Spoiler Free (I want to state I do vaguely talk about an ARC that occurs. If you have NO idea what this story is about, it could be considered a very vague but light spoiler)
774 (Nanashi) has quite the prolific doujinshi lineup. Rather it is Yupiel-sama no Geboku, a story about a loli vampire wrapping some guy around her finger while also being rather verbally abusive to him. Or maybe the demon in Suzuka-sama’s Servant, a charming gal that would end up challenging a hero sent to kill her and bringing him to tears as she sexually assaults him. With his unique facial expressions, context, and general feel of abusive heroines, it’s no surprise his first step into the non-18 world would follow roughly the same teasing premises. With the anime adoption airing I decided to re-read and get caught up on Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro, and well, here is what I think about it.
I read the first 40 or so odd chapters a while ago, thinking back on the story as any typical teasing story with great art and over-the-top expressions. While on MAL one day, however, I saw that some of the reviews were strong condemning Nagatoro, an underclassman and main heroine, as nothing more than a massive bully jerk. My initial feeling when I read this was ‘these people are making her out to seem a lot meaner than she is’ then I re-read it, turns out, she is actually a massive ass hole.
The general premise of Don’t Toy With me is this. A freshman high schooler, Nagatoro runs into the 2nd year Senpai (as of chapter 79 we still do not know his name) a shy, quiet, nerdy type of guy that is a bit of a loner but has dreams of being a mangaka. Proceeds to find out about this dream of his then makes fun of him to the point he cries, then makes fun of him crying, decides that she will torment this Senpai until furtherer notice and the dumb ass falls in love with her.
If you have read Teasing Master Takagi-san, think of that but then add about 5 times the verbal and physical abuse, that is Don’t Toy With Me.
Honestly, the first handful of these chapters are pretty rough when it comes to just straight bullying. Nagatoro holds no punches when it comes to belittling Senpai in front of her friends or in private, going out of her way to say and do pretty awful things to the guy. But I can say as the series goes on this becomes less and less factory. The teasing and general lighter bullying remain a constant concept but the true shit that I thought was just unneeded mellows out as the two get more used to interacting with each other.
The story makes it no secret Nagatoro and Senpai have crushes on one another. Creating this plot point they the two of them are conveying their affection in a sort of sadist masochist way, a concept that is rather common and generally boring. But there is something different about Don’t Toy With Me, something that is actually quite nice after you get used to and understand the world Nanashi is trying to create.
Over time we learn of both Nagatoro’s and Senpia’s goals and dreams or rather lack thereof. It’s around this time we start to see a shift in them, what once was a simple bullying relationship turns into something else. Certain things are off-limits when it comes to Nagatoro’s teasing, things that she generally doesn’t discuss and often genuinely apologizes for when she crosses that line. Senpai also begins to challenge his old self in ways he never did before he met Nagatoro, often doing things he thinks will impress her, or putting his best self forward for her sake.
These moments are extremely adorable in a lot of ways, as the teasing remains a thing but they start to rely on each other quite a bit as the chapters go on. One arc, in particular, was a very nice touch. Being handed an ultimatum, Senpai’s art club is on the line. If he does not paint something worthy of placing highly in the eyes of the school’s festival, the club, and importantly the place he and his new friends hang out, will be disbanded.
The power struggle that follows lands Senpia in a curious spot, a position where nothing he paints really conveys powerful enough emotions to stand up to the task at hand. Leaving him with only one option, to face the emotions in him that have become very fond of the little tormentor in his life. He has to paint Nagatoro. This whole bit was honestly adorable and the paintings even more so, it starts the two opening up more to one another and Senpia becoming more aggressive in his self-improvement. It also creates chinks in Nagatoro’s shell, her past self, and even family coming into the picture as their relationship evolves.
Don’t Toy With Me is good. The art is fantastic, the banter is funny and at times cute, the bullying sometimes is over the top, abusive, not needed. The criticism of Nagatoro being a prick is just, she really is, in the early chapters she really, really sucks. But on that note, I can say, as the series breaths, she does become pretty likable. I really like Nagatoro, hell I like Senpia and their stupid little group of friends. I like how they jest and jab, I like the heartwarming moments like Nagatoro taking care of him or the times he steps up and takes care of her. Their duo is dynamic, fun to read, and as much as I HATE to say it, they’re fucking cute.
I am excited about the spring adaption, and if you are looking for something a little less, aggressive, Teasing Master Takagi-san is where I can send you. I typically am not the biggest fan of the bullying trope. I think it has to be done with a particular hand to not make it cringe or just abusive, and 774 started heavy-handed. (having read his doujinshi I can see why) But, given space and time, the softer side comes out and it’s really nice to see. As of right now, id sit this series around a 7, which is honestly way higher than I would ever expect.
So if you like anime, you like tanned skin, you like wacky expressions. Get hyped for this adaptation, it’s going to be a wild ride. More of a reader? Pick it up, there are 79 chapters out there to flip through. But for me, now, that is all, thanks for the read!