Natsuo Fujii meets a girl named Rui at a mixer, and they have their first sexual experience with each other, but it's apparently more fizzle than fireworks; besides, Natsuo already has a crush on a young teacher at his school named Hina. Soon Natsuo's dad tells him that he's going to have a new mother, and introduces that lady and her two daughters to him. Guess who her two daughters are???
MASSIVE SPOILER WARNING: I have an (undoubtedly deserved) reputation for revealing more of a show’s story than I probably should, but HERE I’m afraid I have to frankly spoil things, because you really can’t appreciate the horrifying dysfunctionality of its characters unless I lay it all out.
What we have here is a typical hentai scenario played RELATIVELY non-hentai: yes, there's nudity, and even foreplay; you'll also see Natsuo and his partner-of-the-moment in bed afterward (though they WON'T be smoking cigarettes as they always used to do in similar scenes in American shows.) But you won't see the deed itself. (The manga is more graphic.) AND- I have to spoil here- don't get your hopes up about seeing the threesome that some of the show's promotional art seems to promise. There's no polygamy here, just serial monogamy; in other words, Natsuo's only involved with one at a time, but they keep taking turns.
As the show opens Natsuo has known Hina for about a year. Hina openly flirts with Natsuo at school- pretty unprofessional conduct even for a young, inexperienced teacher, but she has quite a number of behavioral issues, as we'll see. Apparently Natsuo's dad never got around to introducing his prospective bride OR her two daughters to Natsuo until the marriage is nearly a fait accompli, though he does ask his son's opinion before making it official. And you can almost see a thought bubble above Natsuo's head, which is surely captioned "Oh boy, oh boy, I'll be with Hina 24/7!". Even though she's going to legally be his sibling. And even though the person he lost his virginity with (whether the sex was "meh" or no), Hina's sister, is ALSO going to be a legal sibling living with him.
I wish that someone could have played a Jedi Mind Trick on Natsuo and put this thought into his head: "These are NOT the sisters you're looking for!". Instead, Natsuo quickly encourages his dad to marry Hina's mom, all very much as you'd expect from the sort of young man who thinks with his gonads instead of his brain. Natsuo has aspirations to be a writer, by the way, which suggests that Natsuo might be a Mary Sue kind of character for the manga's author. (I may say more about this later.) In any case, "domestic life" soon begins, but it's anything BUT blissful, because Hina, Rui, AND Natsuo are ALL seriously dysfunctional individuals.
Let's start with Hina. It seems she often drinks herself to sleep in the evenings. Apparently her mom has simply put up with this for a long time- and now Natsuo's dad does too- but let's face it: Hina's a grown woman, and her parent(s) could at least have insisted she get some help as a condition of her continuing to reside with them. I'm not sure if the alcohol is to blame, but Hina also exhibits some frighteningly over-the-top behavior when she's trying to make a point. She's always telling the male students that they're "just kids"- even though she seems awfully immature herself- and the first time our hero Natsuo actually makes a pass at her (this is AFTER she's become his stepsister) she doesn't calmly tell him he's acting inappropriately; she doesn't yell at him; she doesn't even slap him. No, she aggressively tries to turn the tables on him by pouncing on him and trying to undress him; when he's intimidated by this attack, she uses that as proof that he's "just a kid" (AGAIN), and that he's apparently not "man" enough for her. (His response to this, to show he's NOT a kid, is to...run away from home.) She'll try to make her point against involvement with him in a different (but equally disturbing) way later, but we suspect that she'll sooner or later succumb to his "charms" (whatever THOSE are; I NEVER figured that out), which will create its own problems when it happens. (Really, I think she got off lightly in the end; I'm pretty sure this would have ended much worse for her in the "real" world, either in Japan or the U.S.)
Rui is...no improvement, really. Despite being Hina's younger sister, her dour, sarcastic attitude somehow still seems less immature than Hina's behavior. She originally had sex with Natsuo "just to see what it was like", and is disappointed because it didn't "change" her. When her older sister passes out drunk, her custom is to simply drag her to her room by her arm caveman-style. Despite her first sexual experience with Natsuo being such a disappointment, she subsequently changes her mind and tries her best to seduce him. The only way I could interpret this is that she must have noted how Natsuo and Hina "got along well" (Hina's occasional bizarre attacks on him only happen in private), and got jealous. Still, she's nearly as slow as everyone else is to identify what's REALLY going on between Natsuo and Hina. The parents here are especially oblivious: they think the problem is the girls and Natsuo DON'T get along, when the real issue is of course the exact opposite. (Even Kirino's mom in the Second Season of Oreimo was sharper than THIS.) Natsuo naturally easily succumbs to Rui's seduction because, well, he's a male of the sort that Kouji Seo (Suzuka, Fuuka, A Town Where You Live) likes to depict.
In fact, this is the closest imitation of Seo’s style I've ever seen, and that applies to all THREE leads. For one thing, no matter how often Natsuo lies to and betrays one of the girls (usually with the other one), they STILL both remain resolutely in love with him, just as they all do with the male leads in Seo's shows. And there was one jaw-dropping bit of hypocrisy that reminded me of A Town Where You Live in particular: Natsuo finds out that Hina's involved with a married man named Shuu Hagiwara- who was one of her OWN former teachers. (Another teacher, named Reiji Kiriya, was supposedly transferred to Natsuo's school because he was involved with a student; AND as the faculty sponsor for the school's literary club Kiriya tries to induce Natsuo and another club member to kiss "as an experiment." WHAT IS IT WITH TEACHERS IN THIS SHOW???) But what made ME see red was that Natsuo then publicly confronts Hagiwara and Hina over this. Now let's be clear that by this time he's ALREADY made it plain to Hina (his stepsister/teacher) that he's romantically interested in her HIMSELF, so it seemed to me pure chutzpah for Natsuo to adopt this moral-indignation/it's-for-her-own-good pretense when there's ALSO the completely self-serving purpose of getting a rival out of the picture (or at least of diminishing their influence; see Haruto's similar approach to his rival for Yuzuki in Seo's A Town Where You Live.) And for him to make an issue of the moral unacceptability of someone ELSE’S desire for her...well, words fail me. But Hina- and this is arguably even MORE absurd- takes Natsuo's argument as completely motivated by selfless concern for her. (Which makes her not just an emotional trainwreck, but a particularly DIM emotional trainwreck.) Sure, he thinks he's in love with her. At times, he "loves" Rui too (or is at least receptive to her advances.) In between the two, he'll find himself in love with (or at least in "lust" with) a random girl or two, just to spice things up. THIS IS GOING TO BE HIS PATTERN FROM NOW ON. The anime HAS an ending, but not really closure, and this is for a reason: in the manga he keeps repeating this pattern well beyond the events (and the girls) of the anime. (In the anime we DO see him starting to get intimate with one other girl, and the show apparently wants us to admire his final decision to back off with her. But in context it looked to ME like he was perfectly willing to go all the way with her, and backed off just because he noticed something about her that seemed icky. ) And for all of Natsuo's belief in his "love" for Hina, when the real test comes his concern seems to be not with her well-being, but rather by how HE is affected by what happens to her.
Oh, I said I was going to talk about Natsuo's literary ambitions. Obeying the literary dictum "write about what you know", Natsuo eventually produces a thinly-disguised account of his relationship with Hina (thinly enough that just about anyone from his school could figure out who the "models" for it were.) For some reason he wins a prize. My first thought was, geez, first the "mess"-terpiece in My Sister, My Writer, and now THIS- is no one in Japan supposed to have respectable literary standards??? My second thought was, well, there IS always a viable market for trashy novels, so maybe his work COULD sell well- if it weren't such a far-fetched concoction about abominable characters who completely lack self-awareness.
I'll just mention that the screechy, strident, discordant piano piece that opens the show adds a hysterical note to the proceedings that ALSO does not help.
I was also going to note that I'm also watching ANOTHER show with teachers romantically involved with their students, a "comedy" called Why The Hell Are You Here, Teacher?, and with TWO shows with such similar themes, it seems like SOMEONE'S surely cribbing from someone else. (They've even both got an "inserting a suppository" scene.) I'm not saying that this topic is any LESS offensive played as comedy, but somehow it seemed a little less depressing that way. Domestic Girlfriend seems to demonstrate that exploitation genres don't really work as "straight" drama, in any case.
The Recs are all better shows about students- sometimes students in love, but they're almost always more mature than our cast here.
I hated all three major characters in this. Honestly, I've never seen such an oblivious, self-absorbed cast in all my life. Natsuo, in particular, is completely oblivious to the fact that REAL love is thinking about the welfare of the other person as well as your own. Hina had it right the first time: he's just a "kid" in that respect. Unfortunately, I never noticed a moment where he really "grew up". If this is what you get when you play a "hentai" theme as straight drama, it's probably better to leave it as hentai. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Nudity, sexual foreplay, and adult themes. (Though this show proves that not everything that's "adult" is actually mature.)
Version(s) Viewed: Crunchyroll video stream
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Domestic Girlfriend © 2018 Diomedea
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