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. Because 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 to hard to say? Between heartbeats, behind trembling lips, and unspoken with every breath, the specter of betrayals past, future and present now haunt them both in SAY “I LOVE YOU.”
For this viewing I listened to the English language track provided in 2.0 stereo. There was also a Japanese language track also provided in 2.0 stereo as well as English subtitles. The sound quality was very good with clean channels. There was no directionality that I could discern, but given that this is a character-driven story, that’s not a surprise or an issue.
The title is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. The lines are clear, the colors are bright, and there were no technical issues that I could tell.
Say “I Love You” comes in a single amaray case with a center insert to hold two of the three discs. The third disc is housed on the inside of the back cover. The front cover features Mei on the left and Yamato on the right. They’re both facing outward, but are looking at each other from the corners of their eyes. Similarly, the spine features Mei at the top and Yamato on the bottom, separated by the show’s title. The back cover features various screenshots from the show along with the series’ summary, cast and crew credits, and technical specifications. It’s a nice package that doesn’t take up too much space on the shelf, which I always appreciate.
The menu features what looks like a watercolor drawing of Mei and Yamato in various poses and situations depending on the disc. The show’s menu is set to the right as white rectangles over a green, amorphous blob. The show’s theme plays on a ten second loop.
The only extra on this series other than the standard clean OP/ED is a series of short cartoons about Mei and her cat Marshmallow. They’re a bit odd, to be honest, and I can’t quite tell if it’s just not my type of humor or if something was lost in the translation. Whatever the case, there was nothing too terribly spectacular here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Yamato Kurosawa is easily the most popular boy in school: he’s handsome, tall, and kind. Talent agents even approach him in the street to offer him jobs, so it should be easy getting Mei Tachibana, the quiet, somewhat standoffish girl from a different class, to go out with him.
It’s not. Not in the least.
Years ago Mei decided that her life was better off if she didn’t have friends. After a vague but traumatizing incident in elementary school, she grew to believe that all people wanted to do was lie and hurt each other, and the best way to avoid being hurt was by not interacting at all. Yamato doesn’t know this, and gives her his phone number. Mei probably wouldn’t have called him at all if not for a creepy man that stalked her on her way home from her job at a Bakery. Frightened, Mei dodges into a convenience store and calls Yamato, as her mother couldn’t be reached. From that moment on they entered into a relationship that was at times sweet, awkward, and frustrating.
Given the fact that Mei has some fairly serious psychological hurdles to overcome, it’s not surprising that the relationship experiences a few bumps along the way: she can’t tell Yamato that she loves him, she gets embarrassed at public displays of affection, and she constantly worries about whether or not what she’s doing at the moment is right. However these issues are magnified by the machinations of their fellow classmates and the culture of high school in general.
Yamato’s popularity and exceptional good looks makes him a figure of scrutiny by the other students at his school—especially by the girls who would like to be his girlfriend. These girls, with the noted exception of Asami, talk behind their backs, openly questioning why Yamato would want to be with such a “weird” girl. The boys begin noticing Mei as well, as Yamato’s attention makes her suddenly an object of desire for them. This places an unprecedented level of scrutiny on Mei, which makes it even more difficult for her to come out of her shell, especially since the behavior of many of her classmates seems to embody her worst fears. Some girls—particularly Aiko and Megumi—actively try to steal Yamato, and two boys—Kakeru and Kai—attempt to steal Mei.
Thankfully, Mei not only survives these encounters, she rises above them. She shoots down Kakeru the moment he suggests an affair, and later she defends Aiko from him even though the girl had openly stated that she wanted Yamato. This moment changed the relationship between the two girls and eventually Aiko becomes a friend.
The main theme of this series seems to be that everyone carries scars. Mei’s were apparent from the beginning, but we later learn that Yamato went to a school where there was terrible bullying. He was able to avoid most of it due to his natural charm, but hated himself for being a coward and not standing up for his friends, particularly Kai. Kai bore the scars of that bullying and went away for years to train his body so he could face his former tormentors. Asami, one of Mei’s best friends, has a large chest and hates the constant attention and teasing she receives because of it. Aiko had a weight problem and went on a crash diet so drastic it left scars on her body, and Megumi tries to live down being called ugly when she was a child, becoming a model and essentially trying to buy people’s love with meals and gifts. Everyone bears the scars of some emotional trauma from their past—the popular, the unpopular, the beautiful, the ugly—and it’s the manner in which the show handles these characters and the unexpected routes it takes with their development that makes it so enjoyable to watch.
That said, what makes this show problematic is the way it’s paced. One speech from Mei is essentially all it takes for Aiko to become her friend. One conversation between Yamato and Kai is enough to settle their tangled past and the issue of Kai’s attraction to Mei. Even the creepy stalker is dissuaded after seeing Yamato and Mei together just once. For all the complications the two protagonists experience, for all the miscommunications and moments of petty anger and jealousy, many of the issues are wrapped up with startling speed. In some ways this is interesting because it keeps you on your toes, almost as if the series is actively playing with your expectations, but on the other hand, it feels a little too convenient at times.
Also, even though I liked Mei and Yamato, there were times when he seemed a little too pushy, almost to the point of being creepy. While practically everything he does is done with Mei’s best interests at heart, he constantly has to push her out of her comfort zone in order to help her grow as a person. At times his insistence against her reticence can create uncomfortable moments and I can’t tell if they are supposed to be that way or if this is just how I’m perceiving them.
I’m willing to bet that these issues would not be so pronounced—or even exist—had this been a slightly longer series. It could be that the people behind the show were trying to cram in more story than they had space for and because of that had to accelerate certain moments: Yamato falls in love with Mei with startling speed and enemies become friends over night. While none of those issues are enough to make me dislike this show, they do take away from it just a little.
What saves Say “I Love You” is the strength of the characters. There are no cardboard characters here: they all have drives and fears and the hint of a rich inner life. In many ways this is the story of several damaged people coming together to support and heal each other and it’s the compassion and humanity with which they are all treated that makes this show worth watching.
Say “I Love You” is a strong title with memorable, well-rounded characters. The plot is deep and character-driven and full of compassion and humanity, and while the show does have certain issues with pacing, it’s still worth watching. Recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Mei & Marshmallow Meow, Japanese Promos, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 24th, 2013
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection