Manga in Minutes: Say I Love You, Vol. 1

Only a few news bits this week, but they’re pretty interesting! There’s a controversy involving a food manga, and the mother of all anime license announcements!

And now, onto this weeks review of Say You Love Me, Vol. 1.

Say I Love You, Vol. 1by Kanae HazukiKodansha Comics, 176 pgRating: Older Teen (16+)

One of Kodansha’s recent shojo offerings, Kanae Hazuki’s Say I Love You, Vol. 1 is an interesting look a the burgeoning relationship between two classmates. It tells the tale of Mei Tachibana, a quiet loner who doesn’t quite fit in, and the popular Yamato, who’s her polar opposite! Along the way there’s wacky hijinks, and some surprisingly honest and touching moments dealing with the pressures faced in high school.

This book initially reminded me of Kodansha’s other recent shojo offering, My Little Monster. Both series run in Dessert a shojo magazine that seems to skew towards an older demographic than your typical shojo fare. Each is also set in a school, and feature offbeat loners who don’t really fit in finding themselves, and their place in the world. Tonally they’re very different! Where My Little Monster has a stronger comedic bent to it, Say I Love You comes off as a more serious and introspective read. Kanae Hazuki spends quite a bit of time developing Mei Tachibana’s inner emotional life in this first volume and by the end of the volume she feels like a fairly complex and interesting character. The supporting cast gets similar treatment, and Hazuki uses them to explore different aspects of being a teen and dealing with school life, romance, body issues and more. The character of Asami is a very good example of this. In her initial, brief introduction she comes off as a bit of joke and a stereotypical perky bimbo, but as the volume progresses we’re given a chance to discover more about her and explore her insecurities regarding her own body, the way people treat her and how they project their preconceived notions upon her and how this, in turn, affects her personality and the defenses she’s developed to deal with it. Likewise, the awkwardness displayed by many of the characters generally comes off as a real and honest.

One of the not so great things about the volume is the Kanae Hazuki’s artwork. There’s a lack of background, a preponderance of toning, blank background or empty panels with nothing save text. In some cases such things do a good job at emphasizing emotional moments, emotional revelations and a character’s isolation. Sadly these techniques are used so often throughout the book that they tend to lose their impact and instead feel like a quick way to fill up space. To make matters worse, the characters often look stiff and awkward, with strangely distorted hands, and many of the girls faces are strangely off-putting with even larger than normal eyes.

Say I Love You, Vol. 1 is a pretty good read hampered by some not so good artwork. The first volume makes it come off as an interesting and honest exploration of teenage romance and all the tangle of emotions, insecurities and more that plague you during that time. People who are a little put off by the more sugary shojo fare out there might do well to give this a look.

Say I Love You, Vol. 1 is available now from Kodansha Comics. Review copiy provided by the publisher.

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