Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Kiss Him, Not Me
Kiss Him, Not Me, based on the manga of the same name by Junko, is a bit problematic at its core. Not only does it at first blush rely on the tired old trope of the girl losing weight and her glasses and suddenly becoming unbelievably beautiful, but it also features a heroine who is such a hardcore fujoshi that she's busy shipping real people alongside her anime favorites. Both of these are dehumanizing for all of the people involved, reducing them to their looks and not much else. On paper, it sounds like a pretty terrible idea for a story.
Fortunately Kiss Him, Not Me is fully aware of what it's doing, and by a few episodes in, it becomes apparent that it isn't so much relying on these hoary old story elements as using them as a jumping off point for a ridiculous love comedy, with more emphasis on the “comedy” than the “love.” Largely this is accomplished through the character of Mutsumi, one of the five(ish) people who are actively pursuing heroine Kae post-weight loss. Mutsumi is Kae's club senpai, the president of the history club, and one of the few people to really interact with her in a normal way prior to her makeover. Although he may not always have been romantically interested in her, he did always genuinely like her and see her as a valuable person in her own right, and any romantic feelings he develops over the course of the series are due less to changes in her physical appearance and more to getting to know her outside of the history club. Of all of the aspirants for Kae's affections, Mutsumi stands out as the one with the most believable chance and feelings for her, which implies (especially to manga readers) that Junko not only knew what she was doing, she had a point to make while doing so.
Of course, by the end of the series, we can see that everyone has come to appreciate Kae for more than just her looks, and Shima, the one female contender, like Mutsumi had liked Kae all along. The more important changes are for the first three boys to notice the newly-slender Kae, Igarashi, Nanashima, and Shinomiya. Of the those three, Igarashi learns the fastest to like Kae for her personality as well, but at the same time he comes off as the least sincere in a lot of cases, moving faster than Kae is comfortable with and pushing for more physical contact, even if that's just holding hands. (Which really does freak Kae out all on its own.) Nanashima seems to have the farthest to go in terms of liking Kae for herself, but even he does seem to truly like her by the end. Shinomiya ends up being more the butt of the series' jokes, although it's worth noting that some of the racier humor at his expense has been toned down. Mostly that's not an issue, but it is kind of strange to have an entire joke sequence about the color of Shinomiya's nipples when nipples aren't shown at all.
There are some consent issues with the show, as might reasonably be expected. A surprisingly small amount are the guys coming on to Kae in ways she finds unacceptable, although one forced kiss does lead her to note that what's acceptable in fiction, and even what she enjoys in fiction, is often not the case in real life. This feels in some ways like the core of what the show has been gearing up to in its character interactions – the boys make Kae feel uncomfortable in their quest to win her heart, and she makes them uncomfortable (or at least Nanashima and Igarashi) with her fantasies about them being romantically and sexually attracted to each other rather than her. This results in everyone feeling uncomfortable at various times in the series, and although it is never truly addressed, it is always noticeable, forming an underlying theme to the more comedic elements.
Those elements do work much better in the English dub, not only because comedy does tend to work better in a language you speak fluently, but also because of a key directorial decision made about Kae's voice. In the Japanese, Kae, voiced by Yu Kobayashi, has a “fat voice” and a “thin voice,” which is offensive to say the least, given that the timbre of your voice does not change with your weight. (Losing weight also doesn't magically cure you of needing glasses or make your hair prettier.) The goal seems to be to drive home how much less attractive Kae is when she's overweight, which is not only contrary to the character development in the show, but also contributes to the demonization of overweight people. In the English dub, Jeannie Tirado does have a good range, including a voice similar to the sub's “fat voice” for Kae's fujoshi rants, but that does not change depending on Kae's weight. This goes a long way to making the more humorous aspects of Kae's character feel like a part of Kae rather than an affectation designed to show why anyone would be interested in her at all. The rest of the dub cast is likewise strong, with Justin Briner's Shinomiya hitting a lot of right notes. Alejandro Saab's Igarashi comes off as a bit more insincere than Yuuki Ono's, but everyone is largely comparable overall.
Kiss Him, Not Me manga fans will have noticed that some events from the manga have been reordered, but given when the show stops, it does make a decent amount of sense why the writers would have done so. It's a decent comedy overall, with a few core characters and themes that work to counteract most of the more questionable elements. The dub's lack of “fat voice” makes it easier to recommend, but it's a decently fun show overall.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : B-
Animation : B-
Art : C+
Music : C+
+ Funny moments, underlying themes work to counteract some plot issues
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