Kae Serinuma is a wallflower-ish, overweight otaku girl who enjoys spending her time on watching anime, reading manga, and fantasizing about her male classmates being involved with each other romantically. Serinuma is pretty pleased with her life as it is, but when she loses a ton of weight after being thrown into grief at the in-show death of her favorite anime character, she finds herself at the center of attention of the boys she used to pair together. Needless to say, it’s an overwhelming experience, and while she likes each of the boys decently as people, she’s not on-board with them being romantically interested in her.
I liked Kiss Him, Not Me’s first volume a fair bit… with some fairly large caveats, which I will get to in a moment. Serinuma is easy to like; she’s fairly upbeat from the start, and most of us anime fans can likely relate to her truly nerdy moments, even if we’re not all into BL. It’s nice, too, that the surrounding cast, from the named eventual love interests to the unnamed generic classmates, aren’t crappy to her about her weight… even if this does precede a bunch of bishounen developing the hots for her once she has dropped the weight (although one of them may’ve been interested in her prior; it isn’t clear either way). And I like that Serinuma’s best friend, A-chan, gets to have her own life outside of her friendship with the lead, as a boyfriend is referenced at one point.
But… the whole set-up for the story is awful. A girl loses about fifty pounds in a week and is now hot? Did it really have to be this way? I’m not crazy about makeover premises to begin with, but even a, “She got a haircut and started using make-up!” approach would’ve been preferable to this. The clearly absurd nature of the transformation (she shuts herself up in her room and refuses to open the door, eat, etc. the entire time because her favorite bishounen from her favorite anime gets killed off which magically means she becomes bishoujo standard pretty) doesn’t mitigate it at all, either. She also loses her glasses in the process, although this is never explained – I feel pretty safe saying that weight and eyesight have no causative relationship.
This premise also ends up making most of the boys look petty shallow, too. Two of them outright are jerks to Serinuma before she loses the weight, leading greater credence to the idea that these boys are petty. One of them may’ve been mildly interested in her, and it’s probably no coincidence that he is the most pleasant of the lot once they start pursuing the lead fully. But as a group, they hardly seem worth the time. Yeah, yeah, they’re in high school – a lot of (most?) boys that age are like this anyway… but it doesn’t endear them much regardless, and isn’t this supposed to be a fantasy anyway? Well, it all goes back to having a rotten starting point.
It also bears mention that Serinuma’s worse moments as a BL fan are cringe-inducing and representative of the worst impulses of the fandom. This didn’t bother me too much as it read as true to life (I definitely indulged in some pairing off of male classmates as a teenager, as loathe as I am to cop to it), but I think it’s only fair for me to note its existence, especially given that it is a problem within the fandom. People’s identities shouldn’t be sexualized; it really is as simple as that.
This all sounds fairly negative, so I want to again say that I did like it, and repeat my affection for Serinuma. I really love the girl – she’s hopeless otaku-wise, and watching her try, only to fail, to conceal the extent of her enthusiasm for anime/manga/video games is quite funny. I said she was “wallflower-ish” because she likes to gaze upon the handsome and cute boys she goes to school with from afar, but she doesn’t have a shy demeanor at all. Quiet and frail shoujo leads are so dreadfully dull; this is much more preferable. Truly, without such a good lead in Serinuma, I doubt I would’ve gotten very far with this.
Writing this, it occurs to me that I rarely comment upon the visuals in manga. I am quite capable of enjoying manga visuals, but this fact seems to support something I pretty much knew already, which is that I very much preference the written word above visuals. Kiss Him, Not Me has fairly run-of-the-mill shoujo art, although author Junko takes a special care with Serinuma’s nerd-out moments that elevates it above the rest of the volume’s art. I also wish to note that Serinuma’s chest is quite big for a shoujo heroine – which may not seem like a thing worth mentioning, but it really does stand out versus the shoujo romance crowd, where slightness is absolutely what is preferred even with the need for extreme cuteness.
I read Crunchyroll’s English language release of this volume. With the exception of a poor explanation of a joke (or, perhaps, a poor transliteration in the first place) early on, it’s a solid release. Dialogue reads smoothly, no blurred pages – although I don’t think I’ve ever run into poorly-scanned pages from CR’s manga releases.
I’m not sure I can recommend going out of your way to check out Kiss Him, Not Me, but if you’ve got a CR account and you enjoy shoujo romances, it’s worth a look. As much as I am fond of the lead, I am a bit doubtful about its staying power in the long-run, although that comes largely down to my not being much a fan of shoujo romance to begin with (would you believe I managed to go roughly five years without any shoujo manga before I gave Kamisama Kiss and A Devil and Her Love Song a go?). Beware of the horrible springboard the story uses to start its narrative, though.