Although it’s not my usual style to review the more “girly” types of anime, I do enjoy watching them from time to time. They’re light, simple and somewhat formulaic so you normally know what you’re in for in the general sense. Of course, it could be none other than the shoujo genre that I’m talking about and the anime that tops the list for me is a gem called “Sukitte ii na yo”, or “Say I Love You”.
This anime is based on a manga (no prizes for guessing that) that was written by Kanae Hazuki and falls under the romance genre with the majority of the story taking place in a school setting. There have been 15 volumes of the manga to date and it has been running since 2008. The anime adaptation was handled by Zexcs, who have been involved in the production of animes such as Diabolik Lovers, Aku no Hana, Mushishi, Shounen Hollywood and Speed Grapher among others. The anime comprised 13 episodes plus an OVA that was directed by Takuya Sato, and if that wasn’t enough there has also been a live action version with the release of the movie two years after the anime.
The titles Zexcs have contributed to cover a wide variety of genres and styles.
As is typical of the genre, the plot explores the trials and tribulations of high school kids as they learn about life, love, friendship and themselves. In this show, the story revolves around a girl named Tachibana Mei. She’s introverted and actively chooses to have no friends around her. Due to her past experiences with friendships, Mei has decided that rather than be constantly let down or stabbed in the back by so-called friends, she would rather be alone and keeps to herself. Of course she gets teased and sometimes bullied for being “weird” but that all starts to change one day when Mei fights back and roundhouse kicks the most popular guy in school down the stairs. Unlike some mangas where the girl and guy initially don’t get along, this kick was a bit of a misunderstanding but it sparks something in Yamato Kurosawa (our leading man) and he makes it his mission to get to know this girl because he finds her interesting. From here, we see how they progress as they get to the point of dating and what comes after that. Along the way, Mei makes some changes in her life, meets lots of people and goes through a number of life experiences – both good and bad.
First impressions last: a roundhouse kick from Mei was all it took to get Yamato’s attention.
Of course, this anime is formulaic in the way it’s about a girl and guy and their friends’ involvement etc. But there is a reason why I think of this anime as a gem and have it in my list of “comfort anime”. It’s because although it is formulaic, it has a more realistic and somewhat mature approach to the genre. Yes, the most unpopular girl gets the most popular guy, which is probably one of the most traditional plays in the book, but rather than having the anime focus on how they manage to get together (something that inevitably drove me bonkers in another shoujo anime I watched), this anime deals with how they handle their new-found relationship in the face of not only outside interference, but also their alternative “worlds” and personalities.
Outside interference is an issue for Mei & Yamato as people try to stand in their way.
I mentioned that it takes a more realistic and mature approach and this is something that is implied from the start when Mei’s first explains why she chooses to stay away from others. As things slowly progress and we get to know more about the other characters’ pasts, we see that some dealt with bullying and teasing, others have self-image issues and some hide their true nature in order to be liked by others. These sorts of self-confidence issues are a true part of being a teenager and this anime prefers to deal with them rather than sweep them under the rug like so many other shoujo animes tend to do. It’s realistic because whereas most other animes have the characters date each other, hold hands and (if you’re lucky) occasionally kiss, this anime goes a step further where the issue of sex is addressed rather frankly. It’s a fact that teenagers may inevitably sleep with their partners or they may even have friends with benefits arrangements and rather than gloss over this, this show admits that this does indeed happen. Of course, it still keeps it decent and implies these things through select use of conversations and scenes. And it’s these aspects that, for me, set this anime apart from the others.
Apart from the external interference, being new to love comes with its own set of challenges that the couple must face.
A lot of these mangas/animes tend to make use of comedy pretty extensively as part of the show, but this one tends to steer away from overusing gags and the like. And rather than having a somewhat ditzy main protagonist, this one is pretty mature for the most part, although she does have her odd ditzy moments here and there. The other thing that is rather important in these shows is character development. I can honestly say that I’ve watched shows like these where there is next to no character development and it has an absolutely detrimental effect. When there is no development, nothing can change. And even if there is development, it needs to be well-paced. Sure, this may not always be the case in reality, but the most annoying thing in the world is watching a character that never makes a noticeable step forward and rather, remains the same throughout the show – no matter what personality type he/she may be, e.g. awkward, tsundere etc. You will inevitable find yourself wanting to hit the girl/guy you’re supposed to be empathising with. Luckily, this show avoids those pitfalls and Mei and Yamato both show some development, although more on the part of Mei who has never been one to rely on others. Even the side characters go through their own development as they come to terms with and try to deal with their issues.
Friends are a critical component in any shoujo anime.
Over time Mei learns the value of friendship and family.
Although the couple faces a number of challenges, counsel with friends always plays a role in these shows and “Sukitte ii na yo” is no different in this respect. But this is part of the joy of watching shoujo anime – knowing that trials and tribulations are part of the experience as we eventually see the couple overcome these to be together and share those special moments, as they should be. Apart from the friends, we also get to meet the families of our main characters, which was a nice addition. Oh and of course, I must give a shout out to the music. “Friendship” by Okazaki Ritsuko is a sweet opener and the ED, “Slow Dance” is by one of my favourite Japanese musicians, Suneohair, who has supplied music for many other animes, including “Honey and Clover” and more recently, “Sakamoto desu ga”.
The pay-off: those sweet, “doki-doki” moments that make watching these shows worthwhile.
If you’re looking for something uncomplicated and somewhat predictable, then this is a pretty good choice since it fills these requirements and still has enough of a story to keep you interested. It goes beyond the usual shoujo genre in that it tackles tougher topics and keeps it real. A little bit of angst, a bit of fun and laughter and some romance set this up to be one of the better shoujo animes on offer and is well worth a watch!
Image credits: Zexcs
End: Sukitte ii na yo anime review