I like how honest Sukitte Ii na yo is in presenting the sometimes ugly reality of teenaged social life without overdramatizing it, and the naïve euphoria of teenaged romance without oversentimentalizing it. It’s a drama and a romance, but without emphasizing the theatre more than necessary – the reality is dramatic enough to carry the weight. The series certainly isn’t a documentary – there are dramatic liberties being taken here, for certain – but on the whole it comes pretty close to a golden mean when it comes to shoujo romance.
In the introduction of Hayakawa Kakeru (Kaji Yuuki) we have a character who seems dangerously close to the edge of being a pure dramatic device, though I think that trap is barely avoided so far. Hayakawa certainly transcends moral ambiguity more than any of the other players – he’s a scumbag plain and simple, down to the “smacker” way he eats his food (I thought the camera was paying an awful lot of attention to it), he seems calculated to disgust on every level and provide a vehicle for Mei and Yamato to grow closer and for Aiko to redeem herself and start a friendship with Mei. What I think saves him from being a complete disaster is that there really are plenty of people like him in high school – at least the one I went to – and thus, for me, his character doesn’t play as falsely as it could. It doesn’t help that in Kaji Yuuki we have another seiyuu who’s simply overexposed – whatever you think of his talents he’s just in too many damn shows at the moment, and he’s never especially convincing as a villain. But hopefully Hayakawa will be a fairly minor character from here on out.
Truth be told I’m not completely sold on Yamato as a character either, though I am mostly convinced that his feelings for Mei are genuine. The swings in his character’s behavior and mindset are a little too broad from week to week to be truly believable, but I do think there’s a compelling story in his trying to evolve beyond a life of shallow pleasures out of love for a square peg of a girl the bulk of his peers think isn’t in his league. Mei’s journey towards self-belief might be argued to be a little too fast-paced as well, though I’m pretty much buying it – for a person whose self-esteem was as non-existent as hers was, being the object of unreserved affection from someone like Yamato might easily have a dramatic effect. Telling Hayakawa “I don’t need friends like you” was a step forward, but quite a natural reaction – I think even more significant was the way she came to Aiko’s defense afterwards and even tried to befriend here. She was being a bit condescending, yes, but Mei is so socially awkward that I doubt she even realized that.