Mei Tachibana is a high school girl with no friends or boyfriend; in fact many students have never even heard her voice. She’s a loner who shunned all others due to a betrayal many years ago, but changes one day when her round-kicking a guy in the face ends up earning the attentions and affections of the most popular boy in school: Yamato Kurosawa. Yamato finds Mei interesting, and decides to pursue her, but can Mei’s frozen heart be thawed? Or will she remain a loner forever?
The first volume of the romance manga is a simple read, it doesn’t try to accomplish much outside of setting up the barebones premise, but despite being an age-old tale, there’s still something here to keep you reading from cover to cover. Mei Tachibana’s reason for rejecting human relationships is thin, at best, but the way she’s drawn, how she carries herself and her shyness is very relatable and human. There are plenty of girls who are or have been in her shoes, and it’s easy to slip into seeing the world through her cynical eyes. You can understand why she is uncertain of people’s words and actions, and why experiencing that rush of feeling of a first crush can be both thrilling and terrifying. The same goes with Yamato; he’s the most popular guy in school but his ‘aloof’ aura makes him a lot more likeable than most male leads given the same tools to work with. He can be a little too forceful with his kisses in the first few chapters, however when he starts opening up to Mei towards the end of the first volume, and the audience gets to know the student body and their relations with him, he becomes a lot more rounded and a satisfying male to swoon over. The scene when he describes the different types of kisses with Mei comes off as very sweet and romantic, whereas in other series it would not have been as effective.
The art style is quite eye-catching; it shares a lot of elements with older, more classic shojo manga with the big lips and eyes, including lots of full eyelashes. But it doesn’t look dated, a lot of detail has gone into the clothes, and the body shapes (although very skinny) still have that youthful edge to them, so it’s pleasing on the eye. Where it falters in places however is in the pacing; quite a few times it leaps from place to place, and sometimes with erratic time jumps, in a mere handful of panels but it doesn’t flow right and instead comes off as jarring. There are also many scenes where it’s hard to decipher right away which speech bubbles are for which character.
Say “I Love You” is an easy-breezy read; it’s sweet enough to draw in fans of the genre whilst preventing going into depths of cheesiness or over-the-top courting. If you like what you’ve read so far, then check it out. If nothing in the synopsis piques your interest, it’s safe to skip.