First Look: Kiss Him, Not Me!

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Alternative titles: Watashi ga Motete Dousunda!
Manga Adaptation by Brain’s Base
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Kae Serinuma lives to witness the intimate relationships between handsome young men. Yet when the death of her favourite anime characters cause her to lose a lot of weight, Kae suddenly finds herself the object of various boys’ affections. How could she make them stop pining after her, and start pining after each other?

Aqua’s verdict: Blame Them, Not Me!

There’s no word wizardry in this world that can make the premise of Kiss Him, Not Me! not sound contrived at best and insulting at worst, I admit. Not only does Kae’s initial characterization as a neurotic, comically overweight creep thoroughly stigmatize the show’s very own target audience, it also prematurely aborts any chances at future genuine romance by making it abundantly obvious that most boys in Kae’s harem only started to look her way once she’d mysteriously transformed into a 70’s shoujo heroine overnight, and couldn’t give a toss about her less superficial draws. Granted, eventually they’ll all start falling for that genuine humility and sweetness she spontaneously developed as a result of her acute weight loss, but the damage is already done. At worst, Kiss Him, Not Me! is a gender-swapped take on power fantasies like <insert light novel here>, where every female character inadvertently falls for the main character and devotes every living minute to his satisfaction for no conceivable reason. So then why the heck have I been reading the manga since its humble beginnings?

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Well, it helps that Kiss Him, Not Me! – mind, I’m talking about the manga as a whole here, not just the pilot of this (faithful) adaptation – doesn’t take itself seriously as neither a shoujo romance, nor as a criticism or celebration of fujoshi culture. While the fact that her inner beauty doesn’t really come out until she’s gone all fit is more than a bit iffy, Kae is an entertaining character, torn between shameless indulgence and ostentatious self-loathing. Helped by Yu Kobayashi’s stellar, manic performance, she comes across as genuinely charming despite  the ‘cute’ characteristics she espouses more often than not being the result of some bizarre misunderstanding. Like in Kae’s fantasies, many of the big romantic clichés in Kiss Him, Not Me! happen by mistake, a repeated device the show gladly exploits for all it is worth. This occasionally turns the show into a bizarre, yet vastly entertaining take on the shallowness of shoujo romance, in which Kae’s various suitors resort to often preposterous means vying for her affections, while she would much rather ignore all that pampering in favour of her private fantasies.

With its reverse harem setup, copious homoerotic subtext – after all, who did you think this show was made for? – and nudge-nudge-wink-wink half-satire of old hat shoujo clichés, Kiss Him, Not Me!‘s closest point of comparison is probably Ouran High School Host Club, itself no stranger to questionable premises giving way to hilarity either. While Hiroshi Ishiodori may lack Ouran director Igarashi’s flair for rapid-fire comedy and the Brain’s Base of 2016 aren’t anywhere near the level of Bones in the early-to-mid 2000’s, it comes close to scratching that same itch. It revels in tropes no sane writer would ever dare to play straight in this day and age while constantly alluding to that unwritten moratorium with easily digestible gags and goofs. Kiss Him, Not Me is far from the best thing you’ll watch this season, but it’s serviceable enough to warrant investigation beyond its ridiculous pitch.

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Artemis’ verdict: Not As Bad As It Could’ve Been (But Still Pretty Bad)

I’ve watched plenty of shows with dodgy premises over the years – some of them every bit as awful as they sounded on paper, others shockingly decent despite their potential for terribad. Kiss Him, Not Me falls somewhere between the two in that the show is actually watchable, albeit still a far cry from something I’d call good. The synopsis deserves some serious side-eye, no doubt about that, but the real problem with this story lies in the execution. It’s possible to make almost any premise, no matter how insulting on the surface, entertaining if presented in exactly the right way, but Kiss Him, Not Me doesn’t push itself anywhere near hard enough for that; I can clearly see that this is intended to be a tongue-in-cheek comedy, but all I’m really getting is yet one more cliché-ridden series with painfully dull stock characters and mediocre production values to top them off. It’s like the creators ripped off a bunch of ideas straight from a shoujo 101 book and then haphazardly stitched them all together on the cheap, ending up with something that might have made for a decent parody if only there had been any heart to it. Fujoshi themes aside, Kiss Him, Not Me is more like The Wallflower than Ouran – and not in any good way.

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