Don't Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro
Episode 9

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Don't Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro ?

If you had some lingering concerns about the apparent dip in energy of Don't Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro after last week's episode, then fear not, as this latest one literally comes out swinging. As long as we're awakening deeper appreciations for Nagatoro's different, uh, expressions of affection in Senpai (and the audience), why not have her take up boxing? As the great philosopher Spike Spiegel said, “I love the kind of woman who can kick my ass.” Of course, I think it speaks to how this story has evolved: the same setup in the series' original image sets ended with Nagatoro actually beating the stuffing out of Senpai, but here in the anime, it instead culminates in him accidentally falling on her and getting them both all flustered. Why put your characters through physical agony when you can torment their emotional states instead? Between that shift as well as a recurring theme this week of Nagatoro actually coming to Senpai's defense, there's a point that the escalations here are in dynamics, not just content.

More than previous ones, this episode excels at illustrating those differing dynamics between the characters in the friend group that make up this show's main cast. Nagatoro's whole circle is clearly brought together by their mutual enjoyment of messing with people, but we see how their targets and methodology differ. Maki, for instance, has clearly caught onto the developing feelings between Nagatoro and Senpai, and decided to delight in pushing the limits of that to provoke reactions from Nagatoro herself. It's hard to regard that as truly malicious since, as Nagatoro herself has demonstrated time and again, teasing is the purest expression of affection for this group. If anything, it just signals how much Maki values Nagatoro as a friend. So between her immediately rushing in for a follow-up fistfight or voicing doubt about Senpai's potential horniness levels, an odd kind of teasing triangle is formed with this corner of characters.

Miss Nagatoro can do moments of laugh-out-loud humor, but tends to stick to presenting generally entertaining funny situations. So it's kind of neat to wind up in a scenario where we actually see Nagatoro defending her man's honor from Maki's denigrating, even if she does so by highlighting his ‘grossness’; That's what she likes most about him, after all. There are all sorts of fun tidbits to the anime's portrayal of the synergy between the characters here, from Nagatoro and Maki's electric eye-lock that Yoshi actually manages to zap herself on, to the little announcer placards Maki and Yoshi make for themselves to narrate Nagatoro's search for her boy-toy's surreptitious spank material. It even culminates by clarifying that, no matter what she tries for fun, Maki will never actually be able to supplant either of these kids in their preferred dynamic. Senpai willingly delivers Nagatoro the tool of his humiliation she's looking for to let her save face, even topping it off with hilariously-scripted pleas not to toy with him over it. The way they go straight into their usual playful punishment is enough to make Maki and Yoshi solemnly withdraw. Get a room, you two!

Whereas Maki's mostly an amusing interloper, another of Nagatoro's friends, Sakura, may come across as a real potential threat to their relationship. But that's a big ‘maybe’ not just in terms of how seriously this show actually wants to present relationship drama, but also in how ambiguous Sakura's motivations and methodology continue to be. Illustrating her abilities of manipulating males early in this episode is a fun way to make clear to Senpai just how good he has it – and how much these girls could wreck him if they actually disliked him. Which is why we can immediately guess something's up when Sakura seemingly needs his assistance with a stock fake-dating plot to somehow shake off the affections of a stalker she accidentally cultivated. She clearly has some interest in Senpai in mining him for the same novel amusement value that Nagatoro was initially drawn to him for, but a lot of her actions and prodding of him while on their date seem designed specifically to provoke Senpai into realizing how much he actually wants to date Nagatoro. She even straight-up tells them to just go out in this week's episode preview, though I'm dubious about how canonical that aside is in the strictly-maintained Nagatoro Continuity. The point is that, enigmatic though she is, Sakura easily comes off like the most clever one in this story's gang of gals, and there is some long-term character intrigue in just how much of her manipulation of Senpai and Nagatoro is for their own good.

This episode works so well because those complimentary character connections serve to highlight what's still the main appeal: The relationship between Nagatoro and Senpai. Sure we get that new aspect of her actually sticking up for him, but then in the middle there's a whole sequence where Senpai envisions himself ‘defiled’ by Nagatoro as an Evil Magistrate when she's threatening to pierce his ear. She just wanted them to wear matching earrings, how is that not the cutest thing ever? Nagatoro's telling reactions to her friends toying with Senpai are effective enough that one of the issues I do have is that the date between him and Sakura feels over a bit too soon otherwise. But even that gives way to another instance of Nagatoro seeming to mock Senpai for his supposed fantasy even as it's clear who the one really fantasizing is. This is the kind of anime romance where I'm certain it'll be long after this season's run before the pair will actually find themselves officially coupled, but at least I can keep watching them express their true language of love: Relentlessly getting dunked on.


Don't Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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.

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