Kiss Him, Not Me! Volume 1
It’s such a pleasure to try a manga series you know nothing about and have it turn out to be hilarious! Kiss Him, Not Me! is silly but amusing, making fun of both shojo cliches and fandom. The author Junko knows the subject well, since her other works are boys’ love titles, and she talks in an end note about being an otaku.
Serinuma is a chubby yaoi fangirl who spends her time at school shipping her male classmates. She’s friends with four hot guys, but she’s content just to watch them go about their day. Then her favorite character in her favorite anime is killed, and she spends a week in bed mourning. When she finally emerges, she’s lost enough weight to have become a cute girl.
(Others have expressed concern about this weight-loss plotline, but it’s done so ridiculously, with her best friend not recognizing her and her thinking a mirror is a poster of someone else, that it’s clearly exaggerated for humor. Plus, this is a girl-centered fantasy about being someone who is liked for herself, no matter how uncool her interests seem. I like this.)
Now, the guys want to get close to her and are competing to ask her out — everyone in this series is somewhat shallow and motivated by visuals — but her tastes haven’t changed. She thinks of the situation as a real-life otome (dating simulation) game, which reminded me of a much more light-hearted version of No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, only Serinuma is a lot less pathetic.
She pretends to be what she thinks the guys want, but she can’t help her fandom popping out, which makes her sympathetic and likable. The guys are ok with this because they’re too busy competing with each other, which is also funny. The chapters feature basic manga plots: working hard to win a soccer game, being nervous on a first date, or studying to avoid failing a class. That last one, though, also involves Serinuma being concerned over what her guests will think of her room, her family, and her collection.
The message, about not being afraid to be who you are and like what you like, is a reassuring one. I also appreciated the translation notes, which went beyond word meanings to talk about fandom behaviors. Weirdly, though, sometimes they referenced the wrong page numbers.
You can read the first chapter online at the publisher’s website. (The publisher provided a review copy.)