Domestic Girlfriend (ドメスティックな彼女) is a shōnen, romance anime series that is an adaptation of the manga written by Kei Sasuga. When I read the premise for this show (I haven’t read the manga), I was intrigued by it, while simultaneously having some very low expectations. I felt it would either be an exploration of interpersonal connections between people or revolve around smut, with my belief laying almost entirely on the smut side. After watching the pilot, I feel like it’s a unique balance of both with it leaning closer to the former than the latter.
Domestic Girlfriend is about an adolescent boy in high school name Natsuo. One evening he goes out to karaoke with his friends, and after a bit of plot things, he loses his virginity to a girl he barely knows. In the aftermath, as he ponders whether this was a wise decision or not, he also thinks about the woman he has a crush on who just so happens to be a teacher at his school. More plot things occur, and Natsuo very quickly learns that his father is planning on getting remarried and the woman he’s tying the knot with has two daughters—Natsuo’s teacher and subsequent crush (Hina) and her younger sister with whom he had intercourse (Rui).
This one is tough to talk about, even for a first impressions. Japan is country that isn’t burdened with heavy judgmental opinions about sex, even with being a rather publicly conservative nation. Sex is a natural thing and being a virgin, or not being a virgin, is something that isn’t viewed with the same harmful lens as it is in other parts of the world, especially Western ones. So, when I finished the first episode, if I’m to be honest, I felt really fucking fascinated by it taking into consideration the real-life social practises surrounding the subject matter.
The show definitely has an adult essence to it, and it surprised me to see it labelled as shōnen rather than seinen, and it can be easy to misconstrue this as being no different than smut. There is fanservice in it that pushes it closer to the smutty side, as I mentioned briefly in my intro, however, I strongly believe Domestic Girlfriend is going to be about the complexities of romance, particularly adolescent romance that tends to be fuelled by hormones and impulsive instincts.
Natsuo really questions his brash choice to have sex with someone who was a stranger and you can tell that it’s one he regrets. For me, that highlights a bit of character depth and compassion to him. He’s not the smartest dude around, but he doesn’t seem to be a grade-A asshole either, at least not yet. Then you flip the coin and see the shadow of a different part of his persona, the one that longs to receive the same affections that he holds for a woman who is older than him. It’s mentioned in the pilot that he grew up without a mother, so there was a significant lack of nurturing in his childhood. I think this emptiness leads him to behave in ways that are uncomfortable, but also not too far a fetch for a teenage boy. I love it when a series can take small details and use it to compound deeper meaning into an individual character or the various ways a story is crafted. Where he takes those impulses as the series progresses will probably define Natsuo as an individual later on.
Because he does partake in some questionable behaviour, and because the subject matter does concentrate heavily on sex and the causes and effects of sexual encounters in teens, I don’t believe this series will be for everyone. Another blogger and I chatted briefly about this (she gave me a head’s up about the content), and I agree with her completely. There are traits that will get under your skin if you are sensitive to topics such as these, so definitely proceed with caution if it applies to you.
Less important things to appreciate include the animation style. It’s rather standard across the board, yet for certain scenarios and the opening/ending sequences its bumped up to be absolutely stunning. There is meticulous attention to surroundings, like the textured wall paper or paper doors, that makes the animation pop visually and feels more aesthetically satisfying than normal. I love the music, especially the opening. The tone and rhythm for it is an excellent accompaniment for the mood that Domestic Girlfriend has going on.
There are two minor annoyances that I have so far, at least as far as a first episode goes, and that is how Hina-sensei keeps referring to Natsuo as a child. It’s overdone and mildly annoying. There is a point to be made, which is distinguishing the inappropriateness that lies beneath the surface, but it doesn’t need to be pounded into my grey matter every time she’s on-screen. The second one is the comic relief. It’s decent and used sporadically to break the tension so things aren’t as heavy, however, I honestly don’t feel it needs the comedic elements. The series can work quite fantastically being entirely serious rather than one that needs useless laughs.
Overall, I’m excited to see what’s going to happen with Domestic Girlfriend. I feel like there is great potential here for it be a contemplative examination on the connections that tie people together, especially where romantic feelings are concerned, and how sex is far from being as black-and-white as people would like to believe it is.
You can catch Domestic Girlfriend on HIDIVE on Friday mornings.