by Daley Wilhelm
I remember sometime in high school running across a few pages of a manga and being instantly delighted. It was a hilarious, reverse harem situation, and the girl at the center of five handsome high schoolers’ attention was someone I could identify with at the time: a fujoshi and otaku.
Readers might be familiar with the word otaku, a Japanese word used to describe nerds, especially avid fans of anime or manga. This word is often reserved for extreme cases, for people who live and breathe anime and nothing else. Fujoshi is more specific, literally translating to “rotten girl,” a term given to female otaku who are fans of yaoi, boys love or generally really like to see two male characters “getting along.” They are shippers, love gay romance and might even ship real life people, searching for homoerotic subtext in their every move.
The plot thickens by thinning
…her being overweight is a crisis- at least according to Japanese stereotypes of fat characters.
The main character of Watashi ga Motete Dousunda or Kiss Him, Not Me is a fujoshi; Kae Serinuma drools at the thought of two of her classmates bumping into each other. Her favorite anime series is her life.
Serinuma’s world changed when her favorite character died, prompting her to go into an overnight depression, which led to her transformative weekend fast. Formerly having been a chubby girl with a supremely annoying “fat girl” voice, two days of not eating miraculously left her skinny, gorgeous, with silky purple fading to lavender ombre hair, sparkling eyes that had once been hidden in fat, and a sweet voice.
If Serinuma being a fujoshi is an issue, then her being overweight is a crisis–at least according to Japanese stereotypes of fat characters. Japan has a very low obesity rate, which is both reflected in the lack of diverse body types in anime, and that fat characters are often reserved as jokes. They’re defined by a love of eating and a lack of detail beyond that. Going along with this, Serinuma was thought of as clumsy, annoying even, in her original, round form. She was meant to be laughed at. When she showed up at school in a much smaller size, people were suddenly willing to overlook her awkwardness.
Going along with the makeover trope, everyone at school suddenly noticed their newly beautified classmate and promptly fell in love with her. Despite my dislike of the cliché trope, I was excited to see where this premise would take the narrative. After all, Serinuma was still awkward and would have much rather seen her classmates fawning over each other than her.
At first, Serinuma seemed like a breath of fresh air in a genre rife with unoriginal, 2D girls that are somehow irresistible. An avid member of the history club, she worked in the school’s nurse’s office and wasn’t blinded by the charm of the boys who suddenly liked her. Initially she came across as charming, but it quickly became clear that this anime had no plan for character development. She was nice. She was a fujoshi. She was awkward, but only a little. That was about it.
This meant that the boys pursuing her were only marginally more interesting than one could expect from characters trapped in tropes. Despite this, their relationships with her had no context outside of “she’s pretty now.” Each boy pursuing her was a play-off of a tired trope: the popular soccer captain, the brash ruffian that was the captain’s friend, the effeminate underclassmen and the quiet but kind upperclassmen. The character who’s loved seemed the purest, genuine and not based on looks was Shima, the handsome, multitalented rich girl who also happened to be a fujoshi.
One of the aspects I was happy about with Kiss Him, Not Me was that Shima was not dissmissed as a joke character, as all too often happens when an anime features a same sex love interest. Breaking from this trope, Kiss Him, Not Me assured viewers that Shima was just as likely to win Serinuma’s heart as much as the rest of the boys, and in turn the other boys considered her serious competition.
The fact that you’re pretty is the plot
…despite a glaring overuse of the ‘Oh no! I accidentally fell face first into your chest!’ gag, the show was funny.
Despite the issues with character development, the character designs are gorgeous. Kiss Him, Not Me has a distinctive style. Everyone has ombre hair, regardless of unnatural hair colors or not, and each character’s eyes have three different colors sparkling in their depths. Just like Serinuma, the anime is pretty, which makes it attractive… on the surface.
I have to give this anime credit for being self-aware. They quickly addressed the issue of Serinuma’s potential love interests’ being shallow and only caring about her looks. After Valentine’s Day, Serinuma gained all her weight back, sending all but two characters into a panic. They’re desperate for her to lose weight, but Serinuma doesn’t seem phased. She doesn’t care that she gained the weight back, which I thought was a step in the right direction, but she also doesn’t call out her supposed friends for suddenly being concerned with her looks. To their credit, the quiet upperclassman Musumi doesn’t seem to notice what Serinuma looks like at any time, and Shima called out the soccer captain, Igarashi, for caring so much about his crush’s figure. Unlike our protagonist, Igarashi grew as a character from then on.
This example was the only main conflict of a 12 episode season. I was expecting this anime to be gag-heavy, but the show came to rely on gags almost entirely. However, despite a glaring overuse of the, “Oh no! I accidentally fell face first into your chest!” gag, the show was funny. The awkward group dates were hilarious, and Serinuma never failed to cause something zany to happen. Admittedly, plot could be communicated through those gags. In fun, but filler-esque episodes, some of the characters addressed problems about themselves, all while Serinuma demonstrated herself to be a dedicated fujoshi and a fairly good friend; that was her entire character after all. The only conflict that wasn’t instantly resolved came in the last three episodes.
The final arc was what I had wanted from the show. It was surprising, subverted tropes while playing on them and explored characters that usually remain in the background. It seemed like the logical next step to the plot, which had been put on hold since episode four, it seemed. Each character got their intimate, introspective moment and the chance to prove to their crush that they were more than just stereotypes.
What I did admire about Kiss Him, Not Me was that there was and remains no clear winner of Serinuma’s heart. Each love interest has their own merits, and therefore their own unique relationship with Serinuma. Some of those relationships remain shallow now, but it’s clear there’s intended room for growth in coming seasons.
Kiss Him, Not Me promises a lot in it’s interesting, yet unexplored premise. When it comes to character development, it doesn’t live up to those promises. Much like the show itself, the characters are flat, but lovable. Instead of the conflict surrounding Serinuma being a fujoshi being the primary issue, I couldn’t get away from Japan’s unkind stereotypes of people not considered to be skinny. This anime was a lot like it’s animation style, pretty and fun, but lacking substance. However, I feel like it could redeem itself in a second season.
All Images From: Anime Fantastica and Kiss Him, Not Me
Kiss Him, Not Me
-Reliance on gags
Ryan is a Music Media Production major who wrote the first ever Byte music review and has been involved with nearly every other section at some point. He is also an event planner at Village Green Records and the primary booking coordinator for the store’s outdoor concerts.