Beauty and the Dweeb
So, you remember in school when the popular girl would pick on you because she secretly liked you? I know, me neither, that whole thing is a myth! The only way to get that girl’s attention was to do a Powerline-Stand-Out performance, and maybe she will learn your name… Did I just make a Goofy Movie reference? Well, let’s stay on topic now, it’s time to discuss the “Beauty and the Dweeb” fantasy that manga loves to push out.
First off, I’m let’s start off with the more popular one, the teasing- or rather bullying queen herself: Nagatoro. Now everyone loves Nagatoro for some odd reason, but she has cemented herself as an anime staple. Not everyone will know who she is, but everyone has seen her before. I say all this because, for the most part, I don’t really care for Nagatoro.
Now hear me out…
How I Met Your Senpai
The Manga starts with a rather disturbing version of Nagatoro. In the first chapter, we see her come across the Paisen’s (the male lead) drawings. Her friends make fun of his work, he endures and waits until they leave. But for some reason, Nagatoro decides she wants to stay later and harass him in the art room. She belittles him and insults him to such a degree that he starts to cry. Now I come from a “man up” type of family, and that helped me. However, this kid doesn’t seem to have a single voice of confidence in his life. Maybe he doesn’t talk about it, I mean a girl making you cry is embarrassing as a teen. The next day, it happens again, he was bullied into tears, now I’m about ready to drop the manga because I’m just not interested in a cruel replaying of daily bullying. Kids had killed themselves over stuff like this.
Around chapters 3 and 4, the author was like, “hmmm, this is kinda dark and sad… Maybe I should do a rom-com.” Thus, was born the Nagatoro that everyone loves. This is Newgatoro, and she makes it obvious that her bullying is only an attempt to open him up. She now seems more vulnerable despite still being a more dominant factor over him. This new Nagatoro is a different character from the first two chapters, in later chapters, she often shows regret when she feels like she teased him too much and is protective of him. So, here’s what I think of the manga… It’s okay. Nagatoro isn’t a psychologist, she goes about the most roundabout way of trying to support Paisen. I recall a particular scene when she offered to help him improve his physical prowess. They go on a run, but he quickly falls to his knees after going as far as he could. Her response was to call him trash and a maggot, to reignite him. “Naturally,” this works because of course it does, but at this point, there’s very little she could do that would completely turn him off. It will be an odd story to tell his kids, I’m sure.
tHE bULLY qUEEN
So here’s the deal, the thing I hate about Nagatoro the most is that she is a hypocrite. She pokes fun at how Paisen stares at her, but we see her stalking him plenty of times. She teases him for being a virgin despite being one. She declared that she would change his twisted view of himself, when in fact she has quit judo because of her own unresolved issues. She tries to seduce him only to get embarrassed if something doesn’t go exactly as she planned it. Hell, the whole concept of the manga- her bullying him– is to cover up that she is terrible at being honest with her feelings! She wants him to be sterner and more communicative, but she can’t do the very thing that she’s guiding him to do. It’s literally like they are the same pers—
Well then, let me reiterate; I do not like Nagatoro as a person, however, I do find her interesting. The manga leads you to believe that you’re here to follow Paisen’s progression, now while some of you may enjoy watching paint dry, that’s not the real joy of the manga. The true beauty is that through her negging, she is slowly being changed by the person who best mirrors all her insecurities. I didn’t think that their relationship was healthy. I imagine if you were to flip the genders, Malegatoro would come off as a jerk who just so happened to find the right girl willing to endure his twisted display of affection.
As the chapters move on, the bullying begins to play a back seat to the rom-com. She says he’s “gross,” but at this point, it’s just another way of her lying to herself. She goes out of her way for him many times. She often models for him in weird costumes, enjoys the time they spend alone, and desperately tries to keep her bully friends away from him. These two, at times, show signs of being a cute couple. But what about her partner?
Paisen Is Gross
Well, Paisen… is the wet rag of the show, but he kinda HAS to be for this genre. My main gripe with him early on is that he has no agency. I’m not picky either; I’ll take any visible desire to change for his own sake. In the early chapters, it’s crucial for me as a reader to understand the character’s desire. Even if it’s just a thought, a prayer, or even a scream in the bathroom, show us that you want something more! Now, this isn’t a situation where he wants to change but doesn’t believe he can. He had no intention of changing his routine until Nagatoro arrived, and while that may be the whole point of the manga, it drains him of what little agency he has. You often feel like his moments of growth are less inspired, but more of being carefully manipulated by Nagatoro. It’s not all bad new, currently he is in a much better spot. Paisen’s greatest moment was during the art festival where he showed his growth as a character and a artist.
The BARF Effect
Now, all these types of stories use the BARF system.
Now interestingly enough, when the male is the aggressive and dominant one, the manga usually lends itself towards Shoujo-ai. This is geared more towards girls, this is where your anime “Edward Cullen”s and your “Christian Grey”s reside. The fanservice is light, but they make it count when they do indulge. Nagatoro gets her share, but most of it goes to side characters. The Club president, Sana Sunomiya, is a large chested, straight-faced honor student. She is often dressing in revealing outfits, with little sense of modesty. However, she never entertains dirty jokes or actions. Her quirkiness is funny every time she shows up. I would have preferred her to be the female lead only because she seems to have more self-interest than Nagatoro. However, I won’t deny Nagatoro’s design jumps out more at first glance. It will never not be weird when they do fanservice of her but that’s kinda the give-and-take when it comes to anime/manga.
I’m happy to say that the best aspect of this title is the comedy. Our female lead has the best reactions when things don’t go her way. Another grand addition is her friends who don’t allow the story to just be a flirting spree. They disrupt, they crack jokes, and they even force Nagatoro into tight situations where she must express her true feelings. They are the perfect spice, much better than the usual unwanted third love triangle. My favorite character is Nagatoro’s most prevalent friend, Maki Gamou, she’s confident, perceptive, physically intimidating, and enjoys being mischievous. I would love a spinoff focused on her!
Wrap It Up Senpai!
In my opinion, I would say Nagatoro is the best of these premises thus far. I attribute that to the story providing us a reason why these two are even talking. Paisen isn’t supposed to be any more than a blushing and bumbling machine, despite that, he grows albeit slowly. He has his moments, but the author has no interest in having him try to carry some of the weight of this title. All in all, if you enjoy this manga, then it just means you enjoy a funny high school romance that has its lovable moments …and you may be an M. Hah!
You can check out the anime on Crunchyroll as well!
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