by Kanae Hazuki
published by Kodansha Comics; $10.99 US
As Say I Love You Book 2 opens, we’re at the beach. (If you want seasonal summer reading, manga’s the way to go.) More significant than seeing the very busty Asami in a bikini, though, are the flashbacks the loner Mei has. We learn why she wound up with no friends and no memories — an over-protective father went too far in trying to keep her safe.
Say I Love You is different from a lot of other shojo manga in being so forward about how teens want to have sex. Mei and Yamato and Asami and her boyfriend are staying over at the beach, which leads to rather frank conversation between Mei and Yamato about how he wants her and the time he had sex with a classmate of theirs, a girl who still wants to get back with him (and so makes Mei nervous).
This is still idealized romance, in that Yamato usually knows the perfect thing to say to make Mei feel better, but it’s refreshing to see a more realistic struggle in manga than, say, whether the girl will get caught cross-dressing. Mei’s new friendship with him makes her more noticeable to others, including the slutty Hayakawa. He’s used to getting any girl he wants, and his portrayal is that of a sexaholic, since he needs to get laid to keep himself together during the day.
We almost immediately find out that his life isn’t as simple as he makes it out to be, with a story about a neighbor girl, Chirharu, who’s the only one who cares for him as a person instead of an organ. His story is a bit demented, but with a core of sweetness and yearning underneath. Everyone in this series has more depth than the usual role; even the pretty, popular girl who wants Yamato for herself has a tragic backstory about being obsessed with her appearance. (The publisher provided a review copy.)