This show knows what it is and doesn’t give a hoot whether you like it or not! But I do like it.

In fact, I love this show! I realize it has a lot of elements that could be upsetting to many people, but if we put all that aside and simply let anime make fun of whatever the topic happens to be, this show is hilarious! I love the voice acting that’s just a little unusual, the lively artwork that’s just a bit different, the silly situations Nagatoro and her unfortunate (fortunate?) senpai get into, the energetic characters, and the underlying love story that’s probably unfolding. Did I just spoil this series?!? No!! I don’t read manga, so I’m just guessing!! But I think I’m right.

And I’m pretty sure S2 is in the works. So as usual, I won’t overwhelm the reader with text today, leaving room for this article to expand. Let the disagreement begin!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 8

These are the kinds of characters that make for great comedy anime.

First, they have more personality than should be legal. And most of this comes from their VAs. Nagatoro’s seiyuu, Sumire Uesaka, has mostly played supporting roles despite having been in the industry for several years. But her roles and vocalizations are about as varied as I’ve ever seen. Can you believe she’s the droll Tsukimigusa from Shimoneta? How about Aya Arisugawa-nee-chan from Tonikawa? Shalltear Bloodfallen from Overlord? Or more recently, Ariel the Demon Lord in So I’m a Spider, So What? And as I write this, she’s listed as Kyoko Jingu from the much anticipated The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated! So she gets around in the anime sense. She does a magnificent job with Nagatoro. Her voice drips with sarcasm and playful disdain and energy, maximizing her toying effect on poor Hachiouji-senpai.

The three goofy gyaru friends are hilarious. Gamo is my favorite. The “paisen” thing is an ordinary but effective touch, and her behavior and mentality are uproarious. Mikako Komatsu voices this character, another VA from Overlord (Lupusregina Beta). She has appeared in a number of major anime in the past several years, including Danmachi (Fels), Land of the Lustrous (Cinnabar), Classroom of the Elite (Mio Ibuki), Jujustu Kaisen (Maki Zenin), Re:Zero (Minerva), Yashahime (Setsuna), Edens Zero (Rebecca), Magia Record (Momoko), and like Uesaka-san also stars in The Great Jahy as Salwa. She’s almost too much of a prolific VA for the fairly limited role she plays in Nagatoro! But I like the overkill here. She does a great job and brings life to Gamo as only she could.

The VAs for other two goofy friends don’t have quite the resume of Uesaka and Komatsu, but they do a great job. Sakura is voiced by Shiori Izawa, probably most famous as Nanachi from Made in Abyss and Gokusai in the Scientific Index series. This character is probably the least remarkable of the trio of trouble, but still she has her moments! Then of course there’s Yoshii, who’s dialogue is mostly limited to enthusiastically echoing whatever last few words Gamo just said. Aina Suzuki hasn’t done a ton of roles, but a lot of us might recognize her as Mari Ohara from the Love Live! series. Her repeating Gamo’s words becomes predictable after a while, but that doesn’t mean it gets old! It’s just another goofy, careful touch on the dialogue of this series!

Then, oh lord, there’s the art club president. She exploded onto this show! And I needn’t mention why. Let’s just say the manga readers knew what was coming, initially were disappointed when she first appeared, then went bananas after her second appearance in the subsequent episode! I’m afraid we have even more of this to look forward to in season two, judging by the accounts I hear about the manga. But what I really like about this character, once again, is the seiyuu. Nana Mizuki, 40 years old at the time of this show’s release, voicing roles in anime and games and American film dubs since 1996, prolifically famous for characters such as Hinata from Naruto and Ann Takamaki from Persona 5, a powerful and imposing voice, she brings a life to this character as no one else could. I’ve said that multiple times in this review, and that’s no accident.

Yes…

Meh, Hachiouji-senpai, whatever. What does Nagatoro see in this guy? He’s not the cad that some of these male characters are, where the girls fall in love with them no matter how undeserving they are, but he doesn’t really have much personality going for him. He’s a nice guy, but nothing special. He’s just an ideal target for Nagatoro, meeting her by chance, whereupon she latches on to him and never lets go. Daiki Yamashita does a predictably decent job sounding perpetually nervous, but he doesn’t have much of an opportunity to do anything with this character. Again, he’s almost overkill for this character, given his resume in the anime world (most notably as Deku, MHA). It seems the studio spared no expense for the cast!

I like that. I like that I kept thinking the cast was overkill given the screen time of some of the characters, etc. That tells me the studio gives a damn about the anime they’re producing, not just looking to churn out material. I will always admire that in a production, whether I like the final product or not. And when I really like the final product, that makes it all the better.

Apparently there’s a handful of characters from the manga that didn’t appear in S1 of Nagatoro. While I presume they’ll appear in S2, and there add to the craziness around Nagatoro and Hachiouji, I like how this show basically restricted itself to 2 + 3 + 1 characters. Shows—and characters—get too hard to keep up with when there’s tons of characters. Some shows handle that well of course, but most don’t. So I generally like when a cast is fairly limited. In this case, the limited number of characters allows all the spotlight to remain on Nagatoro and Senpai. The tres amigas contribute very positively when they’re around, but it’s all based on the interaction between Nagatoro and Hachiouji. 

You’d think this would make for a boring or predictable show. It does do the latter, but not the former. But even the predictability has a positive effect. You know Nagatoro-san is about to mess with Hachiouji, and when it happens, it does not disappoint! It’s very effective.

This show is entirely character driven. It does everything I’d expect from a character driven show, and does it well. The dialogue is imaginative and engaging, the acting enlivens the characters, and the characters themselves are instantly memorable. It’s no masterpiece—comedy will forever be forbidden that title—but it’s the height of entertaining. As an adaptation of a manga, I imagine these characters live up to people’s expectations and more. You know I don’t read manga. Anyway, I love these characters. They completely make this anime.

Artwork

Rating: 8

Is it groundbreaking? Is it astonishingly beautiful? Is it unique, one of a kind? Does it establish a trend, or a new norm?

No.

But it is Nagatoro.

Sure there’s nothing artistically magnificent about it. But it perfectly fits this show. Sure, it doesn’t try to be some kind of massive disruption in the world of anime art. But at the same time, it definitely isn’t ordinary. It’s Nagatoro.

Faces. Eyes. The combination of the two. This is anime. Nagatoro gets this. This isn’t the first anime to use the skewed face where one eye opens wider than the other to convey derision or sarcasm, but it makes the expression its own. This isn’t the first anime to use the skin fang tooth (by no means), but Nagatoro herself is one of the most memorable characters with this trait, at least in recent anime history. And what about all those faces she pulls? Whether she’s scheming a new tease, or raging with jealousy, or smiling in smug satisfaction, or beaming her exuberant grin, she’s got a ton of fantastic expressions that you instantly associate with her. 

Nagatoro herself gets most of the focus of the artwork. There’s all the faces of course. I think she’s the only character that does the wavy arm thing. Again, that’s something that’s not unique to this anime, but it pulls it out at such perfect times and in such effective little ways that everyone associates it with this show now. I love it. I love so many parts about Nagatoro. She’s only a first-year in high school, so there’s only so much I can feel about her. But I know that if I was her age, I’d be in love with her instantly. All those exuberant and honest faces she makes, the sinister but emotive eyes, the harsh grin hiding her blossoming feelings for Hachiouji, all of it makes for quite a visual character. It fits her perfectly.

Uh huh.

The half-forehead of bangs on Nagatoro probably has a purpose. No one can watch this show and not think of Teasing Master Takagi-san, where Takagi herself is well known for her expansive forehead (I remember someone once saying “You could land an airplane on that forehead”). More on that comparison later. Knowing Nanashi, the author of Nagatoro, I can imagine him incorporating a reference like this into this work. So on top of it making her hairstyle kind of unique, Nagatoro’s appearance probably pays a little homage to Takagi-san.

Speaking of the author: I know, he used to draw erodoujinshi. I’m glad he forayed into cleaner waters with Nagatoro. But I can’t help but think his experience in that area actually contributed positively to this show. Apart from the more erotic elements in this show—which, though limited, are impossible to ignore—I imagine lots of little parts of the artwork got attention that perhaps someone without such art experience might overlook. It’s a little difficult to point at anything in particular that makes me think this, but I got this feeling a lot during the show. Perhaps a good example is how the clothes sit on the characters. Imagine, an eromanga author would be highly aware of something like this, whereas a Kouhei Horikoshi (MHA manga) might not put as much detail into such a thing. Perhaps it’s better to say maybe this author notices different kinds of details in his drawings, and possibly that’s because of his previous kinds of works.

Everything about this show’s artwork is lively from start to finish. I smiled just watching this show, and do so again remembering it as I see the various pictures scattered about this review. I love the lively expressions. I love the lively animation that doesn’t bear any resemblance to normal human physical motion. I love the lively colors. It all supports the liveliness of the show. So even if the artwork isn’t the driving force behind this show, it does a perfect job supporting the show as a whole. I can’t imagine it looking any different and being any better than it is. It’s great, and I really enjoyed this show visually. No, it’s not because of the art club president….

Story

Rating: 7

There isn’t much of a story. But there’s lots of little story elements that do a great job making this show really fun and sometimes really heartfelt.

The relationship between Nagatoro and Hachiouji is the biggest element. Initially she just targets him for teasing, and he doesn’t like it. And while that continues all the way to the end of this show, you recognize that both of them are actually getting more out of their interaction than either anticipated. It’s sweet. Nagatoro slowly becomes aware of her growing interest in Hachiouji as she experiences moments of jealous possessiveness, even protecting him from the teasing from others at one point. Her confrontation with the art club president was epic for any number of reasons! Then Hachiouji himself discovers his feelings for Nagatoro. I love the episode where he finally grows some balls and pulls Nagatoro from the stampede of people in the line at the ice cream stand after getting separated from her. I think they become mutually aware of their friendship and blossoming romance at that point, and it’s really sweet to watch.

But the best part of this developing friendship is how the show portrays it. All of this could simply exist in the author’s mind and never make into the viewer’s awareness if the writers involved in this show didn’t handle it carefully. Yet we begin to become aware of Nagatoro and Hachiouji’s feelings almost at the same time they are. It’s subtly obvious, I guess is a good way to put it. By the time we’re at the end of the show, the changes these two have gone through are very apparent to the viewer, even if their behavior hasn’t really changed at all! I love that Senpai speaks his mind with more courage, and I love that Nagatoro has to face her feelings and her innate shyness at expressing them sincerely. I can’t wait to see how this turns out in the next season.

One thing that I can’t figure out in this story is the significance of why Hachiouji only draws objects. The writers don’t explain this. I like that they don’t explain it actually, as it contributes to Senpai’s character more that way, but it still bugs me that I can’t figure out why the author made him like this. I seriously doubt there’s some great artistic reason for this. Nothing else in this show is that way, so I don’t expect this is either. But it’s obviously unusual, and therefore obviously there’s some reason behind it. It’s a small thing, but in a show full of little details that are put on display before us, this one is as inexplicable as it is overt. Especially when it’s contrasted with the president’s art (ahem). When I saw the president’s art for the first time, it set off all kinds of alarms in my head. No, not…no. I mean in comparison to what Hachiouji draws. There’s something deeper in all of this than I can readily see. I think once I understand it that it will shed additional light on these characters, and probably in a very good way.

Overall: 8

I really like this show. It’s entertaining. There’s nothing aesthetically deep in an academic sense going on here, but as I always say, art doesn’t have to be like that to be good. Nor just because a work is that way does it mean it’s automatically good (we’ve all seen that!). In Nagatoro’s case, everything works really well together. It’s a great exposition that’s highly entertaining. It’s carefully made and under the author’s control, and he tells an uproariously funny and entertaining tale as a result. I very much enjoyed this show.

But this series demands I address two important factors relating to it. First is the aforementioned similarity to Takagi-san. For one thing, the premise is the same. Late middle school or early high school girl targets a male classmate for teasing, and gradually the audience becomes aware of the romance developing between the two. Both are character driven and have top-tier VAs. But for me personally, that’s where the similarities end. I do not like Takagi-san. There are certain things about it I like, but overall I very much dislike it. I had to will myself to make it through that series. It was repetitious and predictable, had odd artwork, and the teasing was incessant. The effect was entirely negative on me. I found that show completely irritating.

Yet, if you think about it, Nagatoro could be described in exactly those same terms. It is repetitious. It is predictable. It does have unusual artwork. It does have incessant teasing. But I couldn’t get enough of Nagatoro. I’d laugh from beginning to end during each episode, and I’d smile so big at times it’d hurt my face. Why the difference? 

Even after giving it a lot of thought, I’m still not sure. The most notable difference between the two shows is that in Takagi-san we hear all of Nishikata’s internal musings and schemes. Also he’s actually trying to get back at Takagi all the time, whereas in Nagatoro Senpai just absorbs Nagatoro’s onslaughts. But I don’t think my diametrically opposed reactions arise from that. It could be something as simple as how the characters behave. Nishikata’s hapless endeavors and Takagi’s impassive teasing might just rub me wrong, whereas I find Hachiouji’s fidgeting and Nagatoro’s merciless exuberance entertaining to watch. Either way, for the two shows to be so similar, I don’t have anywhere close to the same reaction to both of them. It’s an odd phenomenon.

Why was this in the show? And why was this dragon better than some dragons in actual fantasy anime?

Second is the teasing itself. I won’t go into this too much, as many of us have seen this debated elsewhere in other discussions about this show. In the real world we’d think Nagatoro’s behavior was mean and intolerable. Then an anime humorizes it, twice notably in fact (Takagi and Nagatoro), and not only is it meant to be entertaining, but the characters end up liking each other and there’s no hard feelings and nobody jumps off the rooftop. On one hand, I understand every argument anyone could make about why this humorizing could be a bad thing here. But on the other, reality versus unreality, anime versus real world, entertainment media making light of difficult topics…these debates have gone on forever. And perhaps they’re better left unresolved, for better or worse. Sometimes a show is just entertaining, and that’s all there is to it, and other sentiments are better left checked at the door. 

I think that’s the biggest takeaway I have from this show. The author of Nagatoro is going to tell this story based on this premise, and he doesn’t really care if someone finds it distasteful. He’s going to tell a sweet story about a girl teasing her senpai, and he doesn’t care if some people react negatively to it. He’s going to make a foray into the mainstream anime world despite working in the shadow realm for many years, and he doesn’t care if people say he doesn’t belong there or not. He’s got guts. And so does this show. There’s a certain barefecedness to Nagatoro, a certain sincerity, that people love to see. I think that’s what makes Nagatoro special. People see a lot of programmed responses in real life, often based on popular sentiment, for better or worse. They often want to see unbridled sincerity and exuberant behavior in art, even if it means good-natured teasing. And we get that in Nagatoro. It knows what it is, and doesn’t care if the audience likes it or not!

This was a wholly positive experience for me, all other matters aside. I loved the energy and comedy. I loved the clever situations and dialogue to go with them. I loved the sweet moments that struck unexpectedly. I loved the bright and lively artwork. I love the crazy characters and all their quirks. I even loved the music in this show; the opening was really fun, and the ending had a memorable ring to it. No it’s not some great work of art. Even as a comedy it’s doesn’t nearly approach a Gintama, nor is it quite as good as Nozaki-kun in the rom-com area specifically. But it’s unforgettable nonetheless, and the height of entertaining. A great adaptation, a great production overall, and I look forward to a great Season 2!

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