Kiss Him, Not Me
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Kiss Him, Not Me ?
The love pentagon antics roll on in this week's Kiss Him, Not Me. Despite vying for the affections of the same girl, the first two episodes showed very few signs of internal conflict amongst Kae's suitors. Sure, Shinomiya and Nanashima had a few comical arguments, but we were never given the impression that the two boys outright hated one another. This makes Igarashi declaring that he's tired of playing nice this week a moderately interesting development. Even though the reset button is hit by episode's end, I appreciated the show taking the opportunity to sort of address the absurdity of its core premise.
With the school's cultural festival underway, Igarashi, Nanashima, Shinomiya, and Mutsume predictably go out of their way to garner support for Kae's ideas and bring them to fruition. In addition to helping her turn their classroom into a cosplay café, the boys also lend a hand to the history club in Kae's absence. As this is going down, Igarashi can't help but notice how strange the group's situation has truly become. Instead of constantly trying to one-up each other, the boys are actually getting along quite nicely and starting to act like honest-to-goodness friends. (Of course, Igarashi and Nanashima were friends prior to the start of the series.) Tired of sharing Kae with the others, Igarashi proposes that she go on separate mini-dates with each boy on the first day of the festival. Not surprisingly, this only serves to stress Kae out. While she certainly values the boys' friendship, she isn't ready for or even particularly interested in a romantic relationship with any of them at present. After the four bishonen join forces to rescue their beloved from a group of would-be molesters, Igarashi comes to understand Kae's feelings and agrees to go back to the way things were. Their comically-inflated reverse harem lifestyle may be strange, but hey, it works for them.
The cultural festival is the perfect backdrop to showcase the short individualized dates, as it provides a varying tableau for the boys' starkly different personalities. Although the general tone remains consistently wacky, the latter half of episode 3 features a surprising amount of introspection—at least by this show's standards. Now that she has a better understanding of how her approach to the boys has shaped their feelings, Kae is better able to consider their perspectives. As she points out, she's no longer just a fujoshi who observes her school's bishies from the sidelines—she's now the heroine of a “real life” otome game. In all likelihood, this is the type of situation she once fantasized about (even if she prefers imagining the boys together), but now that it's become her reality, she's not at all comfortable in her newfound role. Similarly, Igarashi comes to understand Kae's position. Despite never asking to be pursued by these boys, she's allowed them into her life and showed them all genuine kindness.
This episode, like the show itself, isn't without its problems. The general narrative is littered with clichés, and many of the jokes that poke fun at Kae's fujoshi tendencies have been done to death in other series. Said shortcomings aside, this week's installment is probably my favorite so far. Given the show's jokey premise, I was surprised to see an actual effort to develop the principal characters beyond their surface quirks.
Kiss Him, Not Me is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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