ANIME REVIEW | "Nagatoro" A Delightful Rom-Com Tease
First there was Takagi-san, whose teasing brought Nishikata towards a heated prank competition. Then there was Uzaki-chan, who taunted Sakurai until he embraced a more extroverted life. But now there’s a new queen of badgering that’s graced the anime realm, in the form of a tanned kouhai with twisted stare. After years of waiting, Nanashi’s manga Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro has been given the animated treatment. And good news: it’s treated with far more care than anyone could’ve imagined!
As I’ve covered the manga here on many occasions, I’ll keep the premise simple. Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro follows the titular character (Sumire Uesaka) as she taunts, berates, and mocks the unnamed Senpai (Daiki Yamashita). At first, Nagatoro sees the artist as someone to poke fun of to the point of crying. However, as she hangs out more of Senpai, she starts to discover new feelings for the scruffy haired kid.
Things start off with a brutal meeting between the two students. Nagatoro takes a gander at Senpai’s manga creation, critiquing everything wrong with the story. She takes advantage of his coyness, realizing that Senpai has zero backbone and no confidence in himself. After making him sob like a baby sheep, Nagatoro realizes that she went a little too far with the taunting. (To be blunt, Episode One can be a tough watch at times, with Nagatoro’s mocking being a lot more extreme than it was in the original manga.)
Thus, Nagatoro’s tactics change when it comes to hanging with Senpai. Despite her teasing ways, she puts a lot more emphasis on helping her upperclassman be a better version of himself. From teaching him how to do verbal comebacks to working on his physique, Nagatoro actually winds up wanting Senpai to be at his absolute best. Her techniques not only help with boosting his confidence, but it also gives Senpai the chance to play the hero when Nagatoro’s in trouble.
In one instance, Nagatoro surrounded by a couple of guys at a picnic setting. Senpai watches from afar, as one the men gets all grabby with her. The moment pushes Senpai to walk towards Nagatoro and the guys, and proceeds to get her out of what could’ve been a terrible situation. It’s a scene like this that shows what Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro truly is: a heartfelt rom-com!
Nagatoto’s feelings for Senpai are evident when her friends join in on the teasing. Gamo (Mikako Komatsu), Yosshii (Aina Suzuki), and Sakura (Shiori Izawa) enjoy poking fun of Senpai, which Nagatoro doesn’t seem to mind at first. Once they attempt to lay a finger on the upperclassman, Nagatoro goes into protective mode, using hilarious excuses to not let the other girls touch her man! Her heart is more on her sleeve when Gamo and Yosshii somewhat kidnap Senpai — be it at a summer festival or an impromptu haircut — with Nagatoro rushing to his aid in a way that’s both funny and endearing.
On one hand, Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro can be a tough sell at times. It’s not as cute as either Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san or Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out, with Nanashi’s more sadistic style of humor being front-and-center. Some of Nagatoro’s tactics can be seen by certain people as full-blown bullying, bringing an air of uncomfortableness to the situations. However, once the two of them start getting a feel for one another’s true selves, the uncomfortableness transforms into a surprising amount of sweetness.
A great example of that endearment happens when Senpai and Nagatoro are trapped in a rainstorm. After some humorous ribbing revolving around Nagatoro’s wet clothing, the kouhai invites Senpai to her house. The two start playing video games, with Nagatoro using her “charms” to distract Senpai in a cute and hilarious way. This moment creates a true bond between the two students, with a red thread of fate tying Nagatoro and Senpai together.
But it’s when the art club’s threatened to be shut down when Nagatoro’s true heart is on display. As the Class President (Nana Mizuki) mocks Senpai’s talents, the kouhai goes to bat for her boy. When Senpai wants Nagatoro to model for his school festival gallery, his reasons not only catch her off-guard, but it also showcases just how much she actually loves him! It’s a perfect moment that demonstrates just how much these two care for each other, even if the tanned girl can’t get out of her dorky teasing habits.
All of this is captured beautifully in the animation. Produced by Telecom Animation Film (Lupin The Third, Tower of God), the team manages to recreate Nanashi’s panels in a perfect manner. From Nagatoro’s death stares and noodle arms to Senpai’s faces of horror, every little aspect that made the original manga an amazing read is brought to motion in the right way. Even when the comedy is at a brutal level, this adaptation of Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro is drawn flawlessly!
Another great reason why this adaptation slaps is the voice acting. Uesaka is superb as Nagatoro, bringing out her sadistic, silly, and cute mannerisms in the best ways possible. Yamashita’s Senpai is the right amount of nervous and coy, but pulls out his Deku-leveled bravery when it’s time for him to man up. The duo of Gamo and Yosshii are also brought to life with the right amount of annoying-yet-silly traits thanks to the performances of Komatsu and Suzuki.
Gin (AHO-GIRL, Gal & Dino) composes a soundtrack that fits every feeling this anime delivers. The comedic melodies boost Nagatoro’s teasing, whereas the more heartfelt sounds bring out the sweeter moments with her and Senpai. Uesaka performs a banger of an opening theme with “EASY LOVE”, with a poppy element that meshes with a sadistic tone. Meanwhile, things are far more heartfelt with the end theme “Colorful Canvas”, with the female cast swooning with love and devotion.
Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro may be ruthless at times, but its sweetness is infectious. The pairing of Nagatoro and Senpai are enthralling to watch, with the comedic and romantic elements hitting their marks every time. Yes, the first episode can be tough to watch, but those who work past that intro will be diving into one of the sweetest and funniest rom-coms of 2021! In short, if you let it step on you a little, then Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro will reward you with some amazing laughs and feels!
Final Grade (not an average):
Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro can be viewed on Crunchyroll and VRV. It has been licensed by Crunchyroll. Episodes 1-12 were observed for this review. Promotional consideration provided by Ellation.