Stories about girls teasing boys they like have always been popular in the romantic comedy genre. When it comes to manga, at least a few of you will associate this description with Teasing Master Takagi-san, but today I’m here to check out a new entry in the genre: Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro. Does it offer a satisfying read? Let’s find out!
Our story follows Nagatoro, a second-year in high school who takes an interest in her Senpai (who goes unnamed beyond “Senpai”) after he drops the manga he’s working on in front of Nagatoro and her friends. At first, the girls collectively make fun of Senpai for his manga, but quickly grow bored and leave – except for Nagatoro. She stays behind to re-enact a scene from the manga with Senpai, but for a boy who’s no good with girls, her teasing drives him to tears.
From then on Nagatoro spends her days harassing and ‘teasing’ Senpai from forcing him to draw her for art club, to taking and reading the fan service-laden manga he brought to school. All of this is because Nagatoro has taken a shine to Senpai and wants to spend time with him (perhaps even toughen him up a bit?), but as a reader, I found it vastly uncomfortable.
While I’m certainly not against the concept of a girl teasing the boy she likes, this goes beyond that and into straight-up bullying. I was hoping that after Senpai is left in tears at the end of Chapter 1 that things would cool off a bit and Nagatoro would soften up, but the stories that follow all have Senpai being incredibly uncomfortable.
At one point Nagatoro asks Senpai why he doesn’t get mad at her for giving him a rough time, to which he responds that he has always been bullied and stays quiet until it passes, but he doesn’t find it so bad with Nagatoro – which immediately set off alarm bells in my mind. With a history of being bullied, Senpai is normalising Nagatoro’s actions, leaving her to take advantage and push her schemes to the limit. She often calls Senpai disgusting, gross and a creep which upsets him and in turn me. It’s extremely mean-spirited.
Illustrations of Nagatoro questioning her actions in-between chapters aim to show that she’s not bullying Senpai to be malicious and she does sometimes apologise for her actions, but that doesn’t help me accept it at all. Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro goes too far and what should be an entertaining comedy ends up not being funny at all. Instead of being fun, it’s painful to read. I just want Senpai to realise that there are girls out there that won’t bully him and Nagatoro’s actions are wrong!
The series has been created by mangaka Nanashi, who is talented. Their artwork is detailed and the expressions of the cast are varied, which is important for a comedy like this. It’s especially interesting to see how Senpai (who is almost constantly blushing) grows increasingly nervous and uncomfortable from panel to panel, showing Nanashi knows just how to tweak their characters to get the required result. It’s a pity there wasn’t a better story to go with the great artwork.
Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro comes to the West thanks to Vertical Comics and has been translated by Kristi Fernandez. The translation reads well, but there is one oddity early on. When Nagatoro first meets Senpai she introduces herself as a sophomore (second-year in American high-school) and asks if he is a junior (a third-year), which initially threw me off as I thought junior was below a sophomore. They’re very Americanised terms which don’t make sense to me in the UK, so I wish they’d just been translated into school years rather than using those terms. Volume 2 of the series is due to be released in February. Currently, Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro is ongoing at 5 volumes in Japan.
Overall Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro is a disappointment. The premise certainly sounds entertaining but underneath it is an uncomfortable level of bullying, which just isn’t funny. There are certainly better series to pick up with similar but less problematic set-ups.
A free preview of Volume 1 can be found on Kodansha’s site here.