By Roxy Simons.
Kae Serinuma is a fujoshi, a type of fangirl who is obsessed with Boys-Love products, and looks for it in real life wherever she goes. Heavy-set and kind-hearted, Kae is happy to stay on the side-lines while she pairs her attractive male colleagues together in her mind. Because of this she’s not one to stand out, so after staying in her room for a week when her favourite anime character dies she’s surprised when that she grabs people’s attention at school.
She’s lost a lot of weight during her time off, and her sudden change in appearance amazes everyone, especially her handsome classmates Yusuke Igarashi, Nozomu Nanashima, Hayato Shinomiya, and Asuma Mutsumi. They immediately pine for her, but she wants them to date each other, how is she going to get through this dilemma?
Based on “Junko’s” rom-com manga, and presented as a 12-part series, Kiss Him, Not Me is focused on the charm and appeal of fujoshi culture. A self-deprecating term that literally means ‘rotten girl’, fujoshi like Kae are predominantly interested in male romantic and homoerotic relationships. They are defined by their extremely active imaginations, turning any situation between attractive men into a love scene. The catalyst doesn’t have to be big for a fujoshi to see it as romantic, whether it’s two men showing concern for each other’s health or one apologising on behalf of another, for these women the phrase “where there’s a will there is a way” could not be more apt.
Boy’s Love (BL) fandom first appeared in Japan in the 1970s, when manga provided a safe space for women to explore sexual identities free from gendered hierarchies and the expectations of a heteronormative society. It also served as the spark for the dojinshi (fanzine) industry. For most of its existence, BL received relatively little attention from the commercial market. But, in 1991, such narratives began to emerge in the mainstream through anime, manga, films, and other media, probably because of the large – and at that point mostly untapped – female market. Despite its appeal as a pop culture commodity thanks to series like Fujoshi Girlfriend and My Neighbour Yaoi-chan, though, fujoshi found they were often criticised for their resistance to the mainstream.
Because of their rejection of what was ‘expected’ of women, fujoshi have often been stigmatised in a similar way to their male otaku counterparts. This marginalisation has generally led fujoshi to conceal their fannishness, so they only open up when around others of their tribe. In Kiss Him, Not Me Kae’s, friend Amane Nakano keeps her love of BL from her boyfriend so he doesn’t break up with her. However, Kae does openly share her interests with her classmates, in stark contrast to this idea. Luckily, they, for the most part, are happy to accept her way of life.
Even with the increase in representation in the media, fujoshi are aware of how they are perceived by others. Whether it’s being labelled as unintelligible or criticised for their extreme desires, fujoshi are perfectly happy to take this in their stride and wear such opprobrium as a badge of honour. They use self-deprecating humour to fight back, and this can also be seen in Kiss Him, Not Me. One of the show’s strengths is in its ability to make fun of itself, as one particularly hilarious episode sees Kae and Nishina fight over who is the Uke (top) or Seme (bottom) in their new favourite anime pairing. As their argument escalates, an image of a kitten is presented on screen with the words “this scene is unsightly” written across the top. The scene showcases the extremes of fujoshi culture in a fun and approachable way. Creating a light-hearted atmosphere that is prevalent throughout, it’s this humour, and its relatability, that truly makes the show such a great watch.
Kiss Him, Not Me is released in the UK by Anime Limited.