured. When another girl, Fumi, starts to take an interest in Taichi, however, the secret bond between two men is tested.

Most of this yaoi drama’s main story is resolved by the first volume. Volume one takes us through Naoto and Taichi’s reunion into each other’s life, the push and pull of their churning relationship, and, of course, several rounds of make-up sex. In fact, Taichi always seems so ready to get dick-down that it leads Naoto to believe that all he wants from their relationship now is sexual satisfaction. We know that’s not true, but it takes several chapters (and meeting Fumi) to get Taichi to open up about his family situation.

By the end of the first volume, Naoto and Taichi have made up, and all’s well that ends well. You could even stop here if you feel satisfied enough with Escape Journey. What are volumes two and three about, then? The second volume introduces Nishina, an in-the-closet art student, whose unfortunate experiences with a past love causes envy of Naoto and Taichi’s relationship (and lots of trouble, no doubt).

Lastly, the third volume completes the story with the last couple chapters, ending their school festival and providing an aftermath for our characters. Despite all the heartache leading up to this volume, the ending is lovely and highly satisfying. If you’re in this one for all three volumes, just make sure to buckle up—this one’s a bit of a rough ride!

escape journey bike

Friends for Life

For most readers, Naoto (the one wearing glasses) will be a mixed bag of a protagonist. On one hand, he’s sweet, extroverted, and cares deeply about his friendships (which are essential to the story). On the other, he’s a cheeky, obnoxious brat and totally a little shit towards his peers. I will admit that I didn’t appreciate Naoto at first, but he did grow on me as the series went on. Perhaps that’s because other characters (notably Taichi and Nishina) start to notice what they like about Naoto, which becomes apparent to the reader. Or, maybe it’s due to the immense character growth that Naoto undergoes. The kid really comes far, and it’s nice to see him learn when it’s appropriate to joke around and when a guy should take a person’s feelings seriously.

About Taichi, he’ll also be a toss-up for most readers. To fully appreciate him, it took A LOT of getting to know Taichi’s home life situation, which can be frustrating to wait for. It sure doesn’t help that his introduction is a flashback where he calls Naoto just a “fuck buddy” he used to blow off steam with, and that he mistakenly forces himself onto Naoto in the middle of the first book (which he regrets, but still). Whereas Naoto is a well-known ladies’ man, Taichi is the popular, handsome, stoic dude that all the girls look up to. Even though all his friends would choose Taichi, I still find Naoto to be the cutest character in the series.

One last annoying character quirk that I found with these two was how, like most BL written by women, none of the men actually claim to be gay. That is, they’re in denial of liking other men, but make exceptions for their one true love. It’s whatever at this point, but especially with this manga, Naoto can seem unconvincingly “straight” at times.

On the good side, however, I really, reeaaallly like Naoto’s friends, specifically the female characters. Fumi turns out to be such a sweetheart who ends up supporting Naoto and Taichi’s relationship, and Mika-rin is ABSOLUTELY every gay’s best friend. I loved every scene with Mika-rin and Naoto getting loud and drunk together, and her finding out about Naoto and Taichi’s relationship in the final volume made my heart completely melt. Even Nishina, though a disruption, isn’t wholly a bad guy. So yeah, Escape Journey has friends for life!

escape journey aquarium

What Comes After Love . . . ?

Despite having only three volumes, Escape Journey is densely packed with text bubbles and hyper-detailed backgrounds. Ogeretsu Tanaka also draws her tall, beautiful bishounens (and their sex) with an amazing range of expressions. If smut is all you want, you won’t be disappointed, trust me. But, there’s so much more to Escape Journey than pretty boys and steamy sex scenes. Naoto and Taichi come a long way, both as a couple and as human beings trying to understand people better.

What I found even more enjoyable about this read, however, was how Ogeretsu Tanaka confronts the issue of gay lovers wanting to run away from their heteronormative society (hence the name, Escape Journey). She explores options for gay couples in Japan, including buying an apartment together, getting married, and adopting a child, but also the rejection (or acceptance) an individual can face by coming out to their family. Some musings are more bleak than others, but the ending is a powerful and satisfying one. More than obsessing over creating a positive outlook for Naoto and Taichi’s future together, Tanaka’s story feels very real, and I respect it for that.

For most gay lovers in this heteronormative world, the road to happiness is lined with bumps, divots, and many rough patches. Not all people will expect or accept this kind of relationship, and that’s just something you’ll have to move past. Even if the journey is a hard one, the destination can be incredibly satisfying when the right people come along for the ride.

Naoto and Taichi’s love will continue to spur on their little fights, but like most old married couples, I’m sure the two will be able to work things out so long as they remember why they set out on this emotional journey together in the first place. As to what comes after love, who really cares—Naoto and Taichi have an entire lifetime ahead of them to figure that out.

escape journey riding


I know that our relationship isn’t something that will be universally accepted. We should expected people to wish us well . . . But deep down inside, I can’t help but wish people would just see us and accept us for who we are. — Taichi Hase


Afterword

And there’s another phenomenal BL read about self-acceptance and coming out that I ended up enjoying much more than I thought I would. This recommendation came from Simply Gee over on YouTube, so I really have her to thank for this little series. In case you’re wondering if you should read it too, Escape Journey is a “Cake” title here at the cafe. I found the main characters to be annoying at times, especially when they’d get into little spats (which is part of their flaw, I realize). Still, you should read it if you’re searching for a solid [EXPLICIT] yaoi series that looks at relationships beyond the dating phase. It’s great, especially for a college romance.

For my next Pride Month post, I’ll be diving into some yuri with I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up, so please look forward to that. Be sure to share your thoughts on Escape Journey with me down in the comments, and ’till next time!

– Takuto

Love Stage!! – A Coming-Out Worth Celebrating || Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 10-episode Summer 2014 anime “Love Stage!!,” animated by J.C.Staff, directed by Kenichi Kasai, and based on the manga by Eiki Eiki.


A Shocking Reunion

Izumi Sena comes from noble blood. Not the stuff of knights and kings, but family fame. His mom’s a famous actress, his father’s a successful producer, and his loud, obnoxious older brother is currently Tokyo’s biggest rockstar. It would surprise anyone to hear that the youngest Sena wasn’t in showbiz. But Izumi didn’t ask for any of this. Instead, Izumi aims to become a manga artist, despite possessing no talent for the craft! In fact, the only way he’s been able to completely avoid the limelight is thanks to his reclusive otaku hobbies.

I suppose “completely” isn’t the right word, though. Technically, Izumi cross-dressed as a girl for a wedding commercial skit ten years ago, which still haunts him to this day. But, a decade after the shoot, the same wedding company wishes to put together a 10th anniversary ad—and staring the original child actors for the project, no less!

This reunites Izumi with Ryouma Ichijou, who’s gone on to become a popular actor. Little does Izumi know that Ryouma’s been looking forward to this day ever since he fell in love the first time they met! As he did then, however, Izumi’s feminine appearance and unisex name still have Ryouma believing that little boy was actually a girl. BUT, even after discovering the truth, Ryouma can’t seem to shake off his feelings. Thus kicks off a series of troubles for Izumi’s big coming out—and in more ways than one.

Love Stage!! is a short romance comedy series based off the original BL manga. Most of the fun in watching comes from the hilarious drama that ensues between Izumi and Ryouma. Whether you’re a fan of BL or not, these two idiots will make you squirm and squeal—and I mean that in a good way. They’re genuinely funny and good-natured, as well as have an amazing chemistry together (even if their initial meeting would technically be viewed as an assault).

Even then, Ryouma spends the entire series redeeming himself and righting this wrong by actively trying to support Izumi and his personal endeavors. Ryouma loves Izumi, no two ways about it. It now becomes a matter of whether Izumi is willing to return that affection or deny the country’s favorite rising star actor.

izumi and ryouma romance

Lovable Leads, Hilarious Heart

As I mentioned above, the leads of Love Stage!! are easily what make this series so enjoyable and accessible, too. Izumi is a lovable character. His earnest dreams of being a mangaka (when clearly he has no skill whatsoever) probably ring true to many fellow otaku. Izumi just wants to give back to the medium that has given him so much, and his pursuit is a noble one, if not a tad far-fetched. Still, he works tirelessly and dedicates his entire being to making the manga of his dreams, and I admire his unwavering perseverance.

In contrast to Izumi’s cute appearance and large round eyes, Ryouma’s leading features are his charm and captivating presence. The guy is straight SEXY, no doubt about it. But, as we get to know him beyond his actor persona, we see that he’s also just as hardworking and determined to achieve his dreams as Izumi. This includes, of course, getting together with the crush of his childhood.

There’s this ongoing gag in the series that Ryouma is bad at everything he does for the first time, but quickly improves with dedication and experience. Whether allowing people to meet his true self, making friends, or moving things to the bedroom (heh heh), you can only imagine the hilarious outcomes from Ryouma’s “first time” with anything!

The two also have their own family, friends, and industry rivals that spark plenty of entertaining dialogue. For instance, the Sena family manager, Rei Sagara, has a no-nonsense tolerance for anyone’s shit (except when he’s willing to let cute little Izumi slide past him). As a caretaker of sorts, Rei acts more as a doting mother than his own mom, which I suppose doesn’t say much since she’s so full of herself (in the most fabulous way possible). As he realizes his own feelings, Izumi slowly starts coming to Rei with all his questions about life, love, and sex with another man. Their relationship is adorable and handled with surprisingly good guidance.

Rei also helps manage the relationships between Izumi and his brash brother, Shougo, Ryouma’s own manager Shino, and even Ryouma himself sometimes! He’s seriously great, and as the series progresses, we find that many of the cast actually share relationships with one another behind closed doors. Such developments really up the character drama and intrigue!

izumi rei shougo

The Best-Looking (and Sounding) BL Anime

I admittedly haven’t seen much BL anime, but from what I understand, this has got to be one of the best currently out on the market. J.C.Staff really went ham on this one. Bright colors constantly dominate the screen, enhancing the light romantic feel for the series. The characters themselves look very attractive, what with their bold expressions, blushy cheeks, and rainbow-colored hair and eyes. It’s nice to see a simple BL anime adaptation look just as amazing as most other high quality rom-com titles.

A lot of people don’t talk about it, but the music is also shockingly good. Yes, the ED “CLICK YOUR HEART!!” by Kazutomi Yamamoto is an absolute bop, but I’m talking about the OST. Composer Ryousuke Nakanishi is probably most famous for his work on The Devil is a Part-Timer!, so you already know he’s got the balance between comedy and drama down pat. I often found the music to carry the emotions almost better than the dazzling visuals did—but then again, I would be remissed if I didn’t talk about the fantastic English dub performances.

This is probably THE best Sentai Filmworks Dub I’ve ever listened to, PERIOD. (Ok, maybe one of them. They’ve really knocked it outta the park recently!) Even with his squeaky voice, Greg Ayres does a fantastic Izumi, providing just the right tinge of embarrassment and self-pride for each of Izumi’s little stunts. Adam Gibbs’ Ryouma is the real winner here, though, cause MY GOD, this man made even me all hot and bothered. Gibbs sounds just as brash and big-headed when he should, but also shows off a softer, more innocent side to Ryouma that is just as captivating as his ambitious, energetic side. Izumi and Ryouma were perfectly cast!

But it doesn’t stop there. David Wald—who graciously lent his own experience as a gay man to bring this dub to life—not only directed Love Stage!!, but also voices Rei Sagara with a snappy, matter-of-fact voice that only he could bring. It’s also always a pleasure to hear John Swasey doing the dad thing as the illustrious Seiya Sena, and the very same to Monica Rial’s lovely (if not hilariously self-absorbed) Nagisa Sena. Lastly, Tia Ballard is sprinkled around as various voices, and she’s always a pleasure to hear in any capacity!

izumi ryouma young

A Coming Out to Celebrate

I honestly came into Love Stage!! thinking it’d be a lot more problematic than it was. Thankfully, I found the series to be one of the most fun watches I’ve enjoyed in quite some time. While it has a somewhat rough start, Love Stage!! only gets better as the plot progresses. Almost everyone in the cast means well to one another, and it’s heartwarming to see so many icons watching each others’ backs. My only wish was that we got a second season to complete the story, as these 10 episodes (plus the hysterical OVA) adapt half the completed manga story.

Whether you’re gay, straight, or somewhere in between, you’ll probably love this series if anime rom-coms in general are your thing. The visuals are extremely pretty, the music’s wonderful, and the English dub is cooked to gay perfection (should you choose to eat your anime this way). I know it was a fight to get this thing dubbed, but BOY did they it to ’em, and for that reason alone I find that Love Stage!! is a coming out worth celebrating.

izumi and ryouma close up


Somewhere in this world, there is a door that leads me to my dreams. I don’t know where that door is. I may not find it in my entire life. And even if I do find it, it may be locked to me . . . — Izumi Sena


Afterword

As a blossoming adult, a budding actor, and definitely a gay man, Izumi’s big coming out story is full of ups and downs. I really cannot recommend this series enough, especially now that I’ve finally seen it! So cute, and sooo good!! Because the story has yet to truly finish, I’ll welcome Love Stage!! as a “Cake” here at the cafe, a title too sweet to miss out on—and especially that dub though, wow, we’re really making history! I’m late to the party, but you should let me know your thoughts on the series down in the comments for sure! I think this would make a great intro title to anyone new to BL. My next Pride Month post will be over Ogeretsu Tanaka’s Escape Journey, so please look forward to that. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto