Nil Admirari no Tenbin – 03 – Tsugumi’s First Suitor is a Book Burner

After Tsugumi spoils the lads with breakfast of a quality far higher than they get at the cheap restaurant down the street (and they all ask her to sing for them more), they go on their daily patrol…which the show skips entirely, probably because it knows it’s boring. Not to mention, it seem like having four people in a patrol is an awful lot, unless you expect a lot trouble every time, which seems paranoid.

And yet, even with four, they’re unable to stop a suspected cursed tome from being burned in a nighttime incident in which the thugs get away. Tsugumi can tell the book isn’t cursed, and meets its owner, doctor (and dreamboat)-in-training Sagisawa Rui, who comes out of left field to be her first (un-)official suitor of her new partoling-librarian life.

After Fukurou is assigned a police liason, Tsugumi hits the town on her own, visiting the flirty shopkeep who rudely propositions her once again despite the fact she has no interest (though his weird fluffy pet Perry is a hell of an icebreaker). Hey guy, maybe tone it down a bit!

She bumps into Sagisawa again, who is delivering his homemade kaleidoscopes for the shopkeep to sell, because in addition to being a sweet young doctor-in-training he also creates kaleidoscopes, which let you “look at the world in a different way”. Ack!

Oh and a guy with an actual cursed tome runs past, and before Fukurou can chase him down he ends up splatted by a subway car. Again, for a four-man patrol they’re sure aren’t very good at catching people they want to catch!

Furthermore, what could have been an opportunity to test Tsugumi’s toughness in the face of blood and death was squandered. Why present such a gruesome death as part of her job, then not have the MC react to it at all?

They suspect the book has been made cursed intentionally by a group they’re simply calling “Karasu” due to the crow feathers they leave behind as a calling card. That group is in opposition to Kagutsuchi, a group that seeks to find and destroy (rather than purify) all cursed tomes…and if a couple of uncursed tomes get burned, so be it.

Sagisawa Rui invites Tsugumi to a more intimate rendezvous in the park where he gifts her a kaleidoscope, and then gets into a rather unsubtle debate about whether to preserve or burn cursed tomes that betrays his beliefs on the matter to be in opposition to Tsugumi’s.

That night the police liasion informs Fukurou that Kagutsuchi is meeting on the eighth floor of a building in Ginza…but the building only appears to have six floors, not including the roof! Huh…

Anyway the leader of Kagutsuchi turns out to be Sagisawa. Why he put on that whole performance to Tsugumi before with the burning non-cursed book or the kaleidoscopes, I have no idea, but in the end the first lad who seemed to be a nice fit for her turns out to be a bad guy, at least from Tsugumi’s book-loving perspective.

After she declines his offer to join Kagutsuchi, he burns the tome in front of her and then leaps out the window, which would have been cool if we didn’t see him land on a tablecloth his henchman stretched out for him. For some reason that seemed really lame and caused me to laugh out loud.

So yeah, Tsugumi’s job seems pretty boring and tedious and full of unwanted passes by men…until it’s suddenly not, and even then gets rather silly because as I said, hot pursuit is not Fukurou’s forte. Maybe lose those bulky overwrought uniforms and…I dunno, run faster?

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Nil Admirari no Tenbin – Teito Genwaku Kitan – 02 – Welcome to Fukurou

NAT continues to be watchable if unexceptional in its second episode, which is largely an introduction to Fukurou’s facilities and the attractive yet often eccentric men who live and/or work there.

They include a former houseboy of the Kuze family with whom Tsugumi is acquainted, a mask-wearing researcher, and an odd-eyed kid who likes to hang out up in trees. She also sees the repository of cursed tomes, which is, from her perspective, lit up like Christmas from the various auras.

Tsugumi is also shown her own apartment, a first for her, and is also chatted up in the alley by someone who turns out to be her brother’s favorite author, Migawa Shizuru, who lives at Fukurou.

He joins Tokimiya, Hayato, Akira, and Hisui for a welcome banquet of sushi, and immediately Hayato and Shizuru start making preparations to stake their claim on the right to woo the newbie, with Hisui in the middle trying to keep things calm.

The next day Tsugumi heads out for her first patrol with Hayato, Akira, and Hisui, donning her Fukurou uniform which features a skirt of a short length she’s not used to. She’s also not used to walking beside unmarried men, and so almost instinctively keeps her distance.

They visit bookstore after bookstore, but none of the old Japanese-style books they encounter has any aura, which disappoints Tsugumi, who hoped to make more of an immediate difference.

One bookstore tender even calls her “another useless good-for-nothing,” while another asks if she wants to be his lover “or sweetheart”, to which she states, for the record, she’s not interested in men or marriage at the moment. (She also meets the living stuffed animal Perry, whose reason for existing other than being the show’s mascot escapes me).

At one bookstore run by a particularly panicky and paranoid owner, Tsugumi’s failure to find a cursed tome actually makes the poor guy’s year, and Hayato points out to her that doing her job isn’t just about finding books, but putting people at ease when they learn they’re not in possession of them. So it was a good day’s work.

Nil Admirari no Tenbin – Teito Genwaku Kitan – 01 – A Cursed Tome Frees a Caged Bird (First Impressions)

The intense first cold open of Nil Admirari no Tenbin, depicting people committing suicide while cops chase down a guy with a book, did not impress me as much as the opening sequence, with its catchy club beat and stage show extravaganza milieu.

I have a soft spot for OPs and EDs in which the cast “puts on a show” (see also Soremachi and the ending of Kekkai Sensen’s first season). But I’ll admit I also worried this was one of those shows whose OP writes checks the show itself can’t cash (DRAMAtical Murder’s Goatbed-led OP was outstanding; the show was a snooze).

Fortunately, after getting pumped up by the OP, I wasn’t let down by the briskly moving story centered on Kuze Tsugumi, the eldest daughter in an aristocratic Taishou Era family in dire financial straits. Tsugumi has known for a while that in order to save her family she must marry whomever her father can scrounge up. Her little brother Hitaki echoes the suppressed voice in her head saying “what about what you want?”

Tsugumi is short with Hitaki, whom she admits she’s spoiled too much anyway, but when she returns from town with olive branches including a new book and eclairs, she and the family butler find him doused in oil, lighting himself on fire while holding a book.

Fortunately, Hitaki isn’t killed, but his burns require isolation to heal (considering the era, I’m somewhat surprised he survived). Tsugumi and her butler are approached by two hotties in unusual uniforms, which is because the’re from an unusual bureau:  the Imperial Library Intelligence Asset Management Bureau, or simply Fukurou (though I personally kinda like “ILIAMB”.

The men from Fukurou explain that Tsugumi’s brother likely fell victim to a “cursed tome”, a handwritten Japanese-style book containing the emotions—in this case suicidal-by-fire—of its author. When the butler brings the men the book Hitaki was holding when he self-immolated, Tsugumi is shocked to find it has flames emanating from it…but no one else can see them.

The more forward of the two guys, Ozaki Hayato, tells Tsugumi that she’s one of a very rare number of people who can see the “auras” around cursed books, and begs her to join Fukurou right then and there. After the incident with Hitaki her father postpones her marriage, so Tsugumi decides to take the job, essentially being freed from the birdcage of her destiny by cursed tome that nearly killed her brother. She also aims to help stop further incidents form occurring to others.

As the sultry parade-of-shirtless-dudes ED suggests, Tsugumi is not only pivoting from family bargaining chip to empowered modern working woman—an interesting premise in and of itself—but is also an unmarried woman joining a bureau staffed by mostly unmarried men. So we’ve got ourselves an otome anime with a reverse harem. I’m willing to see where this goes for the time being.

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 06

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This week’s WagaMoDo explores one of the pitfalls of fujoshi friendships: what happens when they develop opposing views on which guy in a new anime is on the left side of the shipping “x” and which guy is on the right. Kae is adamant that it’s Lord x Akane; Shina the opposite.

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Once the guys figure out what the heck the girls are actually on about, they set to work trying to mend fences. Igarashi in particular tries to counsel Shina on the error of her ways, but both girls remain ruthlessly stubborn, finally entering into a fan-fiction writing duel that Shina will likely win with her superior writing experience.

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Shina is so caught up in her “justice” that by the time she’s loudly gloating her (surprisingly narrow) victory, Kae is on her hands and knees on the roof, sobbing her eyes out, still not willing to concede Shina’s right. That’s when Iga brings the hammer down: Shina, who claims to love only what is beautiful, has done something ugly…and she knows it.

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We get a lot of Shina’s backstory, from when her talents were shrugged off as a product of her family’s wealth and status, to her need to “find a place for herself” in the world, to her interactions with Kae, whom she always thought was beautiful.

Reminiscing on the events that led to her friendship to Kae, Shina soon realizes she must make amends. Enter Iga once more, giving up Kae’s whereabouts when she won’t answer Shina’s call. Shina arrives just as Kae is also coming around to realizing that she doesn’t want her friendship with Shina to end just because of a relatively petty squabble.

They both compromise, stating Akane and his Lord to be “versatile.” A great episode that deepens our understanding of Shina and presents a very realistic situation in which something small and seemingly innocuous can turn into something big and destructive, but the two girls’ friends never stopped trying not to force them back together, but get them to see for themselves that together is where they belong.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 05

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This week Kae quickly gains a lot of weight and puts her gang of boys on the spot about why they stay with her. It’s an episode that tries to have its failed Valentine’s chocolate and eat it too, and it almost worked.

First, I like the idea that Shina, whom we don’t know that well, may have actually planned to fatten Kae back up, even if it’s never explicit that’s the case. All we know is, she wan’t entirely joking in drawing a line in the sand between her and the guys for Kae’s heart. She likes Kae, and not simply because she’s thin.

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When Kae shows up at school back to her original self, the guys’ reactions are predictable: Nana and Shi don’t know what to do with themselves and what it to just be a bad dream, as they’re the shallowest and least adaptable of the guys. Kae’s weight has never been much of an issue with Asuma, but he barely makes an impression in the episode.

And while Kae is willing to train to lose weight back, Nana and Shi are overzealous and as a result she ends up overworked and exhausted, without any quick loss to show for it. That gets the protective Shina mad at them for having ulterior motives for her “re-self-improvement”, but she’s no saint herself, as she goes on record as saying she loves round cute things like Kae has become.

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I like then how neither Shina nor Nana are portrayed as right or wrong, only that they both need to think about what’s motivating their actions (their own desires), blinding them from what Kae might actually want herself.

It’s Igarashi who attains a certain level of growth this week, when after a whole day of being doted on by Shina, he takes Kae to the roof and her inner beauty of kindness and honesty is re-revealed to him. Regardless of Kae’s appearance, Igarashi is certain that he likes her.

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Where the episode kinda falls down is when Kae inevitably returns back to her rail-thin, magazine-gorgeous self by the end, returning things to the status quo. I liked how despite some very vigorous attempts by the guys, simply changing Kae back wasn’t as quick or easy as her regression-by-chocolate.

While Fat Kae really yuk-yuks it up with her exaggerated voice and movements, I still would have preferred a more gradual, less black-and-white transition that felt less “magic”. The first time she slimmed down, it was due to an extended fast. At least this time it was coming from a far more positive and healthy place, but it’s still rushed, moving us along without fully exploring the ramifications.

It makes me wonder if the show will bother with another “regression” to her original self, or if this has closed the matter of whether the guys will stick with her no matter what.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 04

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Because they all have the hots for her, the guys let Kae drive the itinerary for Christmas Eve, and because Kae is not your conventional young woman, that itinerary is similarly unconventional.

It also takes place at a convention center, but even that is unconventional because it’s Tokyo Big Sight, which to many looks like a conventional convention center flipped upside-down.

The plan is to attend Comiket, split up to buy everything on Kae’s list, and get out early enough to still have the “Cris-Pa” the guys want to have with Kae.

Only they sorely underestimate the popularity of Winter Comiket, and that the lengths required to get there and back take up most of the day and night. It takes six hours from the time they wake up just to get inside.

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Once there, however, the guys find that it’s not all bad. Even though Kae feels kinda bad she’s being so selfish, no one has a gun to the lads’ heads; they want to help her out, and also to make her stay there shorter so they can spend more time with her.

Not only that, but because all four guys are hot in their own ways, they attract quite a bit of attention from the female authors and artists, many of whom imagine (as Kae does) that they are BL couples, and swooning accordingly.

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Kae also experiences something at Comiket for the first time: a pushy creepy photog, snapping every angle of her against her wishes. She is eventually castigated, shamed and forced to apologize by an exceedingly debonair young man doing butler cosplay. Just as the guys arrive, late because they were lost, they see this butler all close and personal with their Kae, and they don’t like it.

In a nice nod to Kae’s years of “training” by going to these day-consuming things, the four guys are utterly spent by the end of it, and still not quite right the next morning at school. Kae on the other hand looks like she could sing karaoke all night, and seems, if anything, energized by the Comiket visit.

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Then she, and the guys, learn that the young butler who helped her wasn’t a guy, but a girl, and a student at their school: first-year Nishima Shina, voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki. Mind you, I knew she was a girl all along, because she’s in the OP as such, but the shock isn’t meant for us, it was meant for Kae and the guys.

And they are shocked. Kae, because she and Shina hit it off so quickly; the guys, because Shina swiftly and efficiently threatens to edge them out entirely, claiming Kae to herself by inviting her to her place. The guys invite themselves, and Shina doesn’t object…but like Comiket, they don’t know the magnitude of what they’re getting into.

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Shina is perfect. She’s perfect-looking, she does everything just about perfectly, and she’s obscenely wealthy, having not just a room but an entire wing devoted to her many hobbies, many of which are also Kae’s hobbies, only on steroids.

Kae quickly falls under Shina’s “spell”, and at times, all Shina has to offer, and how earnestly complimentary she is, the guys drop their guards one by one.

Shina is also the perfect otaku; someone for Kae to look up to, even though she’s the senpai here. The “small favor” Shina requested of the guys in exchange for letting them come over turns out to be a private BL photo shoot, which is of course heaven for Kae.

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The thing is, the guys are nervous and a little confused about what’s going on, so they’re not that great at posing. So Kae, who knows far more about the subject than they do, demonstrates the proper way to do it, using Shina as her partner. She gets so into it, she doesn’t realize she’s actually turning Shina on.

That’s right: Shina isn’t just competing for Kae’s time as a friend. She’s after her heart, like they are, and she won’t stand for them not taking her seriously. When Kae presents an opportunity by play-acting, Shina can’t help but pull her in for a long kiss.

Like the guys, Kae is initially confused. But it’s quite simple: her gang of four is now five, and while the guys have their various strengths and weaknesses, Shina is poised to outshine all of them with her perfection, wrapped in a feminine package Kae is much more comfortable with.

It will be interesting to see if this competition remains diplomatic, or if another, less perfect side of Shina comes out when provoked. Until then, Shina is an interesting new wrinkle in this milieu, and Sawashiro Miyuki brings her characteristic sultry wryness to the role.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 03

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R to L: Snow White, Eren Yeager, Shion

The Japanese government mandates that at least one episode of romantic comedies must be a cultural festival episode, but Kiss Him Not Me didn’t treat it like legal compliance; it put quite a bit of effort and its own wonderful brand of energy into it, making for twenty minutes of television that felt much longer, but had me wishing by the end it was longer still. All the positive aspects I mentioned in the first two eps apply here, and then some.

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This KHNM took its real life otome game theme to its natural next step: growing mutual resentment among the boys. The four of them are only together because they like Kae. Kae, a fujoshi, its perfectly content to keep things this way, but they aren’t. They want to court Kae properly, which means they need alone time with her (the last thing she wants).

It’s a great dynamic, and I’m glad it comes to a head so quickly in the series, and so organically, as a result of the give-and-take of the otome scenario. Kae formed a coalition so her class would vote for a cosplay cafe, and she gets to dress up all her boys the way she sees fit. But in exchange, she has to tacitly accept it when they set up time slots for alone time with her during the festival.

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To the show’s credit, despite her amazing physical transformation, Kae remains steadfastly Kae, even if she often manages to hide her baser instincts from the lads. She worries she won’t do well alone with guys, and then she goes and doesn’t do well alone with the guys. It’s the English title in a nutshell: She wants them to Kiss (or do other romantic things with) Him, not her.

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It doesn’t help that the guys are a little overeager. Nana backs her into a wall and they come close to a kiss, Mu achieves an indirect kiss through chopsticks; Iga takes her hand in his, then puts it on his knee; and Shi leaps into her arms in the haunted house, resulting in a fall and his face in her bosom.

It’s all just too much for Kae, who is completely un-inoculated against such romantic gestures. She rushes into the arms of her friend Akane, lamenting how impossible it all is. A-chan was initially amused that Kae had four dates with four hotties, but she’s quick to drop the ribbing and offer support when it turns out badly.

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But while A-chan is grabbing Kae a drink, Kae is accosted by three less-than-savory classmates, who make her guys’ aggressiveness seem coy by comparison. These guys aren’t even trying to be subtle: this girl’s hot and they’re going to get as much out of her as they can.

Then she gives one of them an uppercut, which both he and she thought was overreacting…but how the hell else is a girl supposed to act when there are hands all over her and a crotch in her face?

They chase her down the hall, but she’s rescued by Iga and Nana in the nick of time. Soon Mu and Shi are also there and the four locked in combat with the punks. Kae stops gawking and spluttering and yells, at the top of her lungs, “KNOCK IT OFF!” 

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Kae’s four guys hear her, and realize that and how they erred, and apologize, and all agree to take things slower so as not to overwhelm her again. Thus we return to the status quo, as expected, but it was a fun ride. The show didn’t want us to forget not just that these four guys really like Kae, and not just in a buddy-buddy way, but that when it comes down to it, they also don’t hate each other’s company.

When the time comes for the bonfire dance, the four agree to drop the romantic pursuits for the day and give Kae a little something for tolerating their forwardness (and the brawl, for which there was somehow no punishment). That something turns out to be another dream come true not just for fujoshi Kae, but her fujoshi BFF Akane: the four pair off and dance with each other.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 02

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After just two weeks, Kiss Him Not Me is shaping up to be my top Fall comedy (Euphonium is my top drama), as it manages to pack so much fun in its episodes. This week efficiently covers the sports underdog and study group scenarios with vigorous aplomb and a unique, contagiously feisty energy.

The members of Kae’s ‘he-rem’ are already very well-defined: Igarashi (Iga) is the friendly athlete; Mutsumi (Mu) is the kind, mature senpai; Shinomiya (Shi) is the smitten kohai; and Nanashima (Nana) is, well, so I liken him to the tsundere of the gang.

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I say this because of the four, Nana is least amenable to carrying around otaku tokens she gave them on their group date, and when she tries to translate her newfound ease of motion with a soccer gig, he’s the most skeptical. Mind you, he’s not far off base: As self-described “indoor person”, Kae soon finds out lighter isn’t stronger.

I’d also point out that for someone typically uncomfortable with anime, Nana picks up on Kae’s Captain Tsubasa reference about being friends with the ball, even getting combative about her arrogance (Tsubasa practiced 24/7). But when Nana hears the same girls who recruited Kae shitting on her disappointing showing in practice, he can’t help but rebuke them and help coach Kae up, a dedication that surprises the others.

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Everything is resolved with a big come-from-behind draw, (not win, mind you) when Kae decides to use her nigh-impossibly backwards kick to score the equalizer in extra time (managing not to hit herself in the face, showing improvement.)

While not a true victory, it demonstrated Kae’s dedication to trying hard at something totally new, as well as Nana’s willingness to prove Kae’s haters wrong and instill some soccer knowledge in a girl who suddenly makes his heart skip.

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With sports out of the way, the episode effortlessly moves on to exams. If Kae fails her next round, she’ll have to take summer classes, grenading her summer plans, all involving otaku events such as formally saying goodbye to her beloved Shion, who is as far as she’s concerned as real a person as any of the boys.

Studying is not Nana’s strength, and because first-year Shi studies at second-year level, the two are almost constantly at each other’s throats, getting the whole study group kicked out of all public venues. This leads Mu to suggest they all study at Kae’s house, requiring Kae to do a super-quick cleaning session (referring to her room as the “Sea of Rot”, perhaps referencing Nausicaa). 

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The otaku gags fly freely, from Kae’s Shion pillow and sheets and store cut-out, to the pristine shrine she keeps in her room. Kae’s mom embarrasses her by using a makeup gun, and Kae’s brother (who resembles the other main lead in Kae’s anime) tries to scare off the lads, but to no avail.

Even if they’re not to-a-man comfortable with her passion (like Mu), they are willing to keep open minds, and are rewarded by having a good time. Mu confidently mans the rudder of this stormy sea of otakuness, asking if everyone can pray at Shion shrine with her, pointedly asking Kae’s bro to beat it, and insisting everyone help Kae carefully pick up the BL stash that means so much to her. The result is, the study group works, and Kae avoids extra classes.

Her new challenge: Summer Vacation, already packed with otaku events, just got a lot more full, as her gang will surely want to supplement that stuff with their own preferred Summer activities, from going to the pool to exploring castles. Kiss Him Not Me offers an embarrassment of riches, and Kobayashi Yuu continues to do superb work voicing the multifaceted Kae.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: Serinuma Kae, a plus-sized fujoshi second-year high schooler, loves to pair off hot guys in her head. When her favorite anime character dies, she inadvertently loses a bunch of weight, becoming a stunning beauty who garners the persistent attention of four guys at her school. On a group date she tries intently to hide her “flaws”, but in the end they accept her for the otaku she is; as long as she’s happy, they’re happy.

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Why You Should Watch: While the Ugly Duckling trope is as old as time, WgMD (AKA Kiss Him, Not Me) freshens things up by making said duckling a closet otaku, then building a reverse harem around her, so quickly it makes her head spin.

And yet, as her friend Akane points out, Kae has always had a way with hot guys, even before she lose the weight, because while she can be privately creepy, she’s always been kind. She wants only what’s best for the guys, which she thinks is…each other.

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I enjoyed how peripheral the guys were; this is Kae’s show, and they’re in the dark for most of her inner conflicts and conversations with herself. Akane is a solid friend who suddenly finds herself no longer “the hot one” among them (though she already has a boyfriend, so it’s no biggie).

It’s also interesting to see how all four react to Kae compared to how they treated her when she was bigger. In particular, her senpai Mutsumi is the first to immediately recognize her post-transformation. He’d always been more attuned to Kae’s inner beauty and kindness.

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Why You Shouldn’t Watch: Stepping back a bit, Kae’s transformation strains credulity, and there don’t seem to be any consequences to, ya know, starving herself. While pre-weight loss Kae is treated relatively well by her peers there’s still the feeling she’s regarded by most as a lovable mascot-like figure. And while society is more or less works this way, it doesn’t exactly look great that these four guys only pursue Kae when she becomes slim and hot.

Those problems aside, this show could definitely just get repetitive, with Kae going through the romantic motions with guy after guy. We’ll see if she can have her otaku otome cake and eat it too. We’ll also see what will happen if (when?) she gains her weight back; after all, Shion can only die once (unless the show brings him back and kills him off again).

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Zane’s Verdict: WgMD takes what could have been a mess of trite gimmicks and executes a solid rom-com that’s more than the sum of its parts. Kobayashi Yuu excels at giving Kae a wide range of voices to suit her emotional state, and the guys differ enough in personality to provide some interesting dynamics down the road. It’s far from perfect, but it’s more than watchable, and for now I’m interested to see how things play out for Kae & Co.

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