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Say, I Love You Complete Series Anime Review

7 min read
Say I Love You
Say I Love You

If what you are looking for is a sweet romance between an awkward girl who is emotionally stronger than she looks and a handsome boy who is not quite as perfect as he appears, then this may be the show for you.

What They Say:
Tachibana Mei has had no boyfriend and couldn’t even make friends. One day she injures Kurosawa Yamato, the most popular boy in school, and for some reason Yamato takes interest in her.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Emotionally withdrawn high school girls were something of a feature this season, as we had not one, but two of them appear in shows as the leading heroines no less: Shizuku Mizutani of My Little Monster and Mei Tachibana of Say “I Love You.” The reasons behind their social isolation were different, but their worlds are similarly changed by the sudden entrance of a boy into their otherwise lonely existences.

Yes, we’re in the land of shoujo.

Of the two, however, the more psychically damaged and pitiable has to be Mei Tachibana. The reasons for her isolation are stark and in their way shocking: the cruelty of children in a society that values staying with the herd and not sticking out. While an elementary school student, the class rabbit died (from eating something not healthy for rabbits) and Mei was singled out by the others for blame. From that time, the label of outcast has stuck to her throughout school until we see her now as a 16-year-old high school student who has never had a friend, let alone a boyfriend, for all those years. She has become a sullen, withdrawn loner who is the subject of slights and insults from the herdlings around her.

All of that is about to change, however.

Change comes in the form of Yamato Kurosawa, the most popular boy in the entire school. One day in school while Kurosawa’s perverted friend Nakanishi is staring at and attempting to fondle girls on the stairs, he tries to lift up Mei’s skirt. Yamato comes over to try to stop things, but Mei, who is thoroughly fed up with being taunted and bullied, finally explodes in rage. Her roundhouse kick, however, finds Yamato, not Nakanishi. While everyone else is shocked and angry, Yamato is…amused. He finds Mei somehow entrancing. To the point where he even tries to get her attention and offers his phone number to her. Mei, however, is not interested in the least.

It would appear that they are destined to be two ships that will pass in the night, unaware of their crossing. All of that changes, however, when Mei attracts the attention of a stalker (just because she is socially isolated, doesn’t mean she isn’t cute) who frequents the bakery she works at after school. When the stalker follows her home from work one day, Mei hides in a convenience store in a panic. Having no one else to call (her mother isn’t at home), Mei calls Yamato in desperation and he, the gallant knight in shining armor, comes to rescue her from the stalker. To convince the stalker that he really should leave, Yamato not only pretends to be Mei’s boyfriend, but goes so far as to say that he loves her and then kisses her. Passionately.

This event will have a huge effect on Mei, even if at first it seems little more than a small pebble dropped into the vast, empty lake of her heart. First, however, Mei has to overcome her feelings of inadequacy as she is fully aware of the huge social gap that exists between her and Yamato. Some of the work comes from Mei herself, as she slowly tries to make connections to others and break out of her shell. Some of it comes from her new friends, Asami and Aiko, who help her out and offer support. The rest of the effort is made by Yamato, who is the first person to be completely open, honest, and straightforward with her. While Mei can at times be a bit too passive, she is thankfully not utterly dependent on Yamato to move forward and break out of her emotional withdrawal from the world. There is a core of motivation within her to leave her social isolation that genuinely comes from within, even if Yamato is the spark that helped her to act on that desire.

It’s not an easy road for the two of them. Many of the cliched plot developments of shoujo romance appear right on schedule: jealous girl groupies of Yamato; jealous former girlfriends of Yamato; scheming rival pretty boys who are interested in taking Mei for themselves, just to one-up Yamato; a cloying younger sister with a brother complex (alas, almost a requirement for every show this season, an unwelcome requirement); specters from the past who might have scores to settle; and, of course, a high profile girl who seems a much more natural fit for Yamato. But Say “I Love You” rises above most of the common herd by not using these situations simply to place impediments between the couple that serve no purpose other than to annoy the audience. There is far less “plot induced stupidity” in the behavior of the characters than in many other shows of this type. While the situations may be expected, their resolutions are often intelligently handled, keeping the characters’ behavior consistent and not forcing matters.

Say I Love You
Say I Love You

Yamato himself is also not as perfect as his looks would indicate (it is a shame that humans all too often, regardless of culture, associate attractiveness with goodness, as if people were like food). He’s just been very good at hiding his faults in public. To his credit, and the credit of the writing, Yamato is not only aware of his shortcomings, but is open and honest about them with Mei, showing her the evidence of his greatest personal disappointment (his being a social chameleon in middle school to avoid being bullied as his once best friend was and his cowardice in the face of his friend’s suffering). The sign of his genuine interest in Mei is demonstrated by his allowing his public image of likeability to be harmed by open displays of jealousy and anger when it comes to Mei. Yamato has a selfish side he normally keeps hidden from the world, but Mei manages to bring it out, and he does nothing to hide it from her.

The show provides a pleasant window on the highs and lows of young love with two young people who are first timers at the real thing. I say both, as it is pretty clear that Yamato, for all of his popularity, has never found true love before he met Mei, so they are experiencing it together. While many plot developments are expected, the show is well paced, not giving the feeling of accelerating and decelerating that many shows do. While there is conflict, strife, and characters who have clearly opposing goals, all what makes shoujo drama possible, there is fortunately a lack of irredeemable characters as sometimes appears in romances of this sort. Even the most “villainous” rival for Yamato’s affection, the one who does the most to try to hurt Mei, never really succeeds in causing lasting damage. Better yet, unlike other shows of this type, the secondary characters, especially Mei’s friends, are never entirely fooled by the machinations of Mei’s rivals. There is also, thankfully, very little use made of the “despicable” male rival for the girl’s affections. That is, we don’t have repulsive
(in personality) male suitors appear except for one who is never actually a serious threat to the main couple, as he is shrugged off by Mei instantly.

By the end of the show, we have come to see how strong the bond between Mei and Yamato is, and we know why it is as strong as it is. Not that all of their internal fears are removed, as is brought to comical life by the final episode of the show, which presents us with a comedy of errors and misunderstandings. Many shows would have used the situations presented in this final installment as the meat of the melodramatic drama that many people would associate with romances. Here, thankfully, things are played entirely for laughs: not hearty belly laughs but gentle laughs and smiles as you see Mei and Yamato completely misread each other’s mind. All’s well that ends well, of course.

Say “I Love You” is, to sum it up, really “sweet.” Not in some saccharin, cloying manner that leaves an artificial aftertaste on your tongue. Even a rather jaded and cynical viewer (me) can come away from it feeling a touch of sentiment without feeling that this is overwrought or drenched in sentimentality. Instead, you have that slightly warm feeling in your heart and wish Mei and Yamato well as you wave goodbye to them.

In Summary:
The Fall 2012 season was fairly well stocked for fans of shoujo romances, including two that included emotionally withdrawn heroines who find a reason to reconnect to the world of people around them when they become romantically involved with a boy. For those who want to watch a sincerely sweet romance, played out without too much annoyance or overblown drama (and largely free of manufactured drama, which is the worst kind of that), and that does not wallow in sugary syrup either, I happily recommend Say “I Love You.” The characters are fairly realistic, the situations, while often expected and cliched, do not always play out according to standard expectations, and a good balance of essential elements (comedy, drama, and romance) is maintained throughout.

Grade: A-

Streamed by: Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Apple iMac with 4GB RAM, Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard

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