“Love Stage!!” Series Review (Eps. 1 to 10)

Aka the series that needs to be combined so that we can keep the good stuff.

Although the title highlights the Thai BL adaptation of Eiki Eiki’s Japanese BL manga of the same name, I shall be referring to all forms of the series, including the manga and its spinoffs, the anime, and the Japanese live-action adaptation.

The Thai live-action adaptation of Love Stage!! (2022) was an anticipated one, despite a lot of people being concerned about Kaownah Kittipat Kaewcharoen (who plays Ryou) and Turbo Chanokchon Boonmanwong (or Anda) not matching what Ichijou Ryouma and Sena Izumi looked like respectively. While I agree that only the anime was able to capture the aesthetics of the manga, it was kind of evident from the get-go that it’d be much harder to cast people who look like the characters from the manga (for either of the live-action adaptations).

Considering the circumstances, they’ve portrayed the characters well—though I would say that one could see it was Turbo’s debut. One could sense an underlying nervousness in his acting (or maybe that’s just me). Still, he did a wonderful job alongside Kaownah, who, for some reason, looked very comfortable in this role.

There were quite a few things that I was impressed with in the Thai version. The decision to make Magical Girl Lalalulu (a shoujo manga character that Izumi is a massive fan of) a pop idol named Lala was a smart one for sure, as per the differences in pop culture context in Thailand. The beginning scene may have had the whole ‘Anda’s not a girl’ reveal, but it seemed less transphobic than the manga and the anime. Luckily, the Japanese live-action adaptation had done away with it entirely by introducing Izumi as a man to Ryouma from the start, making it a gay wedding shoot. Although messily written, the ending was changed to fit the cultural context better.

The anime hadn’t revealed much about the relationship between the manager of the Sena household, Sagara Rei, and Izumi’s brother, Sena Shougo, as the manga did. The Japanese live-action also didn’t have much to say about them. On the other hand, we got so much out of the Thai version. I’m grateful it didn’t go the same route as the spinoff manga Backstage!! (which was slightly disturbing). Plus, Thee (Anda’s brother, played by Film Jirayu Aungvanich) and Jet (the family manager, played by Tawan Nawinwit Kittichanawit) make a cute couple in this series. Thee is just as annoying as Shougo, but Jet is a more mellow version of Rei—which I’m not really sure is good or bad.

However, there were some things that I personally wasn’t fond of in the series. The long-winded scenes of an overprotective Thee wore me out, and the introduction of new characters where they weren’t necessary also threw me off. The dubcon kisses were actually quite uncomfortable to watch. The evil-woman trope that’s a staple of many BL series took a new turn, one that I did not appreciate. The storyline wasn’t very clear about Anda’s passion for creating comics (and, oddly, songs along with them). It also seemed somewhat longer than required when it could’ve been easily wrapped in less than eight episodes or so.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to choose any one version. Although interesting to read, the manga and the anime adaptation were odd in their own ways. The Japanese live-action suffered from lack of time and a smaller budget for production. The Thai version had some good elements, especially in terms of production, but a lot of the track changes were uncalled-for. If we had an adaptation that combined the good bits of all these versions, we’d probably have a hit on our hands.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5


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