Anime Review: Kiss Him, Not Me

By Drew Hurley 31.05.2018

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Kiss Him, Not Me (UK Rating: 15)

Kae Serinuma is a fujoshi, a female otaku, one heavily into yaoi and boys' love. She spends her time in high school fantasising about the pairings of the many hot guys in her life, determined that "A prince should be with a prince!" but, when she's introduced, she's hardly the typical shoujo star. She's portrayed as hugely overweight, with tiny eyes and huge glasses, often bullied by her brother and class. That is, until the stress of seeing her favourite anime character dies. She undergoes a dramatic transformation into the quintessential beautiful girl. Perfect ratio, sparkly eyes, and wow that blush! Suddenly, all the friend-zone guys are seeing her in a whole new light but she just wants to see them with each other… Coming courtesy of All the Anime, the full series of Kiss Him, Not Me is out now.

It's always great when a series breaks away from the age-old tropes that fill its genre; something a little different from the countless others of its ilk. The premise here actually works well with the usual reverse harem. All these guys are interested in Serinuma now because of her looks but struggle to deal with her personality, and then each of them falls for her as the series progresses and they get to know her. Not only is Serinuma herself ashamed of her fandom, she juggles between being an otaku and being an otome.

There are four main guys vying for Serinuma's affections, and it's hard to like any of them at first, but they get enough character development over the course of the series to change that, at least. First up is Hayato Shinomiya, a boy from the class below Serinuma. He's constantly trying to act manly and older because the rest of the guys, and even Serinuma, treat him like a child, or worse treat him like a girl thanks to his effeminate nature. Then there's Nozomu Nanashima, the group tsundere and the most unlikeable guy. He treats Serinuma like rubbish before her transformation, mocking her weight and her looks. Even after she changes he's a slime ball, acting like he's interested in her but mocking her hobbies when she's out of sight, clearly interested in one thing. The third suitor is Yusuke Igarashi, a guy who was friendly enough with Serinuma before. Finally, there's Asuma Mutsumi, one of Serinuma's closest friends before the change, who acts exactly the same afterward. He accepts her completely and seems the obvious choice…

Later in the series, a fifth member joins the harem. Her name is Shima Nishina and she is very much like Serinuma. She's an otaku, too; she's also a famous doujinshi artist and cosplayer, not to mention bisexual. It adds a nice extra dynamic to the series; she likes fantasising about the boys, too, but has a genuine attraction to Serinuma, not just a physical one. It's a story thread that is given much more attention in the manga, and those who enjoy the series will be happy to hear that 13 of the 14 volumes are already available in English.

The story can seem a bit mean-spirited at times but it's just an honest representation of teenagers. They are shallow and twisted, but it's not just the guys. It's great to see girls cast in this honest light, too, with Shima and Serinuma both drooling over shipping the boys in the class together, fantasising about them together and trying to figure out who would be the top and who would be the bottom in each pairing. Sure, she gets objectified plenty now that she's hot, but it's not anything she hasn't been doing to the boys in her class forever. While the cast gets some extra dimensions over the course of the show, they remain realistic, shallow kids.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
Kiss Him, Not Me has done very well in Japan; it's based on a manga that ran for five years and fourteen volumes and even won the "Best Shoujo Manga" award at the Kodansha awards. It's easy to see why; it's a great new take on a tired old genre. There are plenty of funny moments and a cast of characters that are surprisingly realistic and likeable, even with their many flaws. Definitely one for any romance fans to pick up.

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