Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro (Japanese: イジらないで、長瀞さん, Hepburn: Ijiranaide, Nagatoro-san) is a Japanese web manga series written and illustrated by Nanashi. It has been serialized online since 2017. Some translations of the title replace “toy” with “bully,” for good reason.
Although it is in many ways a slice-of-life manga, there is a definite direction to the plot.
Painfully introverted second-year high schooler Nao-kun avoids social interaction whenever possible, burying himself in art, preferably alone in the art club’s clubroom. Given that he has a metaphoric brightly lit “easily bullied victim” sign floating over him, this is for the best. To interact with other people is to court abuse.
Unfortunately for Nao-kun’s equanimity, first year high-school student Hayase ““Hayacchi” Nagatoro has noticed Nao-kun. She has a use for her “Senpai,” as she calls him.
A member of a pack of attractive mean girls, Nagatoro is aware of several aspects of Senpai’s character.
A: He is excruciatingly shy, incapable of standing up for himself.
B: His taste in manga sometimes runs to the risqué.
C: The inarticulate artist will surely be too flustered by the close proximity of a pretty girl like Nagatoro to fend off her flurry of outrageous accusations and salacious teasing.
He is the perfect victim.
The never-ending stream of abuse would seem to be a perfect hell for Senpai. Curiously, however, not only does Senpai utterly fail to distance himself from Nagatoro, he doesn’t even bar her from the art club room which, as a non-member, she has no right to enter. He seeks her out and uses her as a model. Nagatoro’s insulting speculations concerning the erotic purposes to which he will put his art do not deter him, for he has found his muse. Not that he admits this.
While she would never admit it, Nagatoro’s horrifying campaign is the completely inexperienced first year’s version of flirting. She is extremely possessive of her Senpai; protective when others intrude into her domain by teasing him overmuch; and surprisingly timid whenever it seems Senpai might be responding her accusations with actual overtures.
Senpai likes Nagatoro. Nagatoro likes Senpai. Can the pair get past their profound social deficits and become a couple?
If you’ve ever wondered what Oglaf’s muse would look like if she were a fifteen-year-old Japanese schoolgirl, this is the comic for you. (Speaking of Oglaf, I gather the author of Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro has a successful sideline in hentai.) Don’t Toy with Me is for the most part PG-13;for all her bluster, Nagatoro is as inexperienced as her victim and just as likely to run off if it looked like Senpai would take her up on any of her obscene suggestions.
Why won’t Senpai fight back? Well, aside from the shy and nerdy thing, Senpai is as robust as boiled celery; if he tried to bodily remove Nagatoro from the classroom, the fact that Nagatoro is a well-muscled athlete with a background in martial arts would guarantee that he would fail.
Well, he could appeal to the school authorities, which do intervene onstage in other matters. Though by this point he may have concluded that the authorities will not act if the issue is just some nobody being bullied1.
This is one of those romantic comedies in which the principles are willfully blind to their mutual attraction, while it is so clear to everyone else that many observers assume that Senpai and Nagatoro are dating. Which in a terrible sense, they are. In another sense, never mind kissing: many complications ensue before they even hold hands … and that’s by accident.
It’s not all verbal abuse, teasing, and alarmed retreat in the face of unexpected success. Nagatoro does from time to time try to improve the milquetoast artist, offering him pointers on exercise and sports. Still, it’s mostly all verbal abuse, teasing, and alarmed retreat. Does it matter if Nagatoro acts as she does because she lacks the skills to take another approach? If the roles were reversed, if the story were about a stronger, athletic guy verbally abusing a pathologically timid girl, I wonder how this story would come across,
1: My editor keeps pestering me to read A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki, which features horrific episodes of Japanese high-school bullying. Accepted and even encouraged by the teachers.