What’s it about? Kae is an overweight fujoshi, who receives neutral treatment at best from the boys in her class, who she secretly ships from a distance. This all changes when she suddenly loses weight and becomes extremely popular – but she would rather see these boys kiss each other than her!
Kiss Him, Not Me is fundamentally a comedy about how awful people can be to each other. Kae creeps over the boys in her class, who ignore or insult her until she shows up thin. Kae and her fellow fujoshi friend A-chan feel like people they date would end it instantly if they find out about their otaku interests. These teenagers are shallow, selfish and socially awkward – in some ways, it’s one of the more realistic representations of high schoolers in anime.
People being awful to each other can yield smart, subversive comedy. (See also: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.) Part of the message of this anime is “girls can be gross too”, with Kae and A-chan assigning hot boys in their class with a number, framing them as archetypes and arguing over who would be on top in bed. It’s a throwback reference to the numbers-led Gundam Wing fandom, now over 20 years old; girls have always been as gross as boys, but it’s not an angle many anime have put front and centre in their protagonist, let alone in a high school harem romance. Given the current boom in fujoshi-targeted anime being created, if this proves popular we could see more fujoshi protagonists adding diversity to the existing set of narrow scripts for the role of female protagonists in romance comedies.
That said, this currently looks like a one-joke show, and time will tell whether that joke will be strong enough or expanded on sufficiently to carry it for a full season. “Girls objectify boys too” isn’t the most progressive message out there, and neither is “It’s okay if some boys only like you when you’re thin!” Fat Kae is presented as a joke herself, from her looks to her voice to her voyeuristic creepiness, which is a troubling representation of fat people and a well I hope they don’t go back to.
Then there is the unhealthy message that not eating for a week will make your cruel classmates accept you. This kind of shortcut to popularity is a typical high schooler’s fantasy, but in an anime which seems to be heading to a message of self-acceptance of one’s unconventional interests, I hope it will extend that same message to looks. If Kae put on all that weight again most of those boys would cut ties instantly, and that needs to be addressed at some point (or the boys need to develop real feelings and learn a lesson about books, covers and judgement).
So there are seeds here for trope subversion and otome game satire, but given the handling of the first episode it could go either way. As someone who hates objectification of any kind it was an uncomfortable watch for me at times, and I imagine it would be uncomfortable for any viewers who haven’t before seen this kind of blunt objectification of male characters. However, I assume that is part of the point; this isn’t supposed to be an easy watch for anyone but fujoshi, who are already in on the joke and quite comfortable poking fun at themselves (see also: Gakuen Handsome). For the rest of us, this stands to be a challenging comedy series taking ugly swipes at the high school romcom status quo.