The further Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro gets into its run, the more it has to reckon with the increasingly odd duality of its own existence. The show’s never made any secret of its target audience and intentions for them, and honestly, more power to it for that; I have far more respect for a series that’s upfront about its fetishes and fanservice than any media that tries to play it with plausible deniability. But Miss Nagatoro also recognizes that being an ongoing, semi-serial series means it can’t coast entirely on scattered instances of pornographic indulgences the way the CG-style art sets that originally begat the franchise did. The characters and their relationships have to actually grow and develop, and if the author puts even a cursory effort into portraying that progress, they’re going to find an appreciation for depicting these people as more than mere vehicles for self-insert fetish content, which just leads to even more of that kind of narrative progress finding its way into the story.
So it is that Nagatoro and Senpai’s relationship has reached the point in the show where the first several minutes of this week’s episode are devoted to Senpai pondering how he approaches their odd arrangement. Last week’s episode included the scene of Nagatoro taking her beat-up beau to task for still somehow not being under the impression that they were dating, and even here the poor kid doesn’t yet seem to fully realize it in spite of himself. Senpai is pointedly wishing Nagatoro would ask him to attend the night’s festival, and even considers taking the initiative to ask her out himself, only to fail at working up the courage. But just seeing him leave the evening solitude of his home to venture out into public on his own marks some serious progress in Senpai’s evolving sociability, an element we’ll see more of before the episode’s end. Miss Nagatoro is a series about self-inserting into its delightful domination scenarios, for sure, but at this point it’s also about how someone showing interest in you and courting you along in a relationship (regardless of how kinky it may be) could help you come out of your shell.
There’s not even that much of a hard split anymore between the two faces of the Miss Nagatoro show. Senpai’s introspection on the changes his griefing girlfriend have brought about in his life are abruptly interrupted by Maki and Yoshi, who immediately put an actual collar and leash on the guy, provoke Nagatoro herself into showing up, then compete over ‘ownership’ of him. Surely, this is the dream. Woven throughout this action is more commentary on where the characters have come to: Maki and Yoshi congratulating Senpai on the steps of initiative he’s taken in wanting to see Nagatoro, and a glimpse of how she was thinking of spending time with him at the festival herself. The core setup is still this shrimpy shrinking violet of a guy being dragged around by these girls who keep clowning on him, but we and the show obviously know what it’s about by this point, which allows it to earnestly frame that as a sweet little festival-night montage and have us buy the feeling as genuine.
Nagatoro may let slip to Senpai during that trip that she would indeed like him to ask her out sometimes, but both of them are still hiding their genuine feelings behind the veneer of the pet-play bullying scenario that fuels most of their interactions. That lovable limbo is highlighted as the next step they’re going to be striving for in this episode, and to their credit, they make some progress in a way that also effectively caters to the show’s intent. Again, we see that Senpai has grown capable of taking the slightest bit of initiative as he hauls Nagatoro off to his own special fireworks-viewing spot, where she gets to deliver the most direct declaration yet of what she’s really trying to get him to do with all this. I’ve touched on the idea that Nagatoro herself might be awakening Senpai’s own enjoyment of teasing people, like some kind of bullying-fetish switch who finds himself reveling in a momentary opportunity to turn the tables on her because he’s gotten to know her so well at this point. But of course, it’s still Miss Nagatoro’s show after all, and when pressed, she basically blurts out that she’d love for Senpai to finally be pushed so far by her needling that he throws himself at her for some expressions of affection that don’t involve being stepped on. There are still plenty of episodes of this show left, so I obviously don’t expect that kind of direct consummation from these two stupid kids already, but there’s an amusing exasperation to Nagatoro directly vocalizing what we’d all already guessed was her long-term goal in provoking this poor boy. As well, the scene ends on the remarkably funny gag that despite that moment of genuine sexual tension, the pair are far too freaked out by seeing unironic displays of intimacy between couples that they panic and head for the hills. Femdom-fetish demeaning bullying scenarios are all well and good, but this romance stuff? That’s the kinkiest thing I’ve ever seen.
So while he ends up blowing that encounter, the last stretch of this episode is designed to properly demonstrate how far Senpai has come. While his skulking back and staring at Nagatoro and her friends is a little creepy (even if his creeper stylings are a large part of the reason she digs him) there’s still a sense of sympathy in his aversion to such casually-comfortable social scenarios. He may not feel like he fits in, especially when some ‘cool’ guys invite themselves into the group, but his acute awareness of how these girls feel also clues him in that Nagatoro isn’t crazy about hanging out with them either. To the antisocial among us, his terror at approaching the group to offer an out in an invitation to walk home is intensely relatable, and the catharsis of seeing Nagatoro’s face light up as a result is all the reward he needs. It’s a sense of growth for this character who’s been put through the emotional-intensity meat grinder since the show started, and also rounds back to the idea that this show caters to all entry angles on its specific fantasy. It’d be easy to blow off the gals choosing to walk home with Senpai as singular wish-fulfillment, an assurance that they would of course prefer to spend time with a nice, nonthreatening boy like yourself instead of those pushy chads. But representing such an idealized target of submission as Senpai does, it goes without saying that the Nagatoros watching along at home would really be attracted to that, and would revel in the idea of someone standing up for them in their own skittish way as a show of affection. It’s a culmination of the integration this show has, somehow, made work: That it can depict a genuine, appreciable romance built on the foundation of a self-satisfying fetish scenario.
Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro is currently streaming on
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.