A new twist in the familiar shoujo drama, Kiss Him, Not Me (Watashi ga Motete Dousun da?) comes from an experienced mangaka in both serialized and fan comic boy’s love, Junko. In this latest work of hers, she graces the batches of the monthly shoujo publication Bessatsu Friend with a shift in focus from man-on-man romance to something that’s a little more slice of life comedy. Junko’s work has certainly attracted the attention of her female fanbase, as the manga placed fourth overall in the 2015 Kono Manga ga Sugoi! female readers survey. Kodansha Comics brings this work to English with relative newcomer to the field David Rhie providing the translation.
Meet Serinuma Kae, a high school second year and self-proclaimed fujoshi with an interest in only one thing: shipping boys with boys no matter who they may be. Kae’s fangirlish tendencies even go so far as to ship some of her own classmates, namely Igarashi Yuusuke and Nanashima Nozomu. Yet when the tragic death of her favorite anime character sends her into a moodswing-induced fugue state, much to her own surprise the previously overweight Kae emerges as a slender, stunning beauty. While on the one hand having a slimmer figure catches the attention of the soccer team and gives Kae an impetus to focus more on athletics and other things, there’s a much bigger problem looming over Kae’s sudden makeover. Now Igarashi, Nanashima, a bratty first year called Shinomiya Hayato, and Kae’s upperclassman friend from the History club, Mutsumi Asuma have all set their sights on making Kae their girlfriend. Kae’s flattered by their attention, of course, but now she’s faced with the challenge of keeping them from finding all of her dirty fangirl secrets. Plus wouldn’t it be better if they just hooked up with each other instead?
In its upbeat and unique twist on the usual shoujo romance tropes, Kiss Him, Not Me presents a delightful new story which pays homage to its fangirl roots. The manga isn’t afraid of poking fun at its own silly plot twists like Kae’s magical transformation, but does so in a way that remains honest and true to its characters. What’s more is that even though Kae’s tempted at first to hide her true nature in the face of the sudden attention she’s getting from four different guys, the story itself doesn’t shame her or her interests. Instead, the boys are open and accepting, each of them taking a unique interest in Kae for their own reasons. Though the conceit of Kae not catching their eye until she’s had a physical transformation is somewhat disheartening because of the emphasis it places on Kae being attractive to get attention, as the story develops it becomes clear that each boy is interested in Kae for more than just her looks alone.
David Rhie should also be commended for the work done in his translation of this manga. Working with a title that delves so deeply into a nuanced subsection of Japanese otaku culture, Rhie rises to the challenge in providing extensive translators notes that help readers understand just what sort of context Kae is coming from as she wrestles with bringing her private life to the fore. His translations of fandom terms are spot on and he keeps each character’s voice strong, which helps to drive the manga’s playful story forward.
For fangirls and fanboys alike who might want a peek into the world of a Japanese fangirl, Kiss Him, Not Me gives a playful spin on how fandom functions in a different culture. What’s more, it’s a bold breath of fresh air in the shoujo genre, giving us a female protagonist who’s not afraid of embracing her own guilty pleasures.