Don’t mind me, just going to grab some popcorn real quick.
There’s an exception to everything. That’s a saying that I firmly stand by whenever I try any work of art and that may have been reflected in some of the writings I’ve done on this blog. And if not then, it certainly will here.
I was interested in Domestic Girlfriend due to some positive reviews the manga received but given my personal preferences, I was expecting to dislike it. I generally just don’t care for these super sketchy, melodramatic, “trashy” romance anime that have sprung about over the years. Didn’t care for Scum’s Wish. Didn’t care for Citrus. What could possibly make Domestic Girlfriend any different? The synopsis certainly didn’t get my hopes up. A boy named Natsuo (Taku Yashiro) is in love with his teacher Hina (Yoko Hikawa), has sex with another girl named Rui (Maaya Uchida), and then finds out that both of them will soon be his stepsisters via his father marrying their mother. Mmm, I can see the drama cooking already.
Imagine my surprise then that I found myself liking Domestic Girlfriend. Like, a lot. I’d even go as far as admit that this is among my favorite premieres this season and that’s in spite of the fact that this season kind of sucks right now.
For me, the key factor to the premiere’s success is its tone. The big reason I dropped, say, Scum’s Wish or Citrus was how dead serious it was. It was melodrama 24/7 from what I saw of those shows and the few bits of levity I found was generally things that unintentionally came across as hilarious. I expected Domestic Girlfriend to follow suit but there was a surprising handful of moments that cracked me up. First, you have Natsuo (Taku Yashiro), the protagonist, recount his recent experiences with Hina and Rui to a friend who naturally gets flabbergasted at such a series of events. The speed at which Natsuo’s father marries Hina and Rui’s mother and buys a house for the whole family is exaggerated for comical effect. You even have a fanservice-filled scene where Hina walks into the living room naked by force of habit, much to everyone’s shock, especially Natsuo’s.
All in all, it’s a little refreshing to see this kind of romance anime not take itself too seriously all the time. The levity expresses a healthy amount of self-awareness over the plot which, let’s face it, would require some insane odds in real life. Furthermore, this actually helps the more serious moments land better. There’s considerably more weight evoked when, say, Rui and Natsuo decides to have sex or when Natsuo tries to kiss a sleeping Hina, because they are contrasted by more comical moments such as the ones I just described.
As for the drama, there is something about the characters and the predicament they’re currently in that just clicks for me. For starters, I’m liking Natsuo as the protagonist. There’s nothing twisted or slimy about him; he’s just a teenager driven by his hormones. Obviously, the right thing for him to do is to let both his feelings towards Hina and his fling with Rui go and, to be fair, he even knows it. But at the same time, you can see where he’s coming from when he so clearly is screwing things up. That attempted kiss at the end? He definitely shouldn’t have tried to make such a move but it doesn’t feel contrived in the slightest. Given where he is in life and how attracted he is to Hina, you get why he’d make such a poor decision.
The whole sex scene between Rui and Natsuo and the ensuing aftermath particularly feels very believable to me. They wanted to get having their first time out of the way but after they do it, they’re not sure if they should feel happy or sad that they did it with someone they barely know. It’s a 100% understandable for them to feel that way and it only gets more complicated when the they become family. Rui seems adamant about letting it go but let’s be real here: there’s no way she’s going to catch Natsuo trying to kiss Hina and not be bothered by that in any capacity.
The real wild card for me out of this inevitably wild ride, however, is Hina. There’s something about the way she acts around Natsuo that I just don’t completely buy into. Was she really that oblivious about the fact the man her mother is dating just so happens to be Natsuo’s father? You’d think, being a teacher, she’d be a little aware of who her student’s parents are and could maybe put two and two together. And what about the scene where Natsuo catches her crying? What could that mean? Is she perhaps aware of Natsuo’s feelings towards her and may even reciprocate them, hence that aforementioned reaction? I find myself really fascinated with what is making this character tick.
It is possible that Domestic Girlfriend might jump the shark? Considering what materials have been presented so far, this story could get really messy real fast and not in the good way. Still, this premiere did hook him me. I’m really impressed with its tone and the characters I do find quite intriguing at the moment. It’s a very perilous tightrope this anime is walking on but if it can make it to the end, then perhaps I’ve found the exception to my disinterest in this kind of romance story.
OP: “Kawakiwo Ameku” by Minami
Not going to lie, I’m really digging this song. I love the angst expressed in Minami’s vocals and the rock instrumentals. One thing that did raise an eyebrow in the visuals though is that, apparently, there’s two more girls in the cast. Oh Natsuo, what are you about to get yourself into?
ED: “Wagamama” by Arisa Takigawa
Thanks for reading!
Domestic Girlfriend is officially available on HIDIVE.
For all of my Winter 2019 First Impressions, check out this archive page!
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