Kubo Won't Let Me Be Invisible is a new rom-com anime title airing in the Winter 2023 anime season, and it has some serious competition. Romantic comedies set in high school are fairly common, so each one needs a particular hook or unique storytelling element to draw viewers in. In this case, Kubo is about the playful deredere Nagisa Kubo, who finally sees her invisible classmate Junta Shiraishi and starts teasing him as her new friend.
This amusing premise makes Kubo similar to another popular high school anime: Don't Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro!. Fans of either anime are bound to enjoy the other, but in some ways, Kubo Won't Let Me Be Invisible is already poised to beat Nagatoro! at its own game and be Winter 2023's defining romantic comedy anime.
Nagisa Kubo Shows Restraint With Her Teasing
Kubo Won't Let Me Be Invisible has a thematic overlap with Komi Can't Communicate, both series involving a friendly student who connects with their shy, misunderstood classmate and kick-starts their social life with rom-com antics. Nagisa Kubo is almost like a female version of Hitohito Tadano when she's around around the dandere Junta, but in practice she's also like Hayase Nagatoro, the hiyakasudere star of Miss Nagatoro!. Both girls have fun teasing and provoking the boys and testing them to see what might happen next. Nagatoro is Naoto Hachioji's worst enemy and best friend at the same time, and now in Kubo, Nagisa Kubo is Shiraishi's protagonist while also toying with him out of sheer curiosity.
Kubo and Hayase both mean well, and they use their teasing antics to merely express their genuine affection. They need it to process their overwhelming feelings, but so far, Kubo Won't Let Me Be Invisible is doing it better. Unlike Hayase Nagatoro, Kubo shows more restraint and doesn't push Junta too far. She simply has fun making him stand out in class with harmless antics, such as standing on his desk chair or having him answer the teacher's question for once. Junta wonders how long Kubo will keep toying with him, and he knows she even views him as a "pet." However, Kubo doesn't make Junta cry, nor does she ever hit him or steal his belongings.
Hayase Nagatoro concerned anime and manga fans with her excessive antics early in the Nagatoro! anime, often whacking Naoto on the head and making him cry or swiping his sketchbooks without asking. She will also do this in front of her friends Gamo, Sakura and Yoshi, who nearly always pile on -- as Hayase intended. There were concerns that all this trivialized bullying was giving Hayase Nagatoro a free pass because she's a rom-com protagonist who needs to do something funny to make the plot move along.
The Nagatoro! anime has stabilized its tone and created a somewhat better-balanced relationship between Naoto and Hayase, though some fans might still be a little apprehensive. Meanwhile, Kubo has no such problems simply because Nagisa puts less emphasis on teasing and more on the -dere side of things. She's halfway between Hitohito Tadano and Hayase Nagatoro, and it works well.
The Hidden Emotional Depth of Hayase Nagatoro & Nagisa Kubo
On the surface, Hayase Nagatoro is a punk girl and a natural troublemaker who just happens to be crushing on a boy who's her total opposite. It's actually the other way around; Hayase acts up specifically because she doesn't know how to process or properly express her feelings. She might feel embarrassed and confused, so she compensates with goofball antics to get closer to her crush while also venting nervous energy and not being transparent to Naoto about her true intentions. It's her idea of a compromise, spending time around her favorite "Paisen" without being a giggling maiden in love on the outside.
Despite her hiyakasudere antics, Hayase is secretly vulnerable, feeling insecure and defensive anytime another girl gets cozy with Naoto. She also gets bashful around him and feels overwhelmed when a prank backfires on her. Deep down, Hayase is even more of a dandere than Naoto, and she might fear that she's not worth taking seriously as a potential girlfriend. That makes the character more complex and sympathetic, and the same may be true of Nagisa in Kubo Won't Let Me Be Invisible.
Even if Kubo avoids Hayase's excessive antics, she might end up less compelling because her gentle personality alone doesn't make her stand out. Luckily, a scene in Episode 1 provided her a bit more depth. Nagisa's much older sister implied that she is rarely happy or smiling at home, perhaps because she feels unfulfilled despite being popular. Now that Kubo has Junta as her own version of Naoto, she is much happier, and those lonely feelings may soon go away. There's clearly more to Kubo than her Nagatoro-lite teasing at school -- she might have some growing up to do, just like Junta himself.