Kae Serinuma has never had boys chasing after her before, but after a dramatic event drastically changes her appearance, she finds herself being pursued by four of them.

Kae Serinuma is a huge otaku and a fujoshi, or a girl who likes to read manga about male homosexual relationships. She’s overweight and not particularly attractive, but one day after her husbando from her favorite anime dies, she suffers a period of severe anxiety and loses quite a bit of weight. Suddenly, she is very attractive and several boys in her class fall in love with her. There’s just one problem: she can’t stop thinking about pairing up her suitors not with herself but with each other!

Fans of shoujo or romantic comedies in general will likely enjoy the comedic hijinks of Kae and her harem of guys.

Kiss Him, Not Me! is one of the more strange and surprisingly entertaining releases this month. The story follows Kae Serinuma and her ironic romantic exploits in the sense that romance comes to her when she really wants it to come to others, or more specifically, for the guys who are interested in her to be interested in each other.

I was torn slightly over the premise, and still am despite for slightly different reasons. Initially I thought it could set up for an amusing and unique romantic comedy but could also turn out to be a more trashy shoujo. Fortunately this was proven wrong, as the concept is handled well. Kae knows each of these four boys at least tangentially before undergoing her transformation, and having them all ask her out at the same time in front of each other avoided any sort of American soap-opera two-timing story. That being said, I wasn’t particularly fond of the body shaming problem Kae had (her brother made fun of her weight, for crying out loud, and the story just swept it under the rug), and I think that the concept came off as slightly demeaning at first in an attempt to quickly move past the premise and into the general story.

I would hardly call that a major problem however as it doesn’t really affect much beyond the initial chapters. Kae’s otaku-ness and interest in boys love (BL) manga is handled very quickly in the story and didn’t bog down the reverse harem for long. In fact, the four boys are surprisingly understanding about Kae’s ‘interests’, and it doesn’t seem to deter them much. It’s hard to say exactly where the romance plot is headed this early, but most of the major threats to comedy seem to have been deftly dodged thus far.

It is most definitely a nice change in pace to have a shoujo (or really any demographic) manga brought west officially that features a reverse harem, and the four boys all going after Kae seem to be established as relatively distinct characters considering the short amount of time the story has had to introduce them thus far. We have the nice guy, the rude tsundere-ish guy, the underclassman, and the smooth yet seemingly air-headed upperclassman, and they each seem to get their own individual times to shine. Of course, it’s not like any one of them is allowed by the others to have much alone time with Kae, but the chaos from the conflicting personalities adds much humor. I also enjoyed the character designs, as each primary harem member (including, of course, the female lead) has an aesthetically pleasing and unique design that accentuates their personality and helps myself and other readers differentiate the characters early on.

Although the conflict between the members of the harem chasing after Kae are amusing in and of themselves, the most funny bits of comedy are often Kae’s reactions to her supposed romantic interests. As a BL fan, she struggles to keep the idea of ‘shipping’ members of her harem together from entering her mind, and is unsuccessful in part due to the way the guys interact with each other and primarily because she can’t help herself regardless. While at this point it is hard to say if she will actually develop romantic feelings for one or more of them (which is probably likely, I would think), the way she does view them is often hysterical.

Essentially, Kiss Him, Not Me!’s first volume had every right to be a terrible over-dramatic and sleazy romantic comedy, but it wasn’t. I genuinely found the interactions between the males and the way they were perceived by Kae to be entertaining, and many of the potential pitfalls in the narrative were avoided. That being said, there are moments that are slightly awkward for readers, and I can’t say with certainty whether or not the series will continue to move in a great direction, but if anything I have said so far has sounded interesting to you then it is probably worth your time to give this one a shot.

What do our scores mean?

Kiss Him, Not Me! Volume 1 was published in English by Kodansha Comics USA on October 13th, 2015. The series has been originally serialized by Kodansha in their Bessatsu Friend magazine since 2013, and is also distributed for online simulpublication by Crunchyroll.

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*Copy provided for Taykobon by publisher.
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