It seems there’s a fine line between like and dislike for Fall 2012’s shoujo feature Sukitte ii na yo; and a very defined one at that. Some people commend it for it’s efforts of showing us something a bit more than what we’ve seen so far in these types of shows, while some loathe it for being a lesser Kimi ni Todoke (which, in some aspects, is not a baseless claim at all) with extra shallowness and character centrism.
I’m with the former audience for this show, and I really do like what I’ve seen. Describing it would be what I’ve often called it during the course of marathoning the series; a darker side of shoujo. At the very least in the earlier episodes it had slightly sinister undertones that was enough to make me treat it as not just a normal romance. I may just be talking out of ignorant bliss, but I genuinely found that element of Sukitte ii na yo well made, and I honestly expected others to feel the same. More so for it being a relatively recent serious romance that doesn’t come by every so often any more.
I gotta admit that I was surprised at how balanced at the extremes almost was the love and the hate for this show. I guess hate is a bit too strong, but there is an apparent distaste for both the characters as well as the development of the series as a whole. You could definitely say that that’s the case for a lot (if not all, in fact) of anime, but my shock really was brought about more by what people found appaling enough in the show to warrant the negativity it eventually found itself in.
For me, Sukitte ii na yo was essentially Kimi ni Todoke meets Oregairu (Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru), or rather just Oregairu from a girl’s standpoint. As Oregairu is quite literally “not a rom-com“, I saw Sukitte ii na yo as not so much a romance, but something really in the same vain as Oregairu; as more of a dramatic (with a touch of comedy, in some parts) tale of personal growth. A story of opening up and letting others in to better or at the very least change one’s self. Kimi ni Todoke was exactly this, but the difference between Kuronouma Sawako and Tachibana Mei as a struggling character looking to grow is at how they came to shut themselves in, before meeting that guy that would eventually change their life.
As two main characters who’re ostracized by their peers (by means of very high school-ish joshing), what made Tachibana Mei an interesting character to empathize with was her developed ideology of “friends can only betray” so it was better to not make friends altogether; whereas Kuronouma Sawako would seem more optimistic. Sadly, where the potential depth of Tachibana Mei’s character lay was unjustly stunted by poor decisions in development; which in turn becomes Kimi ni Todoke’s (as well as Oregairu’s, arguably) strong suit. Tachibana Mei could’ve been a triumphant character of her kind, but in the end her external social problems would only seem to have been glossed over thanks to her newly found friends; virtually non-existent problems, making her a shallow self-centered girl – a completely plausible generalization.
But does Tachibana Mei have such external problems to begin with? She was bullied as a kid I guess, and often at her high school as well; but is that really what she’s dealing with? Thumbtacks in your shoes? Rude hush-hush gossip? Even bullies get tired of that. Hear me out here: She’s bullied because she sticks out. She sticks out because she isolates herself. She isolates herself because she’s traumatized. Trauma. She’s afraid to get hurt because she knows how it feels. The initial problem is not the people around her; but rather it’s herself as a person. To her, everyone else became “the villain” (which is essentially what we assume them to be); when in truth, they’re actually nice people who just had their own messed up problems- which is the case for quite literally everyone she meets and later on befriends.
The difference between the two interpretations? I guess it’s in how you see Tachibana Mei. Do you see her as a broken bird? A lonely girl? A girl so loved by the universe that everyone seems willing to pitch in and help with her intimate problems? Or is she just a normal girl who’s around nice people whom repricated her own niceness? It’s up to you really. I just wanted to provide I guess another way of looking at this show as something more than a fantastical turn of events centered around the life of a girl that everyone to some level can identify with.