Kiss Him, Not Me! Volume 5
As if having four guys and a girl after Kae wasn’t enough, in Kiss Him, Not Me! volume 5, we meet the older brother of strong-and-silent Mutsumi. He’s a student teacher in the kids’ school, and he decides he’s interested in Kae as well, although there’s a strong implication that it may be just to annoy his brother, or that he enjoys manipulation.
First, though, the gang goes on a treasure hunt based on a map found in the history club room. A cave gives plenty of excuse for deep emotional reveals, and oddly, although he’s one of the four rivals, Mutsumi doesn’t understand his feelings for Kae until other people assume them for him. That is, them asking him if he thinks she’s his special someone gives him the idea that she might be. Be careful what you ask people — it might start something you don’t want to begin!
The art’s not exceptional. In the cave, most of the dangers and darkness are suggested instead of shown. There are a lot of facial closeups, and the emotional beats are covered in the text, since it wouldn’t be clear from art alone. The appeal here comes from the character interaction and goofy situations they’re put in, such as a key showdown conducted through playing an obscure battle card game. Kae knows how to play and is rooting them on, while everyone else is thinking “I don’t really get what’s going on.”
This focus on Mutsumi — most of the book is related to him in one way or another — does a great job fleshing out his character after we got more insight into Nanashima and Shinomiya in the previous book. Thank goodness for the character list at the beginning of the volume. It’s hard enough to keep the four guys straight. The first three books were mostly gag-based, but now, as the series gains length, the characters are getting more depth.