Sukitte li na yo (Say I love You) is a love story about a loner high school girl determined to remain antisocial and the popular high school boy determined to get her to befriend him. They meet through a misunderstanding---an act of comedic violence---that leads to an awkward and sweet love. This shoujo anime takes a stab at reworking a typical high school love story by integrating a realistic approach to character development and real-world issues like bullying, depression, and self-image. By no means is this a dark anime; instead, it is a light-hearted story about high school love. The main characters declare their mutual feelings by the end of episode 2 and begin to date which is a surprising yet welcome move in a shoujo anime. The 13-episode series explores the hardships and pitfalls of a high school romance where the female romantic lead is struggling to learn how to trust again.
Mei Tachibana is a 16-year old solitary student attending Toumei High School. In the beginning, a typical day for Mei is just going through the motions of getting through life, mute and alone. She lives with her widowed mother and cat, named Marshmallow, in a modest apartment. Her father died of cancer some years before. An elementary school incident prompted her classmates to falsely blame Mei for the death of the class pet. Spurred by the betrayal, Mei decides to reject friends and companions for 16 years. Her motto: "When I have so-called friends, I only get hurt".
Mei is teased by her classmates on a regular basis. She ignores the teasing, but she is willing to stand up for herself if she wants to. Later on in the series, she routinely stands up for her friends. Mei seems to show a quiet confidence in her solitude. She is blunt and honest when speaking; however, she does not speak in class at the beginning of the anime. Some students claim to have never heard the sound of her voice.
The reality is that Mei is socially awkward, shy, and someone who gets embarrassed easily. She is unsure about social interactions, even when serving customers at her part-time job at the Bakery Farm, a local pastry shop. She rarely looks anyone in the eye and has very good manners.
Even though Mei is more comfortable with animals than people, she is surprisingly observant about human nature. She readily admits that she does not possess social skills of her own. She is able to understand and empathizes with others and her unique insights make her a sage adviser. She regularly dishes out her blunt observations and impressions of people regardless of their feelings towards her. This wins her loyal friends throughout the series who later return the favor by supporting her through her own insecurities.
She is also highly compassionate towards animals and people that are injured or emotionally scarred. For her, these emotional scars are a beginning connection she can use to bridge the gap between herself and others. This empathy allows her to accept others and be a non-judgemental friend. These connections make her feel human and force her to realize that she needs to change.
Mei is frequently embarrassed by Yamato's easy display of affection towards her throughout the series. She constantly blushes, stammers or smacks him in mortification when he acts upon his feelings even when they are alone. She is frequently confused by Yamato's desire to have a relationship with her believing that the social gap between the two will get in the way. Her fears and insecurities become the main source of conflict in their relationship.
Because of Mei's independent personality, she insists on paying for things with her own money and refuses to ask for help or advice unless cornered. She accepts very few gifts from Yamato with the exception of a colorful stone bracelet and ring. She treasures the gifts and even hits a teacher with a rolled up map to protect the bracelet from confiscation.
She is constantly second guessing herself despite reassurance from friends that her feelings matter. Her belief that friends are looking for a way to betray each other disappears and develops into learning to trust others and to give the idea of friendship a second chance. In the last episode, Mei acknowledges her feelings to Yamato and she declares her love for him out loud for the first time.
She is also surprisingly good at bowling and carries around plenty of bandages, ready to slap one on whenever the need arises.
Yamato Kurosawa is a 17-year old Toumei High School Student. He is one of the most popular boys in the school and is constantly approached by girls interested in starting a relationship with him. At first---before meeting Mei---he didn't discourage the flirtatious behavior and rumors spread throughout the school that he had kissed every girl. He has a younger sister named Nagi who is in elementary school and an older brother named Daichi who runs a salon.
Yamato begins the series as someone oblivious to the real affections girls throw at him. He claims that he sees every girl as the same and that he isn't interested in starting a relationship with anyone. He enjoys karaoke and goes out with his friend Kenji Nakanishi and others after school.
The truth is, Yamato isn't attracted or interested in superficial girls. He thinks people like him for his looks alone. He is later approached by a modeling agent while on a date with Mei, which---at the time---he ignores. Later on, he does work for a modeling agency at the insistence of Megumi only to quit when he realized Mei was not happy about it. His charming personality is a defense mechanism he developed in middle school to protect himself from becoming a bullying target. Over the years he perfected his "chameleon" act, a fact he greatly hates about himself.
Even though he believes his popularity is based on his looks, Yamato is truly a kind and caring person willing to go to extremes to help others feel better about themselves. This makes him frequently impulsive and he doesn't think about the consequences. When he realizes his acts of kindness cause hardships in his relationship with Mei, he tries to set things right. He is quick to point out the good qualities of a person and is known to be honest and forthright.
His attraction to Mei begins the moment she kicks him off the school stairs when she mistakenly believes he is the one who had lifted her skirt. Instead of being angry with her, Yamato laughs and decides Mei is interesting enough to try and pursue a friendship with. His determination leads to an awkward phone number exchange and unsuccessful efforts to speak to her at school. He seems unconcerned with her initial rejection and continues to approach Mei despite her protests. He ends up acting the same exact way when trying to befriend Mei's stray cat she cares for at school.
Yamato is protective of those he cares about. He leaves his friends behind to help Mei with a stalker in the very beginning of the anime and punches a friend who upsets Mei during a lunch date. He also protects Asami from teasing because of her body type.
His protectiveness stems from guilty feelings in middle school. Afraid of being bullied, he stood back and watched as his best friend, Kai Takemura, became a victim of bullying and Yamato only saw Kai in secret. Yamato still feels horrible about his behavior in the friendship even years after his friend transferred schools.
Asami, a 17-year old student at Toumei High School, is a cheerful and friendly person who becomes Mei's first friend after meeting Yamato. Eager to develop a good relationship with Mei, Asami purchases matching cell phone ornaments for the girls to use.
Asami is quick to share with Mei the rumor that Yamato has kissed almost every girl but one, Arai Miki, and only because Yamato believed Arai to be his first love. Despite this, Asami and Mei grow to be close friends. The relationship becomes strained at one point when Megumi tries to draw away Asami and Aiko as Mei's punishment for dating Yamato. Soon after realizing Megumi's true intentions, the trio of girls resume their close friendship.
Asami is also a victim of bullying, from both boys and girls, because of her body type and is extremely self-conscious about the way she looks. She compensates by wearing makeup and putting on a cheerful and indifferent persona so the bullies don't realize that their teasing bothers her. Asami is surprised to learn that Mei considers her a very strong person emotionally.
Though she admits to Mei that she likes Yamato, she knows that he doesn't feel the same way. She fully supports the relationship between the couple and helpful to Mei when Mei needs it. Soon after the beginning of the anime, Asami begins to date Kenji after listening to his confession.
She later sends a thank you text to Mei after she realizes that Kenji confessed because of Mei's advice. Kenji and Asami happily date throughout the rest of the series.
17-year-old Toumei High School student Kenji Nakanishi is a girl-crazy tease and good friends with Yamato. He likes to torment the female student population with slightly perverted tactics even though he has a crush on Asami. He knows that Asami likes Yamato and it provokes Kenji into commenting bitterly about Yamato's popular status with the ladies.
Kenji accidentally knocks down Mei in the school hallway and explains to Yamato that Mei is a girl in his class. Moments later, he tries to lift her skirt without realizing who she is. He is able to avoid Mei's retaliation when Mei kicks Yamato instead.
Kenji overhears some girls bullying Asami and Mei while going to see the school nurse and steps in to protect Asami. He fails miserably and Asami runs from the office, mortified. He has a serious talk with Mei about honesty and decides to confront Asami about his true feelings. He finds Asami sitting alone in the classroom and manages to tell her his true feelings. They become a couple for the rest of the series.
Aiko comes off as an aggressive rival towards Mei at first. Meeting Mei and Yamato on the street, Aiko (with a friend) convinces the couple to go bowling together. Aiko spends the time wondering what Yamato sees in Mei and is increasingly annoyed at Mei as she learns more about her. At one point, Aiko invites Mei to get sodas together and uses the opportunity to confront Mei about the status of her and Yamato's relationship. Not satisfied with Mei's answer, Aiko angrily explains she can't understand why Yamato would choose Mei over a girl he had already slept with.
Aiko continues to be frustrated with Mei's apathy towards Yamato and admits to herself that she would do anything possible to make the man she loves happy.
Aiko truly will do anything possible to please her boyfriends. From buying expensive high-end makeup to drastic weight-loss measures, Aiko craves acceptance from the male gender and is willing to put in whatever works she feels is necessary to keep the one she loves happy.
Years before, Yamato tells her that she is beautiful when she is natural-looking. So when her boyfriend cheats on her later that day, she ran into Yamato's arms and took advantage of his kindness to guilt him into sleeping with her. She believed it would make her feel better as a person but to this day she still feels dirty.
Aiko begins to realize that the couple's relationship is changing Yamato for the better. She tells Kakeru Hayakawa that Yamato has never once even raised his voice in disagreement and now Yamato is physically protective of Mei. She is saddened by the fact that Yamato may truly be in love with Mei.
She is further stunned when Mei comes to her defense after Hayakawa begins to insult her appearance and scars. Though grateful for the interference, she still exchanges sharp words with Mei and walks off, jealous. Eventually, Aiko begins a friendly relationship with Mei and goes so far as to tell Yamato that he needs to pay more attention to Mei. She also pushes Mei into leaving class early and visiting a sick Yamato.
Another student at the high school, Hayakawa comes off as an immoral playboy willing to fool around with women regardless of their relationship status. He invites Mei and Yamato out to lunch only to try and convince Mei that she needs a "friend" like him. He is surprised when Mei deletes her contact information from his phone, pays for her own food, and leaves the restaurant instead.
He is further shocked when Yamato punches him for insulting Mei. The next school day, he complains to Aiko and gets upset when she suggests he is jealous of Yamato so he begins to insult her. Mei comes to Aiko's defense and insults him about his own flaws so he runs away angry.
Later on, he decides to pursue a real relationship with his childhood friend, Chiharu Ogawa, who happens to be Mei's coworker at the Bakery Farm.
Nagi Kurosawa is Yamato's elementary school-aged sister. She adores Yamato and when he isn't around, she cuddles with a stuffed animal he purchased for her dubbed "Yamato 2". She initially dislikes Mei and is jealous of the relationship between the couple but the girls soon bond over shared pasts of bullying and betrayal.
Nagi takes solace in creating stuffed animals and baking sweets. She has no friends after discovering that her "friends" just wanted to use Nagi and her house to play games and eat her food. Mei councils Nagi with her own elementary school story including how she was blamed for killing the class pet. Nagi responds by giving Mei a stuffed bear she made herself.
Nagi truly enjoys being social and sharing her talents with others. She offers to teach Mei how to bake and is stunned by Mei's true lack of talent. A determined girl, she constantly searches for the perfect recipe that even Mei can't mess up because she doesn't want Yamato to eat Mei's bad cooking.
Megumi Kitagawa is a Toumei High transfer student and a well-known amateur model introduced late in the series. She lives in her own apartment and cooks for herself regularly because she feels it is more of a challenge for herself. Within minutes of stepping into the school, she meets Yamato and decides he would be a perfect boyfriend for her. Looks and image are extremely important in her life and Yamato fits nicely into her ideal image. Megumi is considered the main antagonist in the series and rival to Mei, but deep down she is just an insecure woman because of her past.
When we first meet Megumi, she is humble, cheerful, and nice. Her success brings crowds of fans, all desperate to befriend her, and she enjoys the attention. She believes that if she works hard to make others happy she will be treated as an equal. Her main goal in life is to rise above amateur model status and into a full-fledged professional model.
She is outwardly sweet and humble, but Kai is quick to realize her public personality is just a facade. Megumi is self-conscious, but a cunning manipulator who uses her status and "caring" nature to try and take Yamato for her own. Failing at the direct approach with Yamato himself, she devises other ways to separate the couple and doesn't understand why Yamato likes Mei better than herself. Yamato's lack of interest in her is a constant source of frustration.
Like Megumi, Kai is introduced late to the series, but is a welcome addition. He is the one of the few characters that truly understands Mei and her past because of bullying and they form a strong bond despite Yamato's jealousy at first.
Kai is a former student at Toumei and Yamato's best friend who ended up transferring during middle school. He's returned to exact revenge on his past tormentors against Mei's advice and council. His anger turns to confusion when he realizes his bullies don't recognize him. This could be due to the fact that he took a year off to work out and bulk up, but he believes it's because he was insignificant to his bullies. Taking the year off puts him a year behind the other students in the series.
Kai is another brutally honest character that loves going to the theme park Land and collecting memorabilia.