Domestic Girlfriend (Domestic na Kanojo) is one of Winter 2018/19’s most controversial shows, and unlike Shield Hero, maybe it deserves its reputation. Its content certainly isn’t suitable for everyone. At times, even I was uncomfortable, and I spent an entire day last year watching Koi Kaze… Domestic Girlfriend definitely isn’t the easiest show to watch, by far. Thematically, it would be impossible to be anything else: A mild pile of filth…
I’m judging only on the show alone. I haven’t read any of the manga.
Domestic Girlfriend’s Characters
Good characters are what I look for first in a show, and probably anything I ever watch and read. So, whilst Domestic Girlfriend’s characters certainly aren’t anything special, they do have some charm to them, and I enjoy watching them for what they are.
The main character Natsuo Fuji, is a pretty standard romance-school-type character you find in other harem shows. Yet, his… fantasies and delusions run a little deeper. He’s not necessarily a likeable character in any way, though I wouldn’t want him to be. Natsuo is pretentious, he thinks he’s far more mature than he his, and far more intelligent than he is.
More worrying than anything, is his apparent lack of worry concerning his self-made sex triangle.
Sure, he’s a teenager, but that doesn’t excuse the complete absence of morality. Natsuo’s thoughts aren’t the problem. After all, everyone has thoughts that are morally, and legally dubious, but we don’t act on them, because that wouldn’t be rational. Domestic Girlfriend and Natsuo asks the question: What if you were a morally bankrupt human with zero inhibition and a sex addiction? The answer it offers, if any, is as clear as you’d expect…
Hina is my most liked character. Sure, she’s morally bankrupt too, but at least she realises it, and accepts it. Unlike Natsuo, Hina doesn’t pretend to be above her actions, above the standards of that society imposes on her, as it does everyone. It would be hard to call her a normal person, for even before Natsuo, she was caught in an affair that would end a marriage. But, she wants to be seen as normal. A normal teacher with a normal family, and a normal life. She receives the opposite of this, and in the end, the consequences are her’s to bear. Although I shouldn’t, I feel a little sorry for Hina, and though she deserves what happens, it’s sad to realise that it had to happen at all – knowing everything was avoidable. If only she hadn’t enacted on her desires, and pushed Natsuo away like a sensible adult. Lust is a killer, I suppose.
You can’t help who you love – be that the feelings of Natsuo, Hina, or Rui. Young love is stereo-typically shitty. And although ‘wrong’, the relationship between Natsuo and Rui could be forgiven. You could also forgive Natsuo for falling for Hina, because crushes on teachers are a rare thing, right? The dynamic between the three of them works well, and provides enough tension and conflict to plod the show along at a decent pace.
Ashihara and Kiriya
A few of the characters are odd additions. Ashihara is amongst them. She’s introduced far too late into Domestic Girlfriend’s 12 episodes. She’s tacked on, only there to serve as one of Natsuo’s love ‘options’ who also shares the same interests as he does – convenience, eh? Her relationship with their sensei, Kiriya is questionable, and the apparent conflict there almost pointless – simply a tool so Natsuo has a purpose and place in the Literature Club where everyone can meet and read zero literature. Kiriya turns out to be the Lord of All Coincidences in being Natsuo’s favourite author, and the next thing we know Natsuo’s winning a literary prize for a piece inspired by his recent relationships with Hina, Rui and the others.
Yes, because writing and authorship is that easy to master…
It’s areas like this where Domestic Girlfriend lets itself down. There’s wasted space in the first half of the show, Natsuo’s writing and joining the Literary Club felt like an afterthought. So too did characters like Ashihara, Kiriya, and to a slightly lesser extent, Momo. Introduce them earlier, flesh them out, and provide even more conflict in the creation of a harem that could take any direction. But it doesn’t happen, we’re left with a few decent characters, and a few that feel nothing more than two-dimensional.
It’s An Odd Show…
I’m not going to go into the step-brother/sister incest debate…etc, Reddit can satiate that desire. Do I think it’s incest by definition? No. Do I think it’s morally fucked? Absolutely. Also, regarding Domestic Girlfriend, it’s probably illegal, especially so for Hina… With this is mind, it’s natural to question the enjoyment that can be drawn from the show, because by all definitions, it is odd – even for anime. It reminds me of last year’s Citrus, and its similar relationships. And yet, I do find it enjoyable, or at least, I find parts of it enjoyable.
The first two-thirds are much better than the latter episodes. Domestic girlfriend doesn’t mess about with the presentation of the overarching themes of the show – the opening scenes make damn sure of that. There’s something respectable about showing your face so blatantly, so soon. I’m sure it’s not suitable for a lot of people, and many more wouldn’t even consider watching Domestic Girlfriend given a glance of the synopsis. But that’s fine, not everything is for everyone.
Domestic Girlfriend is not brilliant, we all know that. It’s not going to win Show of the Year, it’s not even going to win Show of the Season – not from me, and I doubt from anyone else. Nevertheless, it’s a niche show. It’s part fan-service, part character simulator. And even then there are shows that tackle themes of the same nature and truly have something to say, like Koi Kaze. In its oddness, Domestic Girlfriend has nothing to say we don’t know already and haven’t realised. But that’s all fine. Simply, it’s a show to be watched, to be entertained by. Not mindless, because how can entertainment be mindless? But passive, a show that doesn’t need nor deserve a frightening deep-dive into its characters, and themes, and anything else it might contain; because mostly it contains varying degrees of debauchery.
Why I Like Domestic Girlfriend
Domestic Girlfriend doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t: It is a debauched show, and everyone is aware. It doesn’t stand on some moral high ground or pedestal – whichever side of the fence you want to sit on, if there is a fence… Instead, it just wants your attention for a moment or two, and then it will carry on its way, going down the exact path you know it’s going to. There’s nothing wrong with this, even in its predictability it is fun. If every anime were a classic, no anime would be classic.
More specifically, the characters appeal to me a good amount. Hina and Rui I enjoy the most, as I watch them wade through a mire of bodged decisions, and unfortunate circumstances. It’s interesting to see how characters react to certain situations, even if those characters could never be real people; Situations that should never occur in the real world, but are experienced fully within the characters nonetheless – this is interesting, and it forces me to overlook many other not-so-great aspects of the show.
An honourable mention goes to Domestic Girlfriend’s OP song, Kawaki wo Ameku by Minami,which is absolutely fantastic in all regards.
What did you think?
Thanks for reading!
-Chris Peach (Follow me on Twitter and consider supporting Peach’s Almanac on Patreon!)