Two years after their first trip as a couple, Mei and Yamato head back to the beach and reflect on how far they’ve come together.
Now that it’s their last summer in high school, Mei and Yamato decide to go on a trip to the beach where they went on their first trip as a couple two years ago. Reflecting on all that has happened since that summer, Mei finds that she has become a stronger person, and sees the extra friends she’s brought along as a testament to that. The year flies by, but it isn’t all that smooth for some - Kai continues to have doubts about his relationship with Rin, and this is put into jeopardy when Rin finds out about Kai’s past. Meanwhile, Megumi has had a fruitful summer in Paris and is back in Japan with a new look to finish high-school.
How Was It?
One of the things that Say I Love You has been best at is taking time to reflect on how far each of its characters have come in their respective journeys, and this comes through really nicely early in this volume as Mei and Yamato head to the beach. The juxtaposition put forward between their first trip to the beach versus this one is made very clear, but I felt that it was done in a way that avoided feeling on-the-nose or particularly gratuitous. Mei’s reflections don’t take up the entirety of this sequence, and this ends up making their punctuation to the various events feel more natural in occurring for logical reasons. I enjoyed not only seeing for myself how much Mei has changed, but also seeing her own moments of self-reflection, and this turned her trip into and enjoyable event all around. In some ways, this trip ends up feeling a little bit like the calm before the storm (as even Mei herself recognizes) because the timeline speeds up considerably after summer as Mei continues to work in child-care and participate in the school-festival in a series of events that show her hurtling towards graduation. Nonetheless, this series of call-backs will definitely be enjoyed by anyone who has been keeping up with the series thus far, and I felt that it was sweetly done on the whole.
Interspersed within the scenes showing Mei’s final year flying by is the continuation of Ren (Len in the previous volumes due to a change in the translation)‘s story line after taking the previous volume off. As I noted in my review of volume 12, I wasn’t overly wild about Ren’s story even though I found the pressure he felt because of the constant comparison to his sister to be interesting. This ends up being the most interesting part of this continuation as we see his process of changing, but I felt that this entire story line was a little bit extraneous to the rest of the characters this late in the series. This becomes even more of the case when Ren gets a bit of a crush of his own, but the problem here is that it felt like it came out of the blue. One of the more questionable sequences in this volume saw Rin accidentally spreading a rumour that Ren is into guys, and this felt like a pretty random additional over all that seemed like it might have been played for a few laughs. Although we do see Ren’s process of slowly changing on the whole through his scenes in this volume, it never feels particularly well established, and I probably wouldn’t have missed this storyline at all if it hadn’t been included as a bit of a distraction from the more interesting plot-lines.
Kai and Rin’s relationship has been one of the surprise highlights of the previous couple volumes from the way that it presented their charming little dates, but this volume focuses more on the effect that Kai’s doubts have started to have on their relationship. This was alluded to in the previous volume, but we finally see this come to fruition after Rin learns about Kai’s past life being bullied. This works fairly well as a premise, but the execution here left me a little bit puzzled because the drama feels a little bit manufactured. We somehow get from Rin finding out about this and Kai being worried to them not talking at all for a number of weeks. It seemed a little unbelievable that they would randomly stop talking or not attempt to clarify with each other what was going on, and it felt like half of this story could and should have been resolved with a minor conversation. This was just puzzling on the whole, and I hope that this is addressed as the series moves onward.
Megumi’s story was the main focus of the previous volume, and I was really impressed with how interesting this story ended up being as we got to see her process of trying to establish her career in Paris for the way it emphasized the overall theme of struggling to reach her future goals. However, I was disappointed that this story was not continued in this volume with the story skipping ahead to the end of the summer. We only get a few sparse whispers and allusions through her conversations with the others regarding the resolution to her trip to Paris, but this felt disappointing to me and came off as very rushed. The problem here was that there was no real recognition or resolution to the struggles that she faced in the previous volume - in some ways, it felt like Megumi was held at a distance and that we only got to see her from the perspective of other students. This felt odd after a lengthy story which saw her examined very personally, and I hope that her story line in Paris is resolved more strongly as the series continues in the future.
There isn’t much else to say about this volume’s art than to reiterate from my comments in the previous reviews that the art has improved strongly compared to the earlier volumes in the series in terms of its clarity and general nuance. This worked quite well to highlight the differences between earlier in the story and the present as shown in Mei’s recollections during their beach trip, and this underscored the series’ progression in an interesting way.
Say I Love You Vol. 14 is strong in some ways, but feels a little bit unfocused compared to the series’ stronger previous volumes. Mei and Yamato’s story continues to hurtle forward as they prepare for the end of high school, but I liked that we got to see them take the time to reflect on how far they have come. This was the strongest part of the volume because Ren, Rin and Kai, and Megumi’s respective story lines each leave things to be desired in their execution. All in all, this volume is a bit of a bump in the road, but I still can’t wait to see what will happen next.
Say I Love You Vol. 14 was published by Kodansha Comics USA on June 7th, 2016. Authored by Kanae Hanzuki, the series began in 2009 in Kodansha’s Dessert magazine. An anime adaption by Zexcs aired in Fall 2012 and ran for 13 episodes. Volume 15 will be published in English on August 2nd, 2016.
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