In the Winter 2023 anime season, Don't Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro! picks up where Season 1 left off with another season of playful fun. In terms of Hayase Nagatoro pestering her crush Naoto Hachioji, Season 2 of Nagatoro! looks to be more of the same, but Episode 1 also serves as a gentle reminder to viewers that Hayase is oddly vulnerable on the inside.
Like most Nagatoro! episodes, Season 2, Episode 1 is a collection of silly rom-com skits, and these scenes help reestablish some important themes of Hayase and Naoto's relationship. Their high school antics have some unexpected emotional depth, including Hayase's unspoken insecurities about herself and her relationship with her quiet senpai.
Another Time, Hayase Nagatoro's Teasing Backfires
Despite her annoying antics and confident demeanor, Hayase frequently sabotages herself with these games and is never aware of it, which is a recurring theme in Nagatoro! She has a personality that can give but not receive criticism, and she is much more insecure than Naoto or her friends are aware of. When the girl squad experiments with improvised sushi ingredient combinations in a restaurant scene from Season 2, Episode 1, Hayase comes up with something incredibly bizarre with a fish pregnancy theme, and her friends make fun of her for it. When Naoto stands up for her, Hayase no longer feels bad about what happened. Something similar happens in the leggings scene, when Hayase asks Naoto to put on her new leggings, only for Hayase to get bashful about it and finish the job herself.
No matter her playful and obnoxious antics with Naoto and other students, Hayase is not a true sadodere, and she is barely even a hiyakasudere -- someone who teases and annoys others to show their affection. Outwardly, Hayase is indeed a hiyakasudere, but her true feelings about herself and Naoto tell a different story. Hayase does all this not because it's her nature but to process her strong but confusing romantic feelings, expressing and hiding them at the same time.
Hayase might even fear that she's not good enough for Naoto and isn't attractive to him, and she feels incredibly threatened by almost everything, including any incident of her friends hitting on Naoto. On some levels, Hayase might have dandere elements, being insecure and shy about her true feelings and self-worth, and that changes everything.
When a Dandere Dons a Courageous Face
Hayase isn't a true dandere like Miku Nakano in The Quintessential Quintuplets or Shoko Komi in Komi Can't Communicate, but Season 2, Episode 1 does hint that partial dandere girls like Hayase use their outgoing personalities to put on a brave face and deal with their overwhelming emotions by playing games as a hiyakasudere. Even the shojo manga protagonist Ai is depicted in an early scene from Season 2, Episode 1, initially acting like a true dandere and cowering in front of the determined student council president. Ai then assumes a hiyakasudere persona as soon as she learns some information about the terrifying president and relishes her newfound advantage over him. The shojo manga scene is a clear parallel for Hayase and Naoto's relationship, aside from Naoto being a true dandere, unlike the fictional student council president.
Hayase doesn't clearly fit any -dere archetype because her outer and inner selves are in total contrast, with the outer persona compensating for the inner one. Even if she doesn't act like a dandere, Hayase still feels vulnerable and insecure, and she gets bashful easily when Naoto gives as good as he gets. Like most danderes, Hayase quickly crumbles when things get romantic or intimate, and she can't help but deflect or run away. Outwardly, she's nothing like Shoko Komi or Miku Nakano, but deep down, she sympathizes with those girls and understands what it's like to not show her love interest what she's truly feeling.