Ever watch a movie about a girl getting a makeover then getting the attention of the popular boys? That girl a nerd who loves fantasizing about those popular boys in romantic situations? Those romantic situations involve the boys with the other boys? Then I have a manga for you! Welcome to Junko’s Kiss Him, Not Me, a very funny and interesting take on the romantic comedy harem genre published in Bessatsu Friend. A harem comedy tends to center around a character who gets romantically involved in situations with several other characters, leading, generally, to the main character and one of the group of romantic interests ending up together. Many of these harem stories tend to have male protagonists, but Kiss Him, Not Me has a female protagonist, a fujoshi to boot. (A fujoshi is a female otaku of fiction about male-on-male relationships.)
So our story sets out with Ms. Kae Serinuma, an overweight high school fujoshi who loves to pair various popular boys in her class together, fantasizing about them having romantic relations with each other. Kae also is deeply engrossed in an anime currently airing on television. The anime’s main character looks remarkably similar to one of those popular boys, and she is obsessed with the character. Tragedy then strikes! Kae’s favorite character, the love of her life, is killed off in the show. Distraught she stays in her room for a week mourning the death of the character. Upon emerging from her room, Kae has remarkably lost weight, and now looks gorgeous. Returning to school, she immediately attracts the attention of the popular boys she fantasizes about – to her chagrin. Why? She would rather fantasize about them together than them with her.
The story revolves around their daily lives, and the boys attempt to have Kae choose them over the others. Each boy essentially falls in love with the new Kae at first sight. The story then goes along the route that you cannot judge a book by it’s cover, as the boys learn that Kae’s appearance is not the reason for their affection towards her. The story has the reader learning more about each boy, with their motivations and history being revealed to the reader as the story progresses. A big element to the story is the boys being introduced and gaining experience in Kae’s fujoshi lifestyle.
This is a refreshing change of pace for a harem manga. Not the acceptance of the nerd, but the take on the romantic interest in the main character. Kae finds the boys attractive, but she doesn’t abandon her interests based on her new found attention. In fact, she just includes them in her interests. It is very funny to see these boys get involved with her obsession – tagging along with her to events such as comiket. The most thing is that they do not seem to care about her interests. The interests seem secondary – the real care seems to be about gaining more of her attention. While her appearance is what calls them to her at first, it is really just her that causes them to stay.
Themes that come up are isolation, anxiety of being accepted, fear of failure, regret over past decisions – these are all from the boys. Their lives are the ones that need to be fixed, their attitudes are the ones in need of change – not Kae’s. It is a nice change of pace, when normally the main character would have some sort of story line about being confronted about their interests, or having their interests mocked. Not here, and it’s all the better for it. Sit down and enjoy the laughs in this one. Go read it.
Read Luke’s review of ‘A Silent Voice’