What They Say:
Friends suck, and trusting someone is just setting yourself up. That’s the lesson Mei Tachibana learned after her heart was ripped out and only a shell was left where a girl used to be. But unlike so many, she found an easy solution: she’ll never make another friend. Ever.
Okay, maybe that’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s worked for Mei – or at least, it did until handsome, charming and annoyingly popular Yamato Kurosawa came along. For some freakish reason, he seems to like Mei. He even gave her his phone number! As if she would ever call him. Except she did. But only because she needed help. Still, he came. He actually came. And now things are getting way too complicated.
Mei’s no princess in a tower. She’s not waiting for a knight in shining armor to rescue her. So why did he have to kiss her and confuse everything? And why are those three little words so hard to say?
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good overall though it’s obviously constrained by the nature of the materials themselves. The series gets the original Japanese language track in stereo and does the same with the new English language adaptation, both of which are encoded with the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is essentially all about the dialogue with some incidental music along the way that gives it a little more of a nudge, but not much. There aren’t even any really outlandish action moments peppered into the show, so it’s all about the dialogue. It’s a pretty standard forward soundstage mix where it’s largely center channel based for a lot of it but has a decent overall feel to much of it. There’s a good bit of internal dialogue along the way and that’s given a similar treatment based on character placement a bit at times but mostly it’s just a solid dialogue driven piece that doesn’t have to stretch and doesn’t try, so it doesn’t end up with any awkward sequences. Everything is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2012, the transfer for this thirteen episode series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second which also has all the extras. Animated by studio ZEXCS, what we get here is an appealing real world design that doesn’t try to overdo with atmosphere or colors and instead has its own look that proves to be appealing the more you immerse yourself in it. The transfer captures the look of the series really well with a solid color design that’s free from significant noise, blocking or other issues such as cross coloration or line noise. There’s a lot to like with the look of it since it goes for a simple but nicely detailed design for the characters and backgrounds that lets it feel lived in but not too busy or too clean. The focus is all on the characters and the animation doesn’t distract but enhances nicely, making for a very good looking show.
The packaging for this release is pretty nice and hits the right notes with it as the front cover gives us the two leads along each side as they look at each other in a way that explains their relationship well. It’s simple but effective, especially when tied with the series logo along the top. The female oriented focus of it is also made clear with the background design with the rainbow dots, pink and the flowers, but it’s not a complete in your face push either. It sets the mood pretty nicely while showing off the character designs. The back cover works the same kinds of colors throughout the background, working with a black background instead and pink dots, but it brings in the other colors too throughout. the premise is given a lot of space to work with and we get a good clean listing of the extras as well as the number of episodes and discs. A few shots from the show plays up the various girls nicely and we get a good rundown of the production credits. The technical grid is also nicely done as everything is listed clearly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for the release is quite nicely done as the two discs use different pieces of illustration artwork of the characters in their normal settings. There’s a soft palette design to this with a lot of whites on the first disc for example as they walk through the school exterior walkways. The character artwork is nicely detailed and the look of it all is very natural in its approach that works well. The navigation strip is along the right where we get a playful design of green and white with the episodes listed by number and title in orange. It may sound a little garish but in the end it does work well and fits the show right. Submenus load quickly and the pop-up navigation is always a bit fun to watch as it hits. Unfortunately, the language tracks are locked so you have to set it up from the menu, making sampling on the fly impossible of the two language tracks. Or having full subtitles with the dub.
The release has a few extras to it that are definitely nice, though they don’t amount to much. The welcome regular pieces are here with the clean opening and closing sequences as well as the inclusion of the original Japanese promotional videos. We also get the Mei and Marshmallow shorts, of which there are six, where we get cute moments between the two characters that are about a minute long each. They’re simple and over quick but they bring a nice smile to the face.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Kanae Hazuki which began back in 2008 and has twelve volumes so far, and is set to begin release in North America through Kodansha Comics, Say, “I Love You” is a thirteen episode series animated by studio ZEXCS. As a part of the fall 2012 season, the series is a fairly straightforward romantic series where the focus is on the romance with little in the way of comedy. There’s humor and levity to be had to be sure, but it’s not a romantic comedy. It doesn’t go for the slapstick and instead goes for more real world kinds of humor as we see the characters try and deal with their issues, each other and the people in their lives. Most series go for more comedy in them and while this isn’t dripping in romance, it deals with teenage romances pretty well and some of the complications that comes from social issues that grow over the years.
The series revolves predominantly around Mei Tachibana, a second year high school student who has spent the majority of her school years without friends. While issues in the past are referenced once or twice, the overall effect is that she’s found herself betrayed over the years by people she considered friends and has learned her lesson. As we see her going through her days, she has a bit of a gloomy look about her, not exactly depressed, but not engaged either when it comes to other people. We don’t know anything about how she is academically, but there aren’t any red flags, it’s just not pertinent. What we get is a young woman who is just trying to get past this part of life and to move on, though you don’t expect her to make friends once out of the high school life either. But she might do decently after a few years or more, but will always be scarred in some way because of what happened in school.
Though she avoids people, she still gets plenty of grief from a number of people, especially those in the popular clique which has a couple of attractive young women and a few men. One of them is Yamato Kurosawa, someone who definitely has the looks as he could be mistaken for a model. He’s very much a nice guy but he’s smooth with all the women in a way that feels natural and honest rather than forced and a gimmick or a pickup line. Through a fluke that brings him into contact with Mei, he finds himself very interested in her from the first look, a love at first sight kind of moment, and that’s something that drives him to paying more attention to her even as all his usual friends pull him towards their usual routines. You can see his interest and you can see why the others can’t seem to understand it when looking at Mei because she comes across as plain at best in their eyes, and that’s just not something they want to associate with as they survive the social structure of high school themselves.
With Yamato not used to being denied even basic courtesies, he does manage to slip her his number in hopes that she’ll call him at some point. With only her mother in her contact list, she makes it clear she doesn’t want to deal with people because of all the trust issues. But her life takes a dangerous turn while coming home from her job at a small local bakery shop when one of the adult male customers begins to follow her and she realizes she’s being stalked. When she ducks into a convenience store, she panics and all she can do is to call Yamato for help, which he obliges with by racing there to to help her. Unfortunately, this is going to be a divisive moment for people. When he gets there and walks out with her after realizing the situation, he makes what I find to be the wrong choice. Instead of confronting the man or simply helping her away, he kisses her to convince the stalker that he’s her boyfriend and that will get him to leave her alone. And it gives him an in as well because he definitely feels something for her after that. But I can see how a lot of people could (and should) view that as an assault of some form since it was unwanted.
From there, this starts to push the two together more as Yamato makes a lot more concerted effort to win her over. He’s not bad with this and doesn’t really do the same thing again but he spends his time trying to get close to her, to get her to open up to him and to get her to listen to him as well. It’s not an easy path and the show works through the gradual thawing that Mei undergoes as she gets drawn into his group a bit and some of the problems that crop up there. Particularly with Aiko, a young woman who has had her own difficult time with boys over the years and is a bit harsh because of it for good reason. With her own issues, she takes them out on people like Mei and that comes back to haunt her once the two become friends of a sort and find a balance that’s rather good to see unfold. Similarly, there are other characters that flesh out the series with Asami who has her social anxiety issues over her large chest and the eventual arrival of Megumi, an up and coming model who has a big crush on Yamato and does her best to try and steal him away in a slow and rather convincing way. All of this serves to try and drive a wedge between the two, which is easy since Mei doesn’t want any of this for awhile, and makes for some good episodes along the way because it’s not forced or overdone when you get down to it.
As mentioned earlier, the show isn’t a comedy but does have its humor and that works well to lighten the mood so it’s not an overly dramatic piece. But it’s focus really is on Mei and Yamato as each of them have their scars and hide them and show them in different ways. Going through that exploration where she has to learn to trust, but is hugely resistant to it for legitimate reasons that she does express, and he’s trying to find the right path in his life after some serious issues in middle school have shaped his views on things, the two spend some good time throughout covering this in a lot of angles and story impacts as they get closer but not without friction, hesitancy and uncertainty. There’s a lot to be said for how Mei is very unsure about all of this since she’s never been in a relationship and Yamato comes across as a player of sorts because of how he’s viewed, but it also makes it clear that Yamato is much the same way because he’s never truly had a relationship either and the truth of how he’s really lived doesn’t match up with the image others have painted on him.
I’ve long been a fan of romantic series like this where it’s less about the slapstick and this definitely fits the bill. While it’s a product of its time and culture, there are things that still irk me with how it unfolds and the assumptions made. But there’s a lot to like with seeing how the two do start coming together, begin to let each other in to know who they really are and the truths of why they’re both damaged as they are. It’s played straight and without the kind of usual humor and absurdities we usually get and that means it’s more of a drama, one that fills out the thirteen episodes nicely here with the various challenges each of them face. It’s well animated as it hits all the right points without being overdone and the pacing overall keeps it moving without repetition of the same points over and over to drive home the drama and uncertainty that each of them faces. And both of them have their issues which are explored and explains much, which also gives them a chance to really interact in a deeper and better way. I enjoyed this show more than I expected to and am definitely glad it managed not only a dub to allow the actors a chance to do something more serious but also to get a high definition release since it has a great look overall.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Mei & Marshmallow 1-6, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 24th, 2013
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.