Curiosity is something which can move the entire humanity forward or lead to harm both intended or accidental. In the case of Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro, it’s mostly the latter so far. It brings back painful memories of my own past that are better long-forgotten.
“… an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.” — a definition of bullying by Australian National Centre Against Bullying. To a certain degree, this definition also applies to Nagatoro herself.
Senpai is a shy, introverted loner who tries to avoid social interactions and live his own life in peace. The only things he needs are his art and manga. One fateful day, his dreams are shattered by his sadistic underclassman Nagatoro in a school library, and then on his way home, and in an art club room, and…
Teasing is very often a sign of inner misery. (Christopher Hitchens)
It’s safe to say Nagatoro’s teasing is borderline bullying or psychological abuse, despite those not being her intentions. Not only does their first encounter result in Senpai crying because of her, but later that day he’s unable to fall asleep, constantly hearing her laughter. Things spiral out of control at the end of the first episode, where her light push causes Senpai to fall in a gutter drenched from tip to toe. Though Nagatoro does apologize for messing up and taking things too far with him earlier, this moment is probably the first time she realizes the gravity of her actions. Up until this point, the viewer is left in the dark, why Senpai tolerates her behaviour, but after she asks, “Don’t you ever get mad?”, we get some desperately needed backstory.
For Senpai, things were always like this. From an early age, he’s been bullied and his weak physique didn’t allow him to fight back. The only other option is to turtle — look away, don’t react, hope they’ll get bored as they don’t get the right reaction they wished for. This nonaggressive behaviour became second nature for Senpai, resulting in his avoidance of social interactions. Despite all of that, he still can’t directly say it to Nagatoro. He might be turtling again or was captivated by Nagatoro’s cuteness in the short moments when she showed signs of remorse, but ends up saying that he doesn’t mind her doing that, if it’s her.
A man might engage in flirtation with disinterest, even disdain. But he never teases without affection. (Tessa Dare)
As the story progresses with the second episode, we get a small glimpse of what Nagatoro might actually be like. It’s clear as day that she has a crush on her Senpai. After a few encounters with Nagatoro, Senpai is desperately looking for some quiet place to work on his manga. He goes to his favourite family restaurant, far away from school in a hope to find some peace — a very short lived one.
It all ends when Nagatoro enters the restaurant. He quickly hides and, out of morbid curiosity, watches how things unfold. Nagatoro is there with her friend Sakura together with two male classmates who, one after another, try their best to make a move onto Nagatoro. Senpai is fully prepared to see both boys be utterly humiliated and run away with tears only to be surprised how cold-bloodedly she rejects them — no teasing involved. Although he’s terrified by the idea that he might be the only one who’s getting Nagatoro’s special attention, he also shows a hint of relief.
Finally, the third episode is the breaking point when Senpai loses without Nagatoro even trying. Her teasing got to the point where he’s expecting it at all times, which results in him accidentally seeing Nagatoro’s underwear. Her embarrassed reaction almost humanizes her, despite downplaying it as Senpai being perverted.
I could go on and on with the examples from the first three episodes, but you probably got the idea of what Nagatoro is all about. For somebody with personal bullying experience, this series is uncomfortable and sometimes painful to watch as it forcefully reminds you what might have already been hidden deep within your memories. I don’t even know why I started this show; maybe out of the same morbid curiosity mixed with a little bit of masochism.
I’ve heard the teasing is mellowed down as the story progresses, but it’ll still be a factor regardless. For that reason, it’s definitely not for everyone, especially if you cannot see past Nagatoro’s actions. I cannot find any single example of her teasing Senpai with any malice, though. I totally agree that she takes things too far, but for her it seems like this is the only way she can show affection. You can see the anticipation mixed with embarrassment when she teases him to touch or look at her. When Nagatoro jokes in front of her friends about Senpai being her boyfriend, you can feel the disappointment when he says that he’s not. She’s genuinely interested in him as a person, a prime example being the already mentioned question: “Don’t you ever get mad?”.
What I have to credit this show for is its beautiful art. When character facial expressions are the focal point of the show, they need to look stellar, and Nagatoro makes those moments count. I admire the art direction across the board. For example, the whole scene in the family restaurant is a vessel to show how important Senpai is to Nagatoro, and the two classmates represent that revelation — they aren’t as important, so they are drawn without faces.
Despite this show’s many problems, I think it’s still worth watching. People online compare Nagatoro to Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! or Teasing Master Takagi-san as they share similar premises. I haven’t seen either of them, so I cannot confirm nor deny these claims, but if you liked one of these, give Nagatoro a chance and see for yourself.
DON’T TOY WITH ME, MISS NAGATORO
Based on: Manga series written and illustrated by Nanashi
Produced by: Telecom Animation Film (Tower of God, Orange)
Streaming on: Crunchyroll
Episodes watched: 3
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This article was brought to you by Stínolez — gamer, anime lover & so-called writer. Check my other stuff here or follow me on Twitter. As always, I’d like to thank TheMamaLuigi for his editing, check out his stuff here.
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