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Say 'I Love You' (Sukitte Ii na yo) PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 09 April 2013 00:00
The last of the shoujo spree of the Autumn 2012, Say 'I Love You' follows some of the same territory as My Little Monster - but without Haru around to screw it up, manages to do it a lot more enjoyably...

Tachibana Mei does everything alone, and her peers torment her every day - something that's been going on for years now, for no reason that Mei can discern. It's given her a deep mistrust of "friends", as forming friendships only seems to lead to disappointment and pain later. Her tormentors' latest line of attack is to keep reminding her how long she seems to have been single for - but one day, Mei's roundhouse kick accidentally hits the innocent Kurosawa Yamato, the most popular boy in school. In true anime fashion, a hefty kick turns out to be the trigger for love, of sorts - and so two people from opposite ends of the social scale hook up together.

It's hard to tell just how much Mei is bothered by her isolation from others, at least until she learns what it's like to not be that way. She just keeps herself to herself, and gets on with her life, and on the surface it never seems to really get to her. Dating Yamato, though, marks the start of her moving in social circles, gaining friends - some true, some of convenience - and learning that socialising comes with its own difficulties. There are two of these that the series spends most of its time working with. First up is Yamato himself - he's the most popular boy in school for a reason, as he goes out of his way to be as helpful and caring to those around him as possible. This is a problem when you're his girlfriend - and Mei is his first - as he spends so much time trying to keep the people around him happy that Mei often gets left alone on the sidelines. When you're just getting to appreciate the company of others after years on your own, that's something that Mei has problems coping with.

The second main problem comes in the form of modelling idol & schoolmate Megu, who has her own eyes on Yamato and gets close to Mei as a step in her plan to claim him for herself. Megu seems to be the self-centred bitch of the show, but her backstory tries to explain why she came to be that way and portray it as not entirely her fault. I didn't buy that, myself, and found her to be distasteful to watch - but her presence is a necessary evil along the way to forcing Mei and Yamato to recognise exactly what it is they feel for each other, and in helping Mei to learn how to cope with other people in difficult circumstances.

Given that it's a shoujo series and that there's romance involved, you can probably work out that there's a large dose of melodrama being served up here. That's something that needs to be handled carefully, lest you just put people off by constantly overblowing the conflict and emotional trauma that the characters are being put through, but Say 'I Love You' manages to strike a pretty good balance between throwing issues at its characters and doing it in ways that don't feel overly unlikely or forced - it doesn't hit the mark every time, but it was rare that I found myself rolling my eyes at what was happening. For the most part the characters are all a likeable bunch, too, despite all having their own issues to deal with. Mei's new best friend Asami was my personal favourite - a girl who on the surface is bubbly and carefree, but who under the surface has a ton of insecurities and who latches onto Mei as a sort-of kindred spirit.

Add in Yamato's own adventures in modelling, Mei's bonding sessions with his little sister Nagi, and the growing bonds between the group of friends that the show brings together, and we're onto a winner here. It's a bit slow / slice-of-life to be to everyone's taste, but it relationship drama with a touch of humour to it is your thing, then this is definitely one of the better recent examples. It certainly worked for me. The final episode ends the series on something of a whimper that slightly spoils the overall impact of the series, but apart from that, recommended.

Rating - ****
1 - We Kissed
Tachibana Mei does everything alone, and her peers torment her every day - something that's been going on for years now, for no reason that Mei can discern. It's given her a deep mistrust of "friends", as forming friendships only seems to lead to disappointment and pain later. Her tormentors' latest line of attack is to keep reminding her how long she seems to have been single for - but one day, Mei's roundhouse kick accidentally hits the innocent Kurosawa Yamato, the most popular boy in school.


2 - Fried Chicken Flavoured
After Yamato comes to Mei's rescue, she ends up spending the rest of the afternoon with him and his friends at karaoke - a new experience for her, and one that she doesn't deal with well. On top of that, his kiss and "I love you" statement aren't things that she can forget easily - she's beginning to have feelings for him, feelings that grow more complex when she hears that he's going to hang out with his first love...


3 - If You Trust Someone...
While Mei is nervous when Yamato says they should act like a couple and holds her hand, she also experiences her first warm emotion. However, when they run into Yamato's friends Aiko and Masashi, the four of them end up going bowling. Aiko, who has feelings for Yamato, becomes irritated when she realizes Yamato is serious about Mei, and reveals a shocking bit of information to Mei...


4 - They Have Scars
Since she started seeing Yamato's, Mei's schoolmates have noticed a change in her - she's actually smiling, and seeming somehow... cuter. Which isn't what Aiko really wants to hear about her. Meanwhile, one of Yamato's old friends, Hayakawa, wants to meet Yamato's new girlfriend - but their meeting is less than pleasant...


5 - Just Like This
Yamato invites Mei over to his house - a high-pressure situation for her, especially when Yamato’s little sister doesn’t pull any punches when she sizes Mei for suitability. Her first impressions don't appear to be the best, but as the day goes on the girls begin to bond when they realise how much they have in common...


6 - Why
A new girl has transferred into Toumei: the rising idol Megu-tan, whose looks are almost legendary and who quickly decides that Yamato's the man for her. Mei, meanwhile, has been keeping to herself for a few days - working on her cooking skills, with Nagi's help, although she's not telling Yamato that - but can she hold her own against Megu's determination..?


7 - I Really Love You
Yamato's new fame as a model is widening the rift between him and Mei, and an offer to continue modeling with Megu-tan might just be the breaking point in their relationship - having seen how good he looks in the photoshoot, she's beginning to feel that she's not good enough for him. Megu, meanwhile, is making the most of having Yamato at her beck and call...


8- New to Love
Mei's trying to be strong in the face of her jealousy over Yamato spending so much time with Megu, but this new feeling she's having are tearing her apart. An offer from Yamato to walk home with her gives her a chance to spend some time with him, but even then she's too preoccupied with the thoughts in her head to actually talk to him. Fortunately, Aiko and Asami are keeping an eye on her...


9 - Each and Every
After talking to Mei, Yamato has decided to quit modelling - while it's something he didn't mind doing, he's not so keen on it that it's worth risking his relationship with her over. That's an explanation that Megu doesn't seem to be quite able to grasp, though. For Mei, though, things are looking up again - although she can't shake the idea that Megu hasn't given up on Yamato just yet...


10 - Nothing Else
After listening to Mei, Kai and Asami's conversation about Land, Megu hatches a new plan to drive a wedge between Mei and Yamato - by giving Kai a pair of tickets to a Land event, and then telling Yamato that Kai's planning on taking Mai with him. It's enough to sow the seeds of doubt in Yamato's mind. Meanwhile, though, Megu's got some unwelcome thoughts in the back of her own mind to deal with...


11 - Parade
While Yamato's planning a trip for him and Mei to Land, Megu's doing her best to sabotage their relationship. But her plans being to unravel when her “friends” start to desert her and her popularity start to drop after her domineering personality becomes too much for those around her. It's a sudden turn in her fortunes that pushes Megu into depression...


12 - I'll Protect You
Her sudden change in fortunes has left Megu emotionally broken, and when she fails to turn up for a modelling shoot, the agency call Yamato looking for her. Realising that something must be wrong, Yamato cuts his date with Mei short and rushes off to find Megu. He's not the only person concerned for her well-being, either. Mei, meanwhile, is given some motherly advice on her relationship with Yamato...


13 - Say "I Love You"
When Yamato catches a cold after the festival and has to take some time off school, Mei feels partly responsible - she's the one who kept him out late that night, after all. Stuck at home, Yamato's under the loving care of Nagi - who you could say is being a little over-protective of her big brother. Mei wants to pay him a visit, but can't manage to work up the courage to drop by...



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