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Monday, July 14, 2014

Manga on Monday: Say I Love You (Suki-tte Ii na yo) by Kanae Hazuki

Today's featured manga is "Say I Love You" by mangaka Kanae Hazuki.
Mei Tachibana has spent her 16 years without making either boyfriend or friends. One day, she injures a popular boy in school, Yamato Kurosawa, because of a misunderstanding but for some reason it seems that he takes a liking to her and one-sidedly claims that they’re friends. Furthermore, he not only protects Mei from a stalker, he does it with a kiss…?!!
 My Thoughts

I discovered this manga series earlier this summer and fell in love almost immediately. I was looking for something cute and fluffy with plenty of romance and yumminess, and I certainly got that in this series. But I got something much more as well. As I kept voraciously reading volume after volume (there's 12 total currently and more on the way) I found the narrative unfolding new depths to the characters and to the story.

From the description of the first volume you might be rolling your eyes at the use of quite a few tropes--I thought I would too, but they worked and honestly it's Shoujo manga. I want my Shoujo to be full of romance tropes because that's why I read it--for some unashamedly fun (and sometimes steamy) romance. This manga is certainly no different, using the "gorgeous popular guy suddenly takes interest in average introvert girl" storyline and going ham. But the more I kept reading, the more I saw there was actual substance underneath both Yamato and Mei, and the unfolding of their relationship was a learning experience for both of them. I liked that while Mei learned to blossom and accept people into her life through Yamato and his genuineness, he also learned how to take a stance from Mei who never backed down from anyone when they were doing something wrong.

I don't think Mei is your typical Shoujo protagonist. She's got massive amounts of social anxiety and lots of insecurities about people and their intentions for befriending her. I wouldn't say that's a bad thing about her, because I understand why she feels that way and why she chooses not to talk to anyone. But she's certainly not the innocent plucky girl that's commonly seen in Shoujo, and I actually quite like that. She goes through so much growth and change as she lets Yamato into her life more and more, and through his love and acceptance she begins learning to trust others. The Mei we meet several volumes later is one who is much more open to letting people in and has a tight group of close friends. And she's much happier, not having to be on her own because she's got an amazing support group behind her.

How can I go on without dedicating at least one section to the babe that is Yamato? BABE. Yes he's the most popular guy in school, and absolutely gorgeous with a side of hottie sprinkles, but he's also incredibly sweet--which is kind of the Shoujo recipe for a perfect guy. But he's not quite perfect, he's done some things he regrets and while he never acted to purposely hurt Mei, he did end up greatly hurting her at one point. So he's not a boring cardboard cutout of what the perfect man should be, he's someone who grows and changes and learns just like Mei does. They complement each other quite well, I think.
The manga is full of characters that thankfully get very well fleshed out as the volumes progress. It's nice to have an entire cast of characters that I'm completely invested in and who all hold an important part of the story in some way. None of them are there just to be there--they all have their own struggles and special traits that bring life to the manga.

I do think this story falls right in line with YA, as the characters are all high school age and it deals with all the problems teenagers go through at this age. However, since this is a manga, the author quite literally shows you with the art what a novel would tell you with words. So there is some sex in these manga and you do see some nudity. Honestly I wouldn't consider these books smutty at all, they're incredibly tame compared to actual smut manga. Just as there are sex scenes in YA novels, there are sex scenes in this manga and they're handled in much the same way content-rating wise. Nothing remotely rated-R. If breasts offend you (honestly don't know why they would but to each their own) then just keep in mind there are some brief moments of topless nudity.

Overall I adore this series. Once I reached the end of the most recent volume I was so sad that I couldn't keep going, but I am eagerly awaiting the next release! At least I found out that a brief one season anime was made after the manga and after watching a few episodes it seems to follow it almost exactly so I am excited to fill my time watching that.

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