nagatoro episode 1: against my will

I know very little about Nagatoro going in. I know the girl is mean to the boy, and they both like it. That's pretty much it. I wouldn't have even given this series a shot, honestly, but I skim through those Anime News Network review articles when they pop up on my feed, and it seems like there might just be the crumbs of a fun romance buried somewhere in this show.

I've honestly been in the mood to just Consume Content lately, especially content with low commitment and low stakes. Something with some cheap laughs is good enough for me. I've been tossing around whether or not to watch this show for a few weeks now, and the only reason I've been waffling about it so hard is that I'm worried I'm going to watch it and genuinely just love it. Like, how embarrassing. How 'cringe' even. My fears were confirmed when I got together with some friends recently. My (dear, lovely) friend Cassidy turned to me, and said, completely genuine:

"Have you seen Nagatoro yet? I feel like you would really like it."

Okay, Cassidy. I'm finally doing it. I'm doing it for you. But mark my words, if I end up actually caring about these characters, there will be hell to pay.


Halfway Mark: First Impressions

Alright, my fears are validated. Coming right out of the gate, the first half of episode 1 is kinder, a little more complex, and a hell of a lot more enjoyable than I wanted it to be.
I like this shot in particular a lot, right when the girls are roasting Senpai for his drawings and Nagatoro approaches after the fact. She doesn't laugh at him along with them. In fact, it looks like she's genuinely looking at his work. And when she sits down with him, they have what you could consider a conversation before she suddenly lets him have the bullying that we all know is coming.
And let him have it she does, in a way that's somehow both a lot nicer and a lot meaner than what I envisoned. It's more teasing than genuinely damaging, but it feels inherently personal. Which, now that I think about it, is probably why she looked at his drawings so closely. Nagatoro's voice actress (Sumire Uesaka) is extremely compelling in this role. I was conflicted, because I wanted to feel bad for Senpai when he was getting teased, but damn it, Nagatoro's delivery is really spot-on.
ALSO, okay. The kabedon had me screaming a little bit. I was sitting there like this for a minute.


Second Half

I knew it. I knew this would happen. This is why I kept avoiding this show.
(Last thing you see before you die.)

One episode in, and I already like them both a lot. The art style is very inviting, especially the silly little faces Senpai makes when he's embarrassed, which I can only assume is 90% of the show going forward. Nagatoro has some great expressions too. I expected her to come off as annoying, but honestly, she's kind of a delight.
Which brings me to my biggest dilemma after watching this episode: I absolutely should not be laughing at Senpai's misfortunes at the hands of this girl, but they make it so hard not to. The comedic timing is really excellent, and I think it's the fact that Nagatoro isn't doing it out of malice (just, idk, boredom and inherent bastard energy) that make it somewhat charming. They had a nice little moment at the end of the episode, too, where Senpai basically tells her 'this isn't the most horrible thing people have done to me, so it's weirdly comforting'. It probably helps that Nagatoro is a cute girl, too.
We also get this shot after Nagatoro accidentally* (*genuinely on accident) pushes Senpai into the river. She's taken aback because that was farther than she meant to take it, and she even apologizes to him. It's a nice moment that shows she does have some emotions despite the fact she's decided to torment this boy for reasons unknown.

I used to make fun of the mean anime girl trope a lot, but now that I've realized that I like mean anime boys who do the exact same shit that Nagatoro does in this episode, I can understand why this got so popular. I don't know anything about the manga, and I doubt these two characters will end up happily together in the (presumably) 12-episode run of a single season, but I'm actually interested in how they work out their relationship moving forward. And even if they don't make much progress, I watched Kaguya-sama, so I'm no stranger to enjoying a whole season of absurdist romcom hijinks.

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