It seems in its ongoing efforts to effectively bully me, Don't Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro has this week transformed itself into my own personal nemesis: An isekai series! Of course, Senpai can't hope to receive the kinds of buffs and bonuses so many other dimensionally-displaced nerds get, but he also didn't have to get run over by a truck to end up there, as this whole thing turns out to be a stress dream he has while passed out in a depression Denny's. That framing lends itself to the kinds of interesting personal interrogations I hadn't initially expected from Miss Nagatoro but have since been happy to see as a consistent feature. But before we finish off with that, we get to enjoy the simpler pleasures of this RPG reframing of the show and its characters, finding fantastical new ways to torment Senpai that wouldn't be possible in the regular slice-of-life format. Don't worry, they of course start him off with the joke about virginity-fueled wizard powers.
While there is still plenty of roasting of our woeful wizard-boy, much of this fantasy indulgence comes off as simply showing off. I mentioned last week how Miss Nagatoro's animation efforts rarely rise above the level of ‘functional’, but this portion of this episode is a definite exception to that. There are some sharp cuts of fighting action in a couple of places, including a snazzy-looking magically-enhanced kick from NagatoroNekotoro herself. And of course, this shift in setting lets the character designs get more out-there than usual too. So yeah, if you're just coming in to see Nagatoro and her friends in sexy fantasy outfits that'll probably be all over the front page of pixiv within a day or two, they've got you covered.
But what of that aforementioned underlying motivation that caused Senpai to experience this vision in the first place? The sequence climaxes with Nagatoro and the other girls betraying Senpai, Nagatoro demeaning any affection he might have thought he felt as simply part of the ruse to get closer to him and more viciously toy with him for her own amusement. It's the kind of deep-seated worry an insecure loner like Senpai has to continue to confront even after waking from the dream. He and Nagatoro seem to have been getting on with relatively decent rapport lately, but what if that sense is only a result of his own projections? He can't let go of the possibility that by allowing himself to become closer and more vulnerable to Nagatoro, he's setting himself up to be genuinely hurt, and the persistence of those worries spirals out into stress even with no provocation or evidence. I've mentioned before that Senpai has a propensity to bully himself even if Nagatoro or the other girls aren't actively bothering him at the moment, and his fleeing from this dream sequence speaks to how he might only fully escape from his own securities once he and Nagatoro's affection for each other gets to shine through as truly genuine.
But who has time for all that depressing junk? The other half of this episode is a beach trip! That's right, if the sweeter, more low-key interactions of the previous episodes made you forget you were watching what is effectively specific pornography, this one now adds in swimsuits in addition to those fantasy fetish outfits to crank the fanservice knob up to eleven. Small wonder Senpai has to be dragged kicking and screaming along with the girls, but as we just discussed, he does know he has to remain ever-vigilant to their true intentions. And rightly so, since they really lay into him almost immediately upon his arrival; you can tell they were missing him over the summer break.
Thing is, for all the saucy swimsuit action, this part's also about reinforcing the bond between Nagatoro and Senpai that the first half of the episode questioned. Nagatoro's piercing stare when her friends get too playful with her favorite toy continues to be a great background gag, but also serves to make clear her true feelings for the lovable loser. Even the full-shot reveal of Nagatoro's swimsuit counts as a character moment, seeing her satisfaction at provoking the strongest reaction from Senpai compared to her friends. It seems getting a rise – of any kind – out of Senpai is the primary way Nagatoro expresses her affection, though her other, more aggressive methods make a return as well. Forget being topped through any teasing or bullying methods, real femdom is when the girl is the one who aggressively applies sunscreen to the guy. And even as the most outlandish instance of fanservice in this episode, culminating in the scene of Nagatoro and the other girls literally stepping all over Senpai, it's still indicative of the characters' deepening relationship: Senpai still somehow doesn't consider him and Nagatoro to be ‘dating’ while she clearly has other ideas. Yes it's a ridiculously overt reaction that leads to a full-fetish foot-rubdown, but there's also something oddly charming about how incensed she is at the possibility that he might not love her back the same way she clearly does. It's interesting to see how both Nagatoro and Senpai are carrying their own insecurities about their relationship, leading to them still stuck approaching it with some level of guarded insincerity. See? It's not just fanservice, it's deep fanservice!
Look, this was an episode of Miss Nagatoro where I couldn't stop myself from going on multiple paragraphs of divergent analysis of these bizarrely fetishized relationship dynamics, and it had fun role-playing-game and beach-episode antics! It generally looked nice and was consistently funny, and makes a continued case for why this show, which is nominally catering to a very particular niche, actually works well enough generally to have broader appeal. I think this episode was the best version of that, showing off the most variety of content while still sticking well to the basic points it knows it's appealing to.
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.