*This Review is Spoiler Free*
7/10 Unicorn Horns
Say I Love You by Kanae Hazuki is a fairly popular 17 volume on-going shojo manga series (Yes!! I finally got around to reviewing one! Lol) that surrounds the life of a 16-year-old high school girl named Mei Tachibana. It has gotten a 13 episode anime adaptation by the same name that, so far, follows the manga fairly well, though if memory serves (I recently re-read the first volume, but read the series up to volume 10 or 12 early last year) the anime starts to leave out a fair bit of good information as well as makes changes here and there later on in the series. Even so I’d definitely recommend checking out both (but of course more so the manga, especially since it goes a lot further than the anime did).
I could say this series is pretty generic in terms of the whole overdone popular boy falls for unpopular girl bit, which isn’t entirely untrue, but I still really enjoyed this series on a whole. This isn’t because the series did so well with developing the main characters relationship, which is actually done quite well, but mainly because of the main character and how she struggles to develop. Mei Tachibana is the typical high school outcast who has no friends and rarely speaks to her fellow classmates, but not for the usual reasons I’ve come across so often. Mei is an outcast primarily by choice. Within the first chapter we find out that due to her negative past experiences she has closed herself off from others and refuses to make any new friends, something she had been adamant about until a rather funny and unexpected encounter with the popular high school playboy Yamato Kurosawa. Of course this encounter leads where you’d expect based on the title and cover page, but what has made this story stand out so much to me is the struggle Mei goes through as Yamato abruptly begins to lead her back into having a social life, and the hard, albeit good, realizations she makes about others and primarily herself along the way.
As this development doesn’t really start to take off till later volumes I can’t say much about it, only that it was, for me, a real highlight to this series. As for the romance I have to say I really have been enjoying watching the relationship between Yamato and Mei grow. It’s a bit troublesome at some parts in the beginning as Yamato is often pushy at first when it comes to developing their relationship (though never even close to the level of most BL manga lol). Though I wouldn’t call anything he does blatant harassment or abuse, as he backs off the moment Mei becomes upset with his actions (one instance being the exception), and Mei isn’t the type of character that is afraid to tell him to back off, these scenes could be off putting for some. After that their relationship was one of the healthier I’ve come across in books as they slowly learn about each others personalities as well as weaknesses- resulting in some hilarious, emotional, and dramatic moments- and then work together to overcome past and present emotional issues.
One other thing I loved about this book was the author’s note at the end of each volume. This is where the author talks a bit about her own negative experiences with others (primarily bullying) and how that warped her view of the people around her, and her struggles to overcome the trust issues and insecurities that came from those experiences. You can see a lot of the things Hazuki, the author, talks about reflected in the main character Mei, something I believe she has mentioned doing in one of the volumes. That is something that made reading these volumes an even better experience for me, especially with how reluctant I was to pick it up in the first place. Safe to say this was a good start to a very good series. There is a host of other characters Asami, Nakanishi, and a couple others that come in later in the series that all, in one way or another, very relatable in their struggle with various things from crushes, gossip and unrequited love to more serious problems like self-esteem issues and eating disorders. Reading this has actually been pretty enlightening at times and has on numerous occasions hit me on a personal level. So it’s at times offered, indirectly or otherwise, me some pretty great advice through the characters interactions and actions. Though there was a couple other minor things that I did find a bit off putting (for example some of the teasing Mei puts up with in the 1st chapter and the fact no one addressed it), most of it was admittedly realistic in comparison to how high schoolers typically react, and as a whole didn’t take away too much from my enjoyment of this series, especially since these scenes were usually part of building the story.