by Rebecca Silverman,

Kiss Him, Not Me

GN 1

Kiss Him, Not Me  GN 1
Kae is a fujoshi of the highest caliber – she may physically live in the real world, but her emotional life is entirely wrapped up in the realm of fiction. She fantasizes about two of the boys in her class getting together and is devoted to the anime Mirage Saga. But when the show kills off her favorite character, Kae goes into a deep, depressed decline...and when she resurfaces, she's lost most of her excess flesh and is suddenly gorgeous. Now all those boys she wanted to see want each other would rather have her...and Kae's not sure what to do with flesh-and-blood bishounen whom she'd rather see kiss each other!

Do you remember a series called Fujoshi Rumi: Mousou Shoujo Otaku Kei by Natsume Konjoh that Media Blasters published back in 2009? It was about a fujoshi who suddenly found herself confronted with a real live boy who wanted to date her, but she was too wrapped up in her 2D world to really know what to do. If you've lamented its unfinished passing, weep no more: Kodansha's recent release of Junko's Kiss Him, Not Me is just what you've been waiting for.

Kiss Him, Not Me, like Konjoh's work, follows Kae Serinuma, an overweight high school student who is a champion fujoshi, or female otaku. Like many (but not all) fujoshi, Kae's thing is yaoi, and she not only collects mountains of manga and goods, but she also fantasizes about her attractive classmates...being attracted to each other. In fact, she and her best friend even have a favorite “couple” in class: Igarashi and Nanashima, whom them abbreviate to “5 x 7” or “7 x 5,” depending on which girl thinks which guy should be the seme and which the uke. For their parts, the guys aren't particularly interested in Kae – Nanashima is a flat-out jerk to her while Igarashi just treats her like any other classmate. All of that changes when her favorite fictional character dies in the anime she's following and Kae takes to her bed for a week – while she's too busy mourning to eat, she drops an unrealistic amount of weight, and when she finally returns to school, she's gorgeous. All of a sudden Igarashi and Nanashima want everything to do with her, as does her younger acquaintance Shinomiya and possibly her club sempai Mutsumi. Thus begins one of the weirder, to say nothing of funnier, shoujo romances out there.

While there is something uncomfortable about the fact that at least two of the guys never thought of her as anything but “the big, kind of annoying girl” previous to her weight loss, there's no denying that the set up is amusing. Kae is completely out of her element with these romantically-inclined young men, totally flustered and not entirely sure she's up to the whole dating thing. Despite the fact that she has physically changed, she's still very much the same girl on the inside, and she has the same interests and insecurities. She worries that she now has to hide her favorite things because she doesn't want to be thought of as weird, but at the same time she's fully willing to give up being the boys' object of affection so that she can keep on being herself. That the boys don't drop her like a brick when she does admit her fujoshi status takes the sting out of the fact that they didn't care to get to know her before; now that they have gotten acquainted, they aren't willing to just let things go.

Of Kae's potential suitors, Mutsumi and Igarashi seem the most interested in her as a person. Igarashi, as I mentioned before, has been nice to her from the beginning, even if he never indicated any sort of crush before her weight loss. He's nice and appears to be more invested in forming a relationship than a couple of the others, although he's also the first to make a move when he decides he likes her. As for Mutsumi, he could reasonably have been called her friend before things changed, and it really isn't entirely clear why he's put himself in the running for her heart, as he is clearly less romantically inclined than the other three. In fact, he only appears to be part of the group because he happened to be there when Igarashi asked her out and the other two boys horned in on the date. Could he just be there protecting her from the others? At this point he really feels like the wild card.

Regardless of the romantic potential of each attractive young man, the real entertainment of Kiss Him, Not Me is how much of a fish out of water Kae is...and how she never really tries to make herself anything other than herself despite that. This also adds to the humor as she keeps seeing the guys as making good couples with each other or as they explore her bedroom, and their interpretation of some of her reactions versus what she's really thinking about is pretty great. Junko's art isn't especially excellent, but she keeps all of the boys distinct from each other and does a good job with body language, even if there's something really odd about the boys' hips. Kodansha's notes this time are especially good and really try their hardest to fill readers in on the slang particular to Kae's fandom(s), and the translation helps make this a very fast read.

Kiss Him, Not Me is a goofy comedy that treats its heroine with more respect that you might at first suspect and doesn't do too badly by its heroes either. It has a real knack with the awkward situation and it is very clear that author Junko really does feel a kinship with her heroine, because it's hard not to see aspects of yourself in Kae even while (in my case) admiring how she actually can handle her situation without crawling into a hole. This is a series that gives the reverse harem genre a good name with its lighthearted approach to a girl discovering that life and hobbies can sometimes intertwine in the weirdest ways.

Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B

+ Very funny, Kae's new look never changes who she is and is pretty relatable. Boys are all easy to tell apart and the awkwardness of a five-person couple is pretty great.
A little troubling that two of the boys didn't care about her before she lost weight, some anatomical issues in the art.

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Story & Art: Junko

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