Watching Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro is like watching Teasing-Master Takagi-san but without the innocence. The kids of Teasing-Master are, well, kids; the kids of Miss Nagatoro are high schoolers, and, I remind you, the age of consent in Japan is thirteen.
There’s nothing explicit about it; it’s clearly PG-13. But Nagatoro’s teasing of the object of her affections, Hachioji, is not only comic and relentless, but also smutty, as, for instance, when she challenges him to a game where the winner is the one who fingers their opponent’s nipples (through shirt and underwear, to be sure) first.Yes, she tells Hachioji he can finger her boobies, although in the end she doesn’t let him.
The joke is pretty clear. Once again we have a role-reversed couple: Nagatoro is aggressive, dominant, and active; Hachioji is submissive and passive. How many times have we seen that? It’s a classic, and I have to suspect it’s a classic for an obvious reason: The target audience, teen-aged Japanese boys, would love to find a woman who would throw herself at them, and find it easy to look down on the passive, virginal boy.
Yep, wish fulfillment. It’s a key element of Middle Grade fantasy. Don’t leave home without it.
And there’s a tension there in Nagatoro’s character. She’s willing to push Hachioji, but at the same time there are times when he calls her bluff and she’s too modest to deliver. It’s not that she won’t show him what she offered to show him, it’s that she can’t make herself do it.
Strangely enough, her modesty, despite her otherwise aggressive nature, is signaled in a very interesting and unique way: Did you notice that Nagatoro is the only anime character you’ve ever seen who has tan lines?
She does, you know. Watch it. It’s obvious that in public – at the beach, for instance – she usually wears a modest one-piece bathing suit, but when she’s trying to attract Hachioji’s attention she dresses more provocatively. And when she does that, her tan lines come into view. It’s an indication that she looks at Hachioji and values him in ways she values no one else. That’s actually pretty neat. I may have to steal it.
Here’s the trick, though: Why does she like him?
I mean, we know what Hachioji sees in Nagatoro. They are a complementary couple: She has the aggressiveness, the confidence, the frankness, that he lacks. She’s the first girl who pays serious attention to him, and embarrassing as he finds that, he also finds it attractive.
But what the heck does she see in him?
Like at lot of complementary couples in romantic comedies, and Nagatoro is a romantic comedy, they start as an Odd Couple, so it makes no sense that they should be together EXCEPT that there’s some kind of outside forces that makes them stay together. Think of The Odd Couple, the original, right? Oscar and Felix stay together because separately they cannot afford the rent. BOOM. The rent keeps them together.
Okay: What forces Nagatoro and Hachioji to stay together?
The only thing I can see is that she wants him for a boyfriend. (No, not lover. They aren’t old enough for that.) But why?
I don’t see anything. I don’t know what there is that forces this Odd Couple to stay together, except that, for no reason anyone can see, Nagatoro is crushing on Hachioji.
Well, if no one can see it, the audience can’t see it, either.
The deployment of tropes like The Odd Couple requires the user to understand the trope and how it works. And in Miss Nagatoro we have an Odd Couple that is supposed to evolve into a complementary couple – character development, right? – and does, except that
And it makes no sense because there is nothing that binds Nagatoro to Hachioji. She’s pretty, she’s vivacious, she’s fun. He’s … well, he’s a talented artist, but that doesn’t come out until his art reflects his love for her at the end of the series. And there’s no reason for them to stick together long enough for him to fall in love with her. There’s no reason – at least not one that’s part of the anime – for her to stay with him that long.
The Odd Couple works as a trope because two dissimilar people are forced to stay together. What forces Nagatoro to zero in on Hachioji?
I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.
5 thoughts on “The Power of Two: Nagatoro and Hachioji”
Yes. Exactly that was my problem with the anime as well. A couple like that needs some back and forth, something in both directions. And that was completely absent from the show.
I was still entertained enough to watch everything up until now and it’s kind of getting better to a point where I think I’d wager to make an educated guess as to what might be going on.
So what I see is Nagatoro coming from a home where love might not be communicated too well. She’s in a bit of war with her sister, who’s poking at her similarly as she’s poking at others. It might well be that she got twisted in a way that all she knows how to communicate with people is to make fun of them, tease them, even hurt them.
The outcome is: She’s found a group of likeminded girls, that are similarly twisted, as her best friends, and she’s got nobody else, because everyone else just runs away. Even in all the sports she does, she’s a loner. She does single sports, not team sports all the way.
Enter Hachioji. Initially Nagatoro just jumps at the bandwagon with teasing him, and when she finds the manga, she hit the jackpot and just keeps going. She’s crossed the point where anyone else would have already just left several times, but Hachioji is so weak minded at this point, he’s even playing along with what she does. Who would do something like that? Well, in Nagatoro’s mind, if you get teased and don’t run away, you’re special. You’re friendly. You’re family. That’s what she learned about human interaction so far.
And so she sticks around. Partially maybe, at least in the beginning, because Hachioji is still an easy target. There’s nobody around to stop her, so she can keep teasing him as she pleases. And he still doesn’t run away and plays along. But I think another part is the twisted way she understands human connection, maybe even the main part.
This dynamic changes, and I don’t think I recognized it that much at first, when he first draws her. He literally shows her how he sees her, and it’s not as a monster, as she might well see herself at that point, but as a strong, beautiful young woman. She can’t really deal with that, but I would say that’s where the dynamic between them changes. Not big at first, as she’s still unable to express herself in a way that would be more appropriate, but she’s starting to notice that there’s something changed as well, for example when she gets flustered because of him in front of her friends.
At least that’s where my kitchen-psychology takes me.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’m not sure Nagatoro reads quite that way for me, but I can tell you how I’d know if you’ve hit it on the head: Why does she have such a pronounced tan? If that is meant to make her seem unattractive somehow or symbolic of some kind of desire to be someone other than who she it, I think you’ve nailed it. She’s the only anime character I’ve seen with distinct tan lines, so it must mean something … but if it’s a Japanese cultural trope I don’t know it.
Hmm. I can’t say much about meaning in japanese culture, but I think I do have some ideas about the tan.
Firstly, it could simply be meant to show she’s a loner, without staying inside, like your typical loner character would often do.
We don’t see her interact with anyone, really, aside from her friends, Hachioji and eventually her sister. She even prefers to spend time with Hachioji instead of her friends, so that friendship might not be all that great to begin with either. Her sister is also not someone she seems to enjoy being around, let alone talk to. In short, she’s alone, she’s barely got a place she feels like she belongs or where she’s worth something.
BUT she has her swim club. Because what she is good at is sports. I would wager that the swimming pool is her refuge, the one place where she can be good at something, where people praise her, where she can feel like she’s worth something. Spend a lot of time at the pool, and you get tan.
If that’s the case, it also shows a bit of contradiction in her character. Because what little I do know about japan and tan lines is that they seem to avoid it at all costs, because it’s deemed ugly, you just don’t do that. And while Nagatoro is putting up a good show, we constantly see her trying to look cool and hide details of what happened with Hachioji from them, ultimately, being able to be good at something is more important to her than following the norm.
Even then, the way she acts around her friends is maybe along the same lines, a desperate attempt to try to fit in, because she’s got nowhere else to go.
To take it a step further, while all the others in her friend group make deliberate efforts to stand out with wild hair and hair colors, Nagatoro could easily pass as a model student if she wanted to, she can certainly act that part. I would even say she IS nice, we see her be like that with Hachioji when he’s sick, she doesn’t just put on an act. The only thing that would make her stand out then is the tan, something from the outside rather than a deliberate choice of hers to stand out. She’s been made into how she acts by what she’s been through, not because she actively wants to be who she is.
So in the end, I think the tan could be seen as an extension to how Nagatoro feels. A young woman desperately trying to find a place to fit in and sticking out like a sore thumb.
Might be reading too much into it, but that’d make it work for me.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I think the ugly thing works, actually. To me the tan lines say she’s usually dressed much more modestly around others but she’s willing to show that side of herself – ugly but revealing – to Hachoichi and him alone. But I may be reading too little into it.
I think my read on this was simply that Nagatoro loves Hachioji, and that we don’t get to choose who we love; it just happens. Though certainly love isn’t enough to keep a relationship together — you also need compatibility. I’m sure Nanashi is headed towards getting the two together officially at some point, anyway, but I can see a future where things might not work out between these two, or two people similar to them in the real world.
Though I didn’t continue it, I have a similar feeling about the Komi-san protagonist thinking back to what I saw of that anime. As you say, Hachioji at least has his artistic talent, but Hitohito seems about as plain and milquetoast as a guy can get. I know he’s supposed to have his exceptional observational skills, but the story came off more like he had normal observational skills in a world of idiots. Maybe I’m being unfair to it since I didn’t watch too much of that show, but it was hard going for me.
LikeLiked by 1 person