Despite the blissful (and beautifully drawn) evening outside, a timid, nervous, nameless boy in glasses is on his way to the school library. Only, today there are some first year girls are there, chatting loudly (those of us in the bookworm guild are familiar with the experience). Our protagonist is not the type to defend his sacred space. Instead, he goes to a corner and does his homework, looking at them out of the corner of his eye, as if they were mythical, terrible creatures. At a point, his manga drafts fall from his bag: It is a story of a male and a female knights fighting a demon lord, and growing closer to each other. The girls take them, look, point and laugh, then leave. But one of them, Nagatoro-san, stays behind. Amused by his reactions, she begins to flirt, putting on a demon face (or maybe she was moved by the “I’ll protect you” of the knight in the manga, her flirting is genuine, and he is so fearful that he distorts what is happening?) She wants him to reenact a given scene of the manga. He cannot do it. Some more teasing, and he cries. The day after, she visits him in the art room, challenging him to draw her, and then meets him on his way home. Soon we learn that he is traumatized by previous bullying, and has learned to retreat to his shell. And the way Naganoro-san, mocks him, her violent way of flirting, may mean that she is a bully like all the rest… or maybe not?
It goes too far—both Nagatoro-san and the show. The traumatized schoolboy, interested in but afraid of girls, artsy and insecure, is masterfully depicted. The art is good: I saw the trauma there from the beginning, as clear as the white X’s on the faces in A Silent Voice (here, the eyes are not shown when the protagonist feels threatened). From her first appearance, it is also clear that Nagatoro-san wants to take her senpai out of his shell, sees potential in him, and has a genuine interest in him, despite his immaturity and his weaknesses. Teasing Master Takagi-san, one of my favorite shows from the 2018 season, had a similar premise, but also a sense of innocence, fair play and finesse that are lacking here. Nagatoro is far more sexualized than Takagi (and the preview of the next episode points to this getting worse), and her behaviour goes far beyond mere teasing. She humiliates him, mocks him, demeans him and passes her flirting as a joke, which he thinks natural due to his low self-esteem. She does it to hide her own attraction, granted, but it still hurts. At first, I thought that maybe the distortion on the protagonist’s part was so great that her behaviour shouldn’t be taken literally as shown (those demon faces), but it is not so. When the traumatized guy, in his overly formal way, says to Nagatoro that her behaviour bothers him, but not as much as that of the other bullies, and thus, he is willing to accept it, I got an uneasy feeling. Were he somebody I knew, I’d be very worried about him. I won’t go on watching this one.
Ijiranaide, Nagatoro-san is streaming at Crunchyroll.