Manga Spotlight: Say I Love You.

Say I Love You. is an 18 volume manga series written by Kanae Hazuki. The series was published in North America by Kodansha Comics.

Say I Love You.
Written by: Kanae Hazuki
Publisher: Kodansha Ltd.
English Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Release Dates: April 29, 2014-December 19, 2017

The main character of the series is Mei Tachibana, a 16-year-old high school student who doesn’t have any friends. Over the years, what few friends she had made stabbed her in the back. Mei has taken a stance that she doesn’t need friends and doesn’t go out of her way to try to be friendly to anyone.

One day, she has a run-in that involves Yamato Kurosawa, the most popular boy in school. Even though Yamato has girls practically throwing themselves at him, he becomes interested in Mei. After Mei accidentally kicks Yamato for something he didn’t do, his interest only increases. He keeps trying to say hi to her, and he eventually has an awkward conversation with her. Yamato tries to have Mei trade numbers with him, but she won’t give him her number. Even though he doesn’t get her number, Yamato still gives his to Mei and tells her to call anytime.

Mei works after school in a bakery, and one night she finds herself being stalked by one of the bakery’s regular male customers. She slips into a convenience store and tries to call her mom, but no one is home. Out of desperation, she calls Yamato, and he comes to her aid. Yamato surprises Mei with the plan he has to get rid of the stalker: he kisses her!

After saving Mei from the stalker, Yamato begins trying to hang out with Mei. As can be expected, quite a few girls don’t like this and try to bully Mei in order to keep her away from Yamato. But a girl named Asami becomes friends with Mei, even though she’s had her own crush on Yamato since middle school. Asami is a victim of bullying at school as well due to her large chest size, and Mei sticks up for her. This was some nice character development for Mei, and shows that she is more capable of making friends than she thinks she is.

Mei finds out that Yamato’s first crush was on a girl named Arai, and she’s now one of the most popular girls in high school. Mei suddenly finds herself feeling jealous and doesn’t understand why. But Mei gets the biggest surprise when Yamato tells her that she’s his girlfriend. Yamato also makes it clear that he also a goal of hearing Mei say, “I love you.”

The main focus of the series is on the relationship that develops between Mei and Yamato, and this also includes introducing other potential love interests. A famous model in Japan named Megumi Kitagawa transfers to their school and decides that she wants Yamato. Over the course of the series, two guys also become interested in Mei: Kei Takemura (Yamato’s classmate from middle school) and Ren Aoi (an underclassman). These obstacles provide some tension and drama for the overarching story. However, when it comes to Ren and his twin sister Rin, once their romantic storylines come to an end, they’re either put on the backburner or seem to disappear entirely. Rin at least gets some occasional passing references, but Ren just disappears completely. With the time skip that happens near the end of the series, it would have been nice to have found out what happened to Ren, even just in passing, so the reader wouldn’t have that dangling loose end.

But for Mei, it’s not just her relationship with Yamato that evolves and changes. We also see quite an evolution in her character from the start of the series until the end. Obviously, her relationship with Yamato plays a big part in that, but she also goes through changes after high school graduation and has to spend more time away from Yamato. And as they finish high school, Hazuki has a realistic portrayal of the various characters (but especially Mei and Yamato) trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives after high school. It’s a realistic struggle for young people that age, and I’m glad to see that Hazuki addressed this and made it a central plot point in the series.

As the series gets closer to the end, we also see a focus on the love lives of some of the other characters. At the end of the series, we get to see what happens with most of the couples. Obviously, there’s a happy ending or Mei and Yamato, since this is a shojo manga we’re talking about. But I have to give Hazuki some credit, though, because of the two to three volumes of the series that show what happens to the characters post-high school, with the characters being around 25 at the end of the series. Of the shojo manga I’ve read that features high school characters, the series seem to end with them still in high school. So getting to see more than just an afterword of the characters’ post-high school lives is something a little different and refreshing.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Say I Love You. Admittedly, it can get a little more on the saccharine side the closer it reaches its conclusion, but I found I could overlook that since I had been following these characters and had been invested in them for a number of volumes before the series took that turn. If you enjoy shojo romance manga, you might find that you enjoy Say I Love You.

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