Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro’s debut season was unexpected in a number of ways. The portrayal of fetish bullying was skillfully done, if not emotionally repulsive. The show had a sincere emotional core and explored several very significant artistic topics in addition to displaying specific pornographic material. If you allowed yourself to be hugged by the series, it became unexpectedly appealing. This was a strange turn for a show that at first seemed to be centered on ridiculing everyone who attempted to interact with it.
After finding its rhythm and being consistently enjoyable, Miss Nagatoro’s sequel, 2nd Attack, can largely drop its fetish-porn facade and focus on what might have been most unexpected from her at first: Sincerity. It makes sense since, despite the levels of kink, fans could relate to Nagatoro and Senpai’s relationship most easily. Nagatoro and Senpai appeared to be in love during the first season’s climax, although not being formally dating, so focusing the current season on their romance does need some apparent walk-back.
Nagatoro switches from her bra-ripping bullying to a more tense will-they-won’t-they relationship. Virtually every character in the series frequently expresses the audience’s internal intonation of “Wait, aren’t you two dating already?” The anime appears to be pretty aware of its backtracking. The couple’s slow launch may be understandable given the hormonal hemming and hawing typical of high-school students, especially a nebbish like Senpai and an inexperienced projector like Nagatoro. However, if your expectations were for actual, verifiable development in the courtship, you might be let down. Even though the two have lots of blushy-crush fights, it still takes them the entire season to embark on a “real” date or progress to a simple hug. Given that Nagatoro was treading on Senpai and making him do pet play in the first season, it’s possible that this is a knowing dig at the difficulties of displaying “normal” devotion. It can be very difficult to navigate the nuances of romantic relationships.
It also means that there is no place for the metatextual aesthetic heights that Miss Nagatoro attained at the conclusion of its first season if we get passed the show’s sexier sensibilities. Even Nana Mizuki’s portrayal of the president of the art club serves more as a vehicle for laughs about her unintentionally offering performance-art fanservice than as an unclear representation of the goal of sexualized art. Mind you, these are still quite funny jokes. Miss Nagatoro still has a bullseye punchline and can temper it with knowledge of the hormonal teenage mating rituals, while having lost much of its hard-top edge. In fact, the true depth of 2nd Attack lies in its depiction of the development of our main characters, which is fueled by their ever-so-slowly deepening bond.
Some ostensibly straightforward setups in this season, such Senpai opting to wear contacts rather of glasses, serve as powerful examples. Senpai’s glasses-insertion by Nagatoro isn’t just a one-off innuendo-filled sketch; throughout the rest of the season, he doesn’t wear glasses. These advancements are acknowledged throughout the course of the novel, such as when Senpai discovers he does not know Nagatoro’s first name, which prompts him to learn more about her, her family, and her history. The two support one another during the judo competition that serves as its climax. For Nagatoro, the judo revelation points to some of the roots of her penchant for sticking to pre-existing comfort zones, such as a relationship based on strategic flirting and bullying in which she is still waiting for the guy to make the next major step. There is a lot of character payoff in the judo plot in especially since it causes a reorganization of goals and positions that immediately contributes to the need for the big date ask-out in the closing episodes.
It’s good from a purely narrative perspective because it means that even though the development of Senpai and Nagatoro’s relationship is only a pretense at this point, both of them end up feeling more like real people than the effed-up fantasy objects and ciphers they represented at the beginning. Since Nagatoro is understood to have little critical experience with courting and intimacy, there appears to be some retroactive writing at work here. This ultimately proves to be more fulfilling from a narrative perspective since it raises the issue of how much of her earlier advances were a cover for those flaws and how her friends and family started their lighthearted bullying over it. That’s possibly a more thorough assessment of Nagatoro’s nature than one could expect from the show, which last season dared to posit the notion of what art was. Darn it, though. It still exists. Nagatoro used to be nothing more than a face in a computer-generated set for incredibly picky perverts. She is now a multifaceted character that may be examined in the context of narratives and interpersonal connections. It should mean something that the series has evolved into a more “standard” rom-com.
The success of the anime right now depends on how much you enjoy the characters and their interactions. They didn’t exactly bring their A-game for the entire “anime” aspect of the situation.
Given that she appears more flat and stiff this time around, Miss Nagatoro has never really been the most attractive bully in the playground. Nagatoro frequently degenerates into a noodle-limbed caricature or an entirely featureless black blob, and the bully-fetish viewpoint is being rolled back, so we hardly ever see close-ups or framings of screwed-up sexual tension. Nagatoro is still a face-game machine, thus the basic character action is still effectively expressive. Even after he quits wearing spectacles, they continue to make fun of Senpai’s uneasy habit of pushing his glasses. The show isn’t beyond incorporating new strange elements, such as the cousin of the Club President and her proclivity for Naruto-running. All we can expect for at this point is that it typically does the job and makes you say, “Aww,” when its two primary dorks start blushing and freaking out around one another.
Thus, it suffices to say, “If you enjoyed the first season of Miss Nagatoro, you’ll enjoy the second,” though perhaps not in the way you might anticipate. In essence, what you have here is a good romantic comedy that capitalizes on your already-existing fondness for the two lead characters, which is restrained by the lingering affects of their established dynamic. When you are unfamiliar with the previous extreme teasing of Nagatoro and Senpai’s absurd dom/sub arrangement, it is difficult to appreciate this type of relationship teasing right away. However, for those who grew to love these two in that first season, it is fun to watch them fall in love again.