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Say I Love You, Vols. 7 + 8

Say I Love You, Vol. 8Say I Love You, Vols. 7 + 8
by Kanae Hazuki
Kodansha Comics
Rating: Older Teen (16 +)

With Say I Love You, Vol. 9 being released this week, it’s time to finish catching up with Kanae Haruki’s romantic drama and take a look at Say I Love You, Vols. 7 + 8! As Mei and Yamato celebrate their one year anniversary together, teen model Megumi deals with the fall out of her actions and attempts to correct the direction her life is taking. Unfortunately for Mei, part of this correction involves Megumi entering and attempting to win the annual “School Idol Contest”! The prize? A date with the winner of the male competition, and the odd’s on favorite to win that is none other than Yamato!

If that last two volumes were a little shaky and began to lose me, these two volumes do a pretty good job at driving a nail into my interest in the series. Much of them is dedicated to the “School Idol Contest” which is essentially a beauty pageant. This in turn leads Mei to rediscover what it means to be girl, which in this case means dressing up and making herself pretty. This is a long standing cliche that’s always rubbed me the wrong way, no matter what country or medium it’s in. The sequences with Mei trying to “better” herself and finding her femininity are more than a little reminiscent of all those teen movies where the weird girl in all black ends up in a pastel dress and realizes the joys of being conventionally attractive. It’s doubly annoying here as, thanks in part to the artwork, Mei doesn’t look any different after all the fuss.

Thankfully it’s not just two volumes of this and much of Say I Love You, Vol. 7 is given over to fleshing out and trying to develop Megumi’s character. Unfortunately her introduction and the last two volumes spent so much time building her up as a cackling villain, that her moments of self awareness here feel out of character for her. It also feels like Say I Love You is recycling plot points from earlier in the series, with Megumi’s slow realization that her attitude is a problem and basing her self esteem on the reaction of others mirroring that of Aiko, who went through a similar realization prior to becoming a friend of Mei’s. Incidentally, Aiko was also a romantic rival. This pattern of turning her romantic rivals into friends almost makes Mei a shojo equivalent of Dragon Ball Z’s Goku. Try and steal Yamato from Mei and you’ll lose, go through a period of self discovery and eventually become her friend.A page from Say I Love You, Vol. 8

Kanae Hazuki’s visuals continue to be a bit of a mixed bag. While she does a solid job at depicting emotions through her characters eyes and facial features, her paneling and ability to emphasize or make the characters look instantly distinct and recognizable from each other continues. This becomes a real problem during the beauty contest when Mei’s supposed to look very different thanks to make up and hair styling, but ultimately she looks exactly like she did at the beginning of these volumes, she’s just wearing different clothes.

The thing that originally attracted me to Say I Love You was the way it approached body issues, peer pressure and more. The last few volumes have moved away from that a bit and as a result the series has floundered slightly and felt like a more conventional romance tale, or maybe it’s always had that and I’m just now noticing after 8 volumes. Either way it’s clear that with Say I Love You, Vols. 7 + 8 I feel my interest in the series beginning to wane.

Say I Love You, Vols. 7 + 8 is available now from Kodansha Comics. Review copies provided by the publisher.

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