OP: 「Easy Love」by Uesaka Sumire
「センパイって、ちょっと… / センパイって怒らないんですか？」 (Senpaitte, Chotto… / Senpaitte Okoranain Desu ka?)
“Senpai is a bit… / Senpai, don’t you ever get angry?”
Teasing manga may have been getting adaptations left-and-right, but none have the backbone and weapons-grade cruelty that Ijiranaide, Nagatoro-san revels in. Yes, the beloved teasing comedy might end up being an acquired taste, but the relentless sadism of Nagatoro makes for a guilty watch as she continues to get under Senpai’s skin.
The one hurdle that most viewers would have when trying to watch Nagatoro was bound to be Nagatoro herself. While her friends mock Senpai’s amateur manga and call it a day, Nagatoro latches onto Senpai as she begins to wear him down, pushing him to the brink of tears as she mocks him for being even less confident than his story’s chivalrous self-insert.
While teasing him for the possibility of looking forward to going out with her or thinking she’d kiss him are standard moves you’d expect from other similar manga, but I can see this being a course correction for the manga to get serialized since the one-shot webcomic wasn’t as concerned with not leaning into Nagatoro’s sadistic side.
As a side point, I have to compliment the anime’s composer Gin of Busted Rose fame for making some fitting music to accompany the scenes where she really starts prodding at Senpai. It wouldn’t nearly have been as rough to watch Nagatoro wipe away Senpai’s tears if he didn’t come through with metal guitar riffs.
Its mean-spirited nature makes for a guilty viewing because of how pitiful Senpai is as a character. Although he’s spent most of his life coping with the bullying he faces, he lets down his guard too quickly around Nagatoro because he’s facing puberty and his bully this time around is a cute classmate. He makes manga specifically to give himself a comfort character that he can insert himself into, but it also paints a bigger target on him from bullies like Nagatoro that use this detail as a way to destroy him from the inside out.
Instead of telling her to piss off, he’s willing to keep her around as she brings him to tears with the false hope that she’d be interested in him. His ability to shrug off her bullying through the tears only acts as express permission for her to continue treating him horribly. She even gets unnerved, asking him why he doesn’t get angry at her and tell her to go away, but he’s far too accepting of her presence around him, so the story just tries to shrug it off and give the audience permission to not be totally repulsed from seeing Senpai being routinely mocked.
If you were to find some kind of redeeming value in Nagatoro herself, it’d be that through her meanness, she seems to admire him for his ambition as an artist. Even though she treats him like crap every step of the way, she spends the first episode asking him questions about his manga and requests to have him draw a self-portrait without immediately throwing his hobby aside and calling his work trash as her friends did.
It’s a stretch to say that any of that proves Nagatoro is a good person who isn’t quick to twist the knife in Senpai’s back whenever she feels like it, but there is potential in Ijiranaide, Nagatoro-san exploring her softer side in encouraging Senpai to at least defend his artwork. It can be a tough to digest Ijiranaide, Nagatoro-san with how the caveat of the show is enjoying Senpai’s pain as Nagatoro viciously ridicules him, but underneath the surface, it’s also easy to see how the story can become a guilty pleasure, especially as Nagatoro begins to soften up around him.