So, after 13 episodes of drama and relationship building, did Mei actually say those three magic words to her beloved? Well…no, no she did not, but she thought them at the very end of the show so that’s gotta count for something!
Despite the magic words not being spoken, Say “I Love You.” did manage to be an entertaining romantic drama that was more realistic than most when it came to it’s portrayal of the various relationships between and problems of the characters in the show. Although, as the show went on, the initial magic of the romance eventually began to wear off and leave me feeling a bit underwhelmed with the story. Maybe it’s because I’ve read and enjoyed the manga or maybe my expectations were simply a bit high, but either way I consistently found myself thinking that the show was good, but could be better. Some of the side characters were interesting, but they were shoved aside in favor of Mei and Megumi. The romance was sweet at times, but frustrating at others because of the communication and trust problems between Mei and Yamato. The drama was often compelling to watch, but close to the end began to grow tiresome and annoying. Although I liked the show and think there were some real stand out moments, the majority of the show is merely alright.
The story itself leans a bit towards the generic side with a focus on Mei Tachibana, a bit of a social outcast, and how she slowly falls in love with her popular boyfriend Yamato Kurosawa. One of the things I really have to give the show credit for is that the couple is quickly established, ditching an annoying will-they-won’t-they story line in favor of seeing how the two develop as a couple. Although the journey is hard and full of many bumps, by the end (episode twelve) it’s clear to see that not only have the two become more sure of their feelings for each other, but that they’ve gained a greater understanding of each other. Actually, the development of Mei and Yamato’s relationship is one of the show’s strengths and is built up quite nicely as they actually encounter problems and have to work through them.
In terms of problems, boy, did they have a few doozies. For starters, Yamato’s general attitude is often the source of many a problem for the two. Although he’s certainly affectionate towards Mei and obviously loves her, he is a bit immature at times (ignores Mei when he’s angry with her) and oblivious to the consequences of his actions (silly Mei getting upset over him visiting another girl’s house and not telling her). Although I will give him credit for making an effort to improve himself and accommodate Mei more.
There’s also a bit of a lack of trust and communication between the two early on. Mei, who is still a bit unsure of herself, doesn’t want to cause trouble for those around her and bottles her feelings until they come to a breaking point. Both are also guilty of, at one point, thinking the other might be cheating on the other, something I found a bit ridiculous especially when it popped up in the last episode. One would imagine that they would know each other well enough to know neither of them would ever cheat. If anything, besides feeding the drama aspect of the show, I will give these somewhat silly problems credit for helping the two to develop in terms of their relationship, showing that not everything is sunshine and roses.
Another aspect of the show I liked is it’s development of Mei. She starts out a shy girl, wary of the world around her and unwilling to trust in others due to a childhood belief that all relationships with others are phony and that you will kicked to the curb as soon as your “friends” are bored. Throughout the series, Mei battles with her insecurities and self confidence as she stumbles through her first love and friendships. Despite carrying some scars from her past, I found Mei to be an admirable character in that she doesn’t let them hold her back like Megumi, a girl whose situation somewhat mirrors Mei’s, or even Nagi, Yamato’s younger sister, who also had trust issues. With a little push from Yamato and further support from her new found friends, Mei strives to become better, eventually coming to the realization that being alone isn’t as great as she once thought it was. Though at times painful for her, she overcomes all the obstacles that she’s confronted with in her relationship with Yamato, strengthening both her bond with him and her own confidence. At the same time, though, the developments were gradual and, although she had obviously made great progress, hadn’t completely worked through all of her problems, showing she still had room to grow.
Another thing I like about the show in general was how it brought up serious issues like sex and bullying and handled them relatively well. Admittedly, though, it did kind of bug me that Aiko’s story was a bit downplayed in comparison to the manga where the aftereffects of her one night stand with Yamato are looked at more, as well as how she sleeps around in an attempt to prove to herself that she is beautiful. Bullying, which was a major topic throughout the show as it affected many a character, was more aptly handled. Though there were only a few brief scenes where we witnessed actual bullying, the show focused more on the effects, such as Kai’s determination for revenge and Megumi’s desire to thought of as beautiful and to impress others with her looks and faux personality.
However the show does slip a bit when it comes to its arcs, showing definite preference for Megumi’s arc while shafting other, more interesting arcs like Aiko’s which I thought was cut a bit short. The drama during Megumi’s arc, I found, got old pretty fast and tended to irritate me until the end when the drama reached its peak and had a surprisingly satisfying closing.
Though I went in with lukewarm expectations, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the series. It was a good adaptation of a manga I like quite a bit and managed to wrap up the story (again, episode 13 does not exist) in really nice way. Though the show does have it’s share of problems, especially when it comes to the drama, I would still recommend this to anyone who wants a romance anime that actually focuses on the development of the couple.