When the anime Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro dropped on April 11, it attracted a whole lot of attention from the internet. After I read the premise of the anime, I was reluctant to give it a try. And sure enough, I was ready to drop it after the first episode, but after some pushing on the Internet, I decided to just soldier on through and try to make it to the end of the season. And when I finished it this past Saturday, I was actually touched by how the friendship of Nagatoro and Naoto (the second main character, referred to in-universe as Senpai/Paisen) had evolved from simply being teasing to actually being on friendlier terms. I also liked how Nagatoro helps Naoto become less spineless as a person. Their dynamic is very interesting, especially as the season draws to a close. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
When we first see Naoto, he is a spineless, introverted loser who likes to spend all his free time drawing and in the library. Enter Nagatoro. She sees him in the library one day and goes up with her friends to tease him. After her friends leave, she stays behind to continue her teasing of him, and from that point on, the two of them become inseparable. Throughout the relationship, we get some character development on both characters’ parts that makes their interactions believable and wholesome. Sure, Nagatoro may be a teaser on par with Uzaki-chan and Takagi-san, but she really means well for Naoto. Not only does she want Naoto to be a better person socially, but she will even defend him from those who will bully him for their personal gain. She also has fun with him in general, whether it be playing video games with him or with friends, and she helps make him more social and tame his hormonal nature so that he can understand what real love is. Likewise, although Naoto starts off socially awkward and a timid shut-in, he eventually learns to have trust in Nagatoro, and he also learns how to have fun, be a better person in society, and learn not to stray from society and accept communicating and socializing with others. Nowhere is this more prominent than near the end of the season, concerning a mini-arc where Naoto has to rely on Nagatoro and her friends to save the art club from being shut down by the art club’s president, Sana Sunomiya. And boy was that happy ending deserved for Naoto! Not only does he get to get to keep the art club, but he gets the kiss from Nagatoro that she’s been teasing him with for a long time, which could possibly signal the start of something new.
The main star of the show (her name is in the title, obviously!) and one of the two title protagonists. It ain’t just the teasing from this girl that took the internet by storm this year. It’s also her unique facial expressions, her tan lines, and her flesh fang reminiscent of Uzaki-chan, and her actions (whether they are used to tease Naoto or doing something kind for him) that ultimately lure you in. I admit, I wasn’t fond of this character when I first saw her, to the point that I flat-out wanted to drop the anime after the first episode. However, I was told by many people to give her character a chance, so I decided to just suck it up soldier on. And boy, I was not disappointed, because what I got was someone who ultimately wants her friend to get better as a person. By the end of the season, I was left wanting to see more of her and I wanted to see where she and Naoto would go from there. I don’t know if she’s gonna win Best Anime Girl of 2021, but I won’t be surprised if she does, considering that she’s a strong contender.
The other half of our dynamic duo for this anime, Naoto starts off as an introverted, somewhat perverted, spineless everyman loser who prefers to keep to himself. Not gonna lie, I literally had no emotion for him when I first saw him; hell, I wanted Nagatoro to utterly destroy his ass until there was nothing left of him. Then, through Nagatoro’s constant teasing and tormenting, a miracle happened: he actually managed to form a spine! It seemed impossible at the time, but yeah, he started to make progress at standing up for himself. Sure he still has a long way to go, but you can tell that he’ll hopefully get there at some point and actually make a backbone for himself.
Maki, Yoshi, and Sakura
These girls are Nagatoro’s friends and I’m lumping them together because they can be summed in one word: Irritating. Maki is the tomboy of the group, Yoshi is literally there just to parrot whatever Maki says, and Sakura is literally is just … useless. I daresay that of the three girls, Maki is arguably the most fleshed-out of the group because she has something resembling a personality. Yoshi and Sakura, on the other hand, are pretty much just flat characters, as, without Maki, it is hard to imagine Yoshi having any agency, and Sakura just … exists. These girls only exist to serve as additional bullies to Naoto, but to their credit, they eventually stop teasing him and begin teasing Nagatoro over her obviously deepening love for him.
The “final boss”, so to speak, of the first season and the art club’s president, she shows near the very end and gives Naoto an ultimatum: he has to give her a good reason for being in the club or she will shut it down. Needless to say, it is this that causes the remainder of the season to play out like a mini-arc, and it is the final catalyst that develops Naoto and Nagatoro’s relationship. She has the personality of an ice cube and more curves than a winding path. I mention this because she uses them as a weapon (that is, she loves painting her own nude body as art and showing it off). Naoto has to compete against her in the cultural art festival, and while it pulls out all the stock tropes that you would expect for a show such as this, it somehow manages to work even if does appear to common out of left field.
The art, the animation, and the sound
My thoughts in these areas are … mixed. The animation is nothing special, but then again, that is to be expected, given that it’s a slice-of-romcom. As for the sound, the opening theme is okay, but I was more into the soothing ending theme because it serves as a reminder that this is a romcom (I definitely recommend you listen to it) and wouldn’t feel out of place in a series like this. The character art, however, is hit and miss. At times, Nagatoro looks great, but at other times, not so much. It’s like they focused the majority of their budget on animating her and spending the remainder on Naoto. (Look, I get that she’s the star of the show, but that does not give them the right to not focus on the other characters, no matter how inconsequential they are.)
At the end of the day, what started off as your typical girl-teases-boy show has evolved into a wholesome love story that deepens the relationship between them. Nagatoro pretty much stole the show in every scene she was in. Her wacky hi-jinks served as a perfect foil to Naoto’s more down-to-earth demeanor, and everyone who had a hand in bringing her to life deserves no small amount of praise. That is not to say that Naoto is not enjoyable, either; as his character develops, he becomes the perfect counterpart to Nagatoro and the one to usually keep her in check. What we are left with is a tale of a girl who has a crush on a boy but can’t really, and sensing that he is a pushover, she teases him until they both realize their mutual feelings for each other. I honest to God hope this series gets a season 2, because I am very interested to see where Senpai and Nagatoro’s relationship goes from there. This is a very good watch, and if you give it a chance, you will find yourself having a memorable experience!