Title: Watashi ga Motete Dousunda / Kiss Him, Not Me!
Length: 12 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Reverse harem, comedy
Year of release: 2016
It’s becoming increasingly prevalent in the reverse harem and shoujo-romance genres, whereby the love interests themselves are relegated to mere reactionary caricatures – that screentime is instead spent on the protagonist, and using their personal drive to push the story, situations and gags forwards. The increased characterisation is something the harem-comedy genre doesn’t necessarily know what to do with, but it always starts with a good gimmick, and here is Kiss Him, Not Me! with Kae, a fujoshi in the leading role.
Part of the series’ meta humour is laughing at the shallow male leads, and a much more subtle joke too. When Kae’s husbando is killed off, the pain (laughed up, of course) causes her to go on a week-long tirade refusing to leave her room, even for food. The comically (and crine-inducingly) overweight Kae then goes from receiving poor-taste fat-shaming in her last day at school before the absence, to becoming one of the prettiest girls at school that all the hot guys can’t help but check out. The same ones that laughed at her weight priorly. The boys aren’t nice people, and it contributes to the silliness.
In an attempt to get with Kae, the boys all find themselves partaking in her otaku sensibilities, travelling with her to conventions and such. When the series remembers that Kae is deep into the boys love genre, the situations work well – the boys try to off-put their shame buying her BL manga and receive extremely nerdy keychain merch as presents that they don’t know how to deal with. Laughing at their discomfort is a real kick because they’re so shallow, and contrasts with Asuma – a member of the harem who was Kae’s friend before her weight-loss, and he is merely interested in sharing and experiencing other hobbies and the sweetness balances the show out nicely.
However, Kiss Him, Not Me! has a tendency to forget the premise, to a degree, at least. Once Kae lost all that weight, she does occasionally find herself in fairly average shoujo rom-com hijinks, with only scant references to her real person. Even in these moments, the show somewhat average nature of the show is held up by Brain’s Base’s terrific visual art; at times conservative in animation, it always finds the loud, ugly colours and facial expressions to pair with the over-acting and it never fails to be amusing. But, forgive me for wanting to see more of the boys having faux moments together for the viewer’s delight.
The dilly-dallying of semi-romantic moments eventually hurts the series, which is a problem almost all harems must face eventually. Kae is uncharacteristically forced into obliviousness multiple times to keep any drama from happening, and it means the boys never get anywhere. It becomes most heinous in Nana’s arc, whereby he half-asleep kisses her and she ends up forgiving him for it after some uncomfortable and hardly thought-out dramatism on the matter; likewise, the arc at the end with Asuma’s older brother – a teacher no less! – attempts to pursue Kae via dubiously physical methods. Female demographic romance and pushy-to-the-point-of-abusive interests has become the absolute bane of the genre in recent years, and the rapey-discomfort is a frustrating nail in the coffin of my good feelings for the show.
Hearty vocal performances, some ‘ha, me-too’ meta moments to point and see yourself in, consistently amusing visual gags and a mostly fun protagonist can’t stop Kiss Him, Not Me! from mediocre sit-com writing, an overly archetypal cast and indulging in trends more than being savvy of them. Frankly, I didn’t need an on-screen representation of myself congratulated for being not too awful-a-person and getting a harem – especially since both Kae and I are more interested in voyeurism than fantasy.
And… uh… consent.