JMovie Review: Say “I Love You”

Fukushi Sota, Kawaguchi HarunaThere are tons of dramas and movies that are based on manga. Say “I Love You” is another manga turned into a live action that was released in 2014. Unfortunately, this is a manga that I have read and rather enjoyed. I haven’t finished the series, but I’ve read up to the arc where Megu (more on her later) was becoming a huge stumbling block for our couple. I’ve also watched the anime (to about the same point in the story). So…I came into this movie with some hope that it would be good. Unfortunately that hope was not fulfilled. Was this the worst movie I’ve ever watched? Not by any means, but it still turned out to be a big disappointment. This could in part be that they are cramming an entire manga series and several stories into one short movie. It just didn’t work.

Okay, so before getting into the heart of the review, first things first. Say “I Love You” was penned by Hazuki Kanae and was serialized in Dessert starting in April of 2008. The manga revolves around a group of high school friends. Tachibana Mei had a traumatic experience in grade school which turned her into a person who depended solely on herself and no one else. She keeps to herself until sick of being teased by Nakanishi Kenji, she goes to kick him and kicks the most popular boy in school, Kurosawa Yamato, instead…for which she didn’t apologize. This brought her to Kurosawa’s attention and he soon is declaring his feelings and dating Mei. Their little world opens up and Mei finally starts making friends with others as well. Love rivals, jealousy, and more pop up to get in our couple’s way, of course.

Say "I Love You" Volume 1 coverIt’s a fairly typical story in the grand scheme of things. In the manga, Kurosawa was like an enigma to me. He had this cool quality and air and even though he was well liked and nice, always had a slight, almost standoffish aura at times. I wasn’t certain Kurosawa’s intentions were all that pure at first, but you could see his character evolve and see his true feelings for Mei as the manga went on. Mei was a classic stoic heroine, but when she did start showing emotions you could connect and understand the rawness and confusion. There was enough carrying the characters and stories that made the manga, and anime, rather enjoyable.

So with a manga series I enjoyed and an anime I also enjoyed, I had cautiously optimistic hopes that I would enjoy the movie. Unfortunately, I didn’t as much as I had hoped. And I think the main reasons are the acting of our leading couple. Fukushi Sota as Kurosawa Yamato just did not work for me. He did not really seem to exude the character of Kurosawa well at all. I think Yamazaki Kento in LD♥K did a better job of embodying the character of Kugayama Shuusei better than Fukushi embodied Kurosawa in this movie. In fact…I think I might have liked it to see Yamazaki in the role instead… Anywho, I felt Fukushi’s acting was flat. And…it didn’t really seem like there was a whole lot of chemistry between himself and his leading lady Kawaguchi Haruna. I was not charmed with their love…it didn’t seem all that tangible…and that confession where Kurosawa kisses Mei in several different ways…sigh. It’s a Japanese high school drama so you know you won’t get a decent (read believable) kiss, but having a guy kiss a girl in essentially the same exact way several different times and asking her if she got the difference when the audience can’t even get the difference…yeah, it didn’t work out.

Fukushi Sota, Kawaguchi HarunaAs for Kawaguchi Haruna, sometimes I felt she really was spot on with Mei’s character and other times the portrayal felt a little off. This could also be the lack of chemistry with Fukushi shining through. I think she had a decent start at the beginning with some decent times spattered throughout and then those times where the character just really fell short of expectations. But…overall…I do think her portrayal was still a bit better than Fukushi’s own acting.

Another problem is the “hurdles” our couple faces. These all happen in rapid succession and it actually feels more is given to the secondary characters than to the actual main couple. Even though each of these characters and their stories had a large focus in the manga series, they did not feel like it dominated the overall story. Our first stumbling block is Oikawa Asami (Nishizaki Rima) who is infatuated with Kurosawa, but that’s quickly dealt away with as she gets together with Nakanishi Kenji (Nagase Tasuku) who is Kurosawa’s best friend. This was a small hurdle quickly gotten over once Nakanishi finally manages to confess in a way that wasn’t revolving around Oikawa’s ample cleavage. From their we quickly move on to the disapproving Muto Aiko (Adachi Rika) who was in love with Kurosawa even though she was dating/sleeping with Tachikawa Masashi (Yamamoto Ryosuke). She was definitely not much of a hurdle either and the focus really did seem to be more on her and Masashi’s relationship finally becoming a healthier one as she learned to move on. And from there we go to Takemura Kai (Ichikawa Tomohiro). He was Kurosawa’s best friend in middle school and he was also horribly bullied. He takes a keen interest in Mei, but Mei doesn’t even give him the time of day, so there really wasn’t much conflict there. Then boom we are onto Kurosawa becoming a model and Mei feeling horrible thinking that Kitagawa Megumi aka the popular model Megu (Yagi Arisa, aka the fake wife of Key from SHINee) is really more suitable for Kurosawa than she is.

The problem is with the rapid succession is that none of these problems are essentially all that much of a problem as in a few minutes there is a resolution to all of the problems. I think they would have been better off choosing one or two particular story arcs versus cramming them all in since by doing that they really cut down on the believability of situations and relationships. Megu was a much bigger problem in the actual manga and anime than what she was in the movie. Like…Oikawa and Muto who were both supposedly in love with Kurosawa quickly become Mei’s friends after the conflicts pass and unfortunately that girl friendship seems less believable due to the amount of time it was actually given. Also, surprisingly enough, it really seemed that Kawaguchi and Ichikawa had better chemistry as Mei and Kai than Kawaguchi had with her leading man. You could actually buy their friendship and if they had become more than friends, it would have been much more believable.

I believe that even if I hadn’t read the manga or watched the anime, I still would be disappointed overall thanks to the acting and the way every conflict was rushed without much buildup and a too quick resolution. I’m not sure I can recommend watching this movie. Instead, you would be better off reading the manga or watching the anime. You will get a much more satisfactory plot in the buildup and resolution, plus you’ll also get to meet Kurosawa’s little sister whom Mei also has to get along with and win over as little cutey Kurosawa definitely has a brother complex. She was more cute than annoying though and her bonding with Mei was rather sweet, so I was a bit disappointed she was not in the movie.


  • OMG I’m so glad you mentioned the multiple ‘different kisses’ scene. THEY ALL LOOKED THE SAME!! I definitely couldn’t tell the difference. T_T

    I agree, the live action was a disappointment. The story felt anticlimactic and just meh. There was barely any build up leading to the OTP falling for each other.

    • I think the only major differences was he might have changed the angle and kissed her a bit longer…but all horrible and really conveyed no difference in his feelings. I think overall they could have done better. Maybe if this had been a series instead of a movie…they did so much without enough build up or substance to carry the plot through.

  • Haven’t read the manga or watched the film, but not surprised the latter was mehh. Fukushi Sota pretty much sucks the energy out of every scene he’s in, he’s that blah.

    • Your comment above is the best thing about the movie 😉 It really was soooo bad. I really think the lead of LD♥K could have done a much better job…actually any younger actor good at getting into roles and conveying emotions would have done so much better. Wonder if he will ever improve?

  • I watched this movie recently and I agree with everything you’ve said here. Granted, I haven’t read the manga nor seen the anime, but I was just so utterly bored with this movie. On the one hand, maybe I’m just starting to grow out of high school romances. But on the other hand, I’m pretty sure this was just a crappy movie. I was so underwhelmed by it and nothing about it was memorable to me, not the cast, not the acting, not the main couple. It was just a waste of time.

    And what you said about the kiss scene is so true. I couldn’t get what point he was trying to get across there because each kiss was passionless and awkward.

    • I’m entering my 30s and still enjoy a good high school romance. This is definitely not a good one. No chemistry, it was unremarkable and boring, which is kind of sad because I didn’t find the manga or anime boring. I think that kiss scene will make a list of all-time worst kiss scenes ever.

  • theradioactivesamurai

    I’m following Fukushi’s acting career pretty obsessively, and let me tell you that ALL his kisses look the same, whether it’s for this hs drama or his recent drama with Ayase Haruka. Pre-watch, I also had my doubts about this because, having read the material and being familiar with Fukushi and his acting, I also couldn’t imagine it. I guess I kept my expectations really low so I wasn’t that disappointed in that department.

    I agree wholeheartedly about the story comment. It felt like different short stories about the same people patched together. The transition and plot development didn’t seem smooth. :/

    My favorite part though was how pretty the movie was. I liked the framing and the wardrobe especially.

    • Right! And since it was a whole bunch of stories patched together, it seemed the drama lacked substance since no story really had any large amount of time devoted to it and you’re right about the rough transitions.

  • Disagree about the acting generally and the story. Movies don’t come over as well as dramas, and when did you ever see a real kiss in a Japanese or Korean production?

    • Obviously fake kisses are the norm, but there are a few that exist that aren’t horrible. And translations of literature or comics into movies or sometimes even dramas usually results in disappointment for all that cannot be included although there are some gems that are well rounded enough to make the movie enjoyable even if you have a history of the book or comic.

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