Right. I admit it. This is now officially my ‘Guilty Pleasure’ anime of the season. Like my mother and her dodgy StarPlus doramas, I know that this is mindless fluffy melodrama that shamelessly caters to a specific female demographic. In this case, a youthful (sorry, mum) girly demographic in all of its angst-ridden, wish-fulfilment-seeking glory. Not only do we have the bland self-insert heroine who is painfully shy and insecure, but is actually secretly utterly adorable and a good person and who is always right and is nice to cats and who has Mr Most Popular Bishie hanging onto her every mumble, but we now also have the bitchy bimbo love rival who is no doubt poised to show the world that model looks and slutty boots are no match for a model of virginal virtue. So… Predictable? Well, yes. Bad? Actually, far from it. You see, where something like Bokura Ga Ita, Peach Girl, Itazura na Kiss (etc. etc.) made me continuously eye-roll at the stupidity of all of the characters who threatened to remain scurrying forever in a hamster wheel of misfortune, Sukitte Ii na yo reminds me increasingly of Kimi ni Todoke. Hell, it even has a ‘determined Sawako’-esque chibi-Mei at the end of every episode looking awkwardly adorable, and an equally (albeit at times rather perverted) adorable cat to add to the adorableness quota. Lovely. Not that it’s anywhere near as good as Kimi ni Todoke (which, imo is utterly charming), however, what it lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in consistency. And it continues to have the occasional, but very satisfying kyaarific moments that are the stuff of sparkly shoujo heaven…
So, back to the episodes, starting with no. 6… Well, it was basically about Miss New Girl in Town and her immediate attempts to leach onto Yamato’s affections at the expense of Mei, before swiftly seeming to see the error of her ways, before leaching onto Yamato again anyway. Cue the, “Aww, poor Mei”s. However, rather than snidely acknowledge the mechanical ways in which the audience is forced to RAEG at the injustice of Mei’s predicament as she hopelessly spends all her free time baking cookies for her man (yes, she even bakes for him!!) while he is busy being tempted by by Miss New Girl, I’d rather focus on how cute Mei is in this episode.
I mean, I loved those little shots of her where she barely said anything (no, not the self-consciously moe mumblings), which nevertheless spoke volumes about how she was feeling at the time. For example, when Yamato suddenly hugs her on their way home after school in the first ten minutes or so of epi 6, and also later on when they hold hands while the sun sets behind them about halfway through the epi:
While the main focus of the epi was the speedy insertion of
Kurumi Kitagawa – a.k.a. ‘Megu-tan’ – into the show as a rival who leaves Mei suitably jealous by the end of the epi, I nonetheless enjoyed Mei’s understated reactions and quiet support of her man. In other words, she clearly trusts him and is not prepared to let other people’s comments about how well Yamato and Megu-tan look together get to her.
That is, until epi 7.
This week, the show left behind its hitherto shoujo-by-numbers approach, and what we got was a beautiful focus on Mei’s changing emotions. As Yamato is asked to continue his moe modelling stint and he accepts, which inevitably leads to him spending more time with Megu-tan, Mei is put under increasing strain as she tries to remain supportive, while missing spending time with him. Now, rather than over-using loads of facial close-ups or interior monologue-ing, Mei’s silent looks and body language show so much more about her attempt to do the right/ mature thing in the face of her growing frustration. This is apparent in scenes such as the ones where she keeps checking her phone for messages, and when she deletes the ‘You’re late’ text in place of something more positive. However, inevitably, the internalising of such feelings only leads to more pain for Mei, and us, as we watch her heart quietly breaking.
Thus, the epi ends with Mei indirectly finding out that Yamato has not only been spending more time with Megu-tan, but has in fact been seen leaving her house hours after each shoot has finished. Clearly, we know that Yamato only has eyes for Mei, but he has at the very least handled things badly by not being completely open with Mei, and thus Mei’s tears seem reasonable (as opposed to over-the-top/ melodramatic) given the circumstances. Here, I also thought that Asami and Aiko’s admittance of their awareness of Mei’s situation was also a nice touch, rather than presenting them as either hitherto oblivious or suddenly enraged at Yamato/ Megu-tan. Instead, their resigned, calm discussion of how all girls struggle with jealousy issues was both sisterly and mature. Not to mention the fact that it also led to Mei deciding to snap out of her potential wallowing and take a more proactive approach…
…And the result was not only kyaarific, but made me respect Mei in a whole new way. As a girl who may be shy and rather mumbly most of the time, but, when it matters, knows exactly how to stoke that fire in her belly and stand up for herself and her love life. Mei, we salute you – YOU GO GIRL! YOU GO GET YOUR MAN!! >:)