Kiss Him, Not Me (aka Watashi ga Motete Dousunda in Japanese), a manga about an overweight fujoshi who suddenly finds herself with a harem of handsome classmates after losing weight, recently concluded in Japan. For those who might have been alarmed by the seeming shallowness of the initial premise, I believe this series to be worth a second look. Instead of a series centered on fat-shaming and mocking female anime fans, Kiss Him, Not Me is thoughtful, intelligent, and emphasizes the importance of self-image, all while remaining delightfully humorous.
I can definitely see why readers might have been worried at first, because I was as well. It’s true that most of protagonist Serinuma Kae’s suitors initially are drawn to her due to her dramatic “makeover”—the result of her favorite character’s death causing her to not eat. The apparent shallowness and lack of concern over how the series might interact with perception of eating disorders made me wary, but as the series went on, I found that it addressed my criticisms almost without fail.
While many of her suitors are taken in by her dynamite body, one in particular is an exception. Most of them initially cannot recognize Kae post-weight loss, but it’s her senior in the history club, Mutsumi, who immediately knows who she is—as if Mutsumi had been viewing her as a human being all along. Eventually, all the other guys understand that it’s her personality that makes Kae beautiful, but Mutsumi’s presence is the first sign that body positivity is an underlying message in the manga.
Throughout the series, Kae’s weight yo-yos for humorous effect, showing that it’s just as easy for her to regain all her weight as it is for her to slim down. This might make it seem like Kiss Him, Not Me is either dealing in weight gain/weight loss fetishism, or emphasizes a certain body type as being “authentic,” but there’s even a plot point dealing with that subject. When a new character claims the old, chubby version is the “real Kae,” it’s an opportunity for the manga to tell a story about the perils of tying identity to appearance.
In general, Kiss Him, Not Me shows that it puts more consideration into its themes than one might expect at first glance. I don’t intend to spoil the ending, but I will say that the series stays strong even as it concludes. The finale feels a bit rushed (as if the series needed to wrap up sooner or later), but it’s not nearly enough of a blemish to ruin all of the positives and positivity this manga offers.