Kiss Him, Not Me
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Kiss Him, Not Me ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
Kiss Him, Not Me ?
The reverse harem genre—to say nothing of the regular harem genre—is ripe for parody. Although there have been several notable attempts at spoofing this particular genre, Kiss Him, Not Me functions as both an effective parody and a serviceable (albeit comically inflated) romantic comedy. Like last season's First Love Monster, the humor has a bit of a mean streak, and the jokes are anything but subtle. However, unlike comedies of the First Love Monster ilk, Kiss Him, Not Me has thus far managed to balance out its crassness with a little heart and a (mostly) likable cast.
The series chronicles the misadventures of high school fujoshi Serinuma Kae and the bizarre love pentagon in which she finds herself after inadvertently losing a substantial amount of weight in the short span of one week. Going into self-imposed isolation and refusing to eat in response to the on-screen death of her favorite anime pretty boy transforms the chubby, awkward Kae into a conventionally attractive bombshell, effectively putting her on the radars of the school's most popular bishonen: the good-natured jock Igarashi Yusuke, Igarashi's slightly abrasive bestie Nanashima Nozomu (who bears a striking resemblance to Kae's beloved departed Shion), tsundere freshman Shinomiya Hayato who regarded Kae as annoying prior to her weight loss, and the affable easy-going senior Mutsumi Asuma, the only member of the group to consistently show Kae kindness prior to her transformation. Ever the fujoshi, Kae is more interested in fantasizing about her suitors pairing up with one another than entering into a relationship with any one of them—but she's still willing to give the boys a shot. With the possible exception of Mutsumi, none of Kae's potential beaus are crazy about her being a fujoshi, but they ultimately decide to table their reservations in light of her hotness.
The boys quickly settle into a collective frenemy-ship, though Nanashima and Shinomiya have a few humorously tense exchanges. Mutsumi arguably has the most interesting approach to wooing Kae, as he shows unlimited patience and grace in his efforts—while Igarashi remains the least remarkable of the bunch. For her part, Kae makes no effort to take advantage of the situation or turn the boys against one another. Although she doesn't seem to harbor much romantic interest in any one of them, she does view them all as friends by the end of the second episode.
Even if they're mostly played for laughs, it's difficult to overlook Kiss Him, Not Me's problematic aspects. The way Kae sheds her excess pounds is unhealthy to the extreme, and depriving yourself of sustenance for a week would never result in such perfect weight loss. (Plus, any weight she lost during that time would quickly rebound since she went an entire week without eating.) Getting so broken up over the death of a fictional character is darkly funny and nicely illustrates the extent of her fujoshi-ness, but the whole “starvation = physical perfection” conceit is a bit much. (Also, why didn't her family step in much sooner than they did?) There's also the matter of overweight Kae being bumbling and awkward, while slimmed-down Kae is comparably more graceful and confident. Upon losing weight, Kae's husky voice instantly becomes more refined and delicate, and her vision problems seem to disappear completely. (It's possible she's wearing contacts, but we've seen no indication of this.)
Unfortunately, the topic of how pre-weight-loss Kae was treated by the boys has yet to be addressed at length in the show. Only two of her prospective boyfriends (Igarashi and Mutsumi) even treated her nicely beforehand, but Kae doesn't really seem to hold this against them. Of course, this may speak to Kae's naiveté, but it seems only fitting that some of her suitors (particularly Shinomiya) be taken to task for the way they initially behaved towards her. It's also possible that her lack of interest in dating them has prevented her from truly caring about their opinion of her—which is actually kind of refreshing to see.
In spite of its undeniably troublesome aspects, Kiss Him, Not Me is a fun little series that has a lot more to offer than the standard reverse harem send-up. The characters are interesting, if a bit stereotypical, and their interactions have thus far proven consistently entertaining. I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing what the coming weeks have in store for our unconventional leading lady and her harem of hangers-on.
This week also marked the premiere of Funimation's simuldub of Kiss Him, Not Me. Right off the bat, the way the dub handles the “bumbling, fat Kae voice” issue struck me as a marked improvement over the original. While Kae still sounds cartoonishly over-the-top when geeking out as a fujoshi, the pre-weight loss Kae voice isn't at all different from the way she sounds post-weight loss. This approach helps build consistency and ensures that Kae doesn't seem like an entirely different character when she's plumped up. It also helps convey the point that Kae's weight doesn't bother her and shouldn't bother the people who fall in love with her. The boys' voices all suit their characters nicely, although Nanashima and Shinomiya sound more alike than they do in the original Japanese. (This may be due to the fact that they both have very similar attitudes towards Kae in the first episode.) Certain moments from the premiere struck me as funnier in the dubbed version, most notably Kae's horrified reaction to Shion's death. Even if you've been following the show subtitled, this dub has enough going for it to warrant a re-watch.
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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