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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.