Rule of Three Review, Boys’ Club Digest: Black Butler: Book of Circus, Love Stage!! – Episodes 2-3

Let’s hear it for the boys ♪ —Well, some of them, anyway…

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I decided to blog these shows together before I’d actually watched the third episodes, because I figured I could come on here and write a pair of shiny reviews about two male-led series with great humor and likable characters, but… well, things got more than a little unpleasant over on the Love Stage this week, so make that one shiny review and one review with a lot of upset tarnish all over its edges. Ravings and rantings below the jump.

Black Butler: Book of Circus

Simply one hell of a fun show.

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The first season of Black Butler was a bit uneven for me – it took me a few episodes to get into it, and then I was REALLY into it, and then I fell out of it during the Queen Victoria Arc, although I quite liked the ending itself – so I think I’d forgotten how good it could be when it was firing on all cylinders. And so far I’d say episodes 2-3 are pretty much vintage BB, a supernatural mystery series that can be as silly or as serious as it pleases, and accomplishes both with confidence. That’s no easy task, but BB sure makes it look that way.

Granted, the setting of Book of Circus has a huge impact on my enjoyment of this season. There’s something inherently mystical in the circuses of Victorian England, a curious paradox of light and dark, joy and sadness, as a group of outsiders invite the world into their home even as the world locks its doors to them.

So far BB has captured that tone quite well, depicting the performers of Noah’s Ark with a good deal of humor but also an undercurrent of loss and danger. It lurks on the edges of every scene (particularly in the form of Joker’s skeletal hand, a constant reminder of a past we know nothing about), and even when the show is at its most jovial you get the feeling that darkness could fall at any moment. There’s something almost Gaimanesque about it, actually, which is a pretty huge compliment in my book.

All in all, BoC is good stuff, maybe not top tier but frequently great and always uniquely itself. There’s no other show quite like it, and iit’s a pleasure to have it back on my watchlist.

Love Stage!!

What a difference a scene makes.

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About 2.5 episodes into Love Stage!! I was ready to come on here singing its praises as a fun, quirky, hilarious little shounen-ai rom-com that took lighthearted stabs at both otaku and showbiz culture in equal turns. I was going to talk about what a good job J.C. Staff was doing with the facial expressions and comic timing, and oh man, the Pink Elephants on Parade, hilarious. I was going to tell you how much I loved Izumi and how I appreciated that Ryouma managed to be kind of a jerk while also being sort of hapless and endearing, and how Manager Rei was one of the better tsukkomi (straight men) in anime.

And all of that is still mostly true, but it was almost completely overshadowed by the unsettling sexual assault scene which followed. Thankfully no one brushed it off or tried to play it as romantic, which would have lost me completely – older brother Shougo was furious, Izumi horrified, and even Ryouma seems upset on some level. But now that it’s happened, it’s thrown quite the wrench into this whole “romantic comedy” thing, because (a) it’s damn serious, and (b) now it’s going to be nigh impossible for this series to convince me to support the main pairing.

There’s a frequent problem in manga romances (shounen-ai and otherwise) where the relationship is basically one person bullying the other and we’re supposed to see it as love when really it’s just some unhealthy blend of abuse and codependency. I am now officially worried that this is where Love Stage is going. Out of respect for all the good that came before it, the series gets one more episode to show me how it will handle the fallout from Ryouma’s reprehensible actions, but this is officially a bubble show, and it could burst at any time.

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