Season aired: Winter 2019
Number of episodes: 12
Genres: Romance and Drama
Thoughts: When you start an anime whose description basically means it’s a love triangle between the protagonist and his two stepsisters, one of which is his teacher, you know you’re on a crazy ride. But is the craziness good? It’s certainly not for my taste, but I can see people enjoying it for just some over the top drama.
Domestic Girlfriend revolves around Natsuo, high schooler and author wannabe, who lived his whole life with his single dad after his mom passed away from an illness. He secretly lusts after a high school teacher and eventually finds himself losing his virginity in a one night stand with a girl he met at a mixer. As life would have it, his dad would remarry and bring in two new stepsisters – one of which is his teacher and the other of which he lost his virginity to.
It’s weird to say the least and highly unrealistic. I really doubt any high schooler would actually go through the life that he did, but I do appreciate the anime going through certain topics that others avoid – sex. Not everyone has sex as teenagers, but it is a topic that almost all teenagers are the least bit curious in. The fact that Natsuo does not turn down an offer to have sex, even after he was lusting (supposedly in love) with another woman and continues to be interested in sex is a level of realism that I don’t think shoujo adaptations have managed to achieve. The topic of sex and sexual activity should not be taboo, so if there is anything to commend about the anime, there is that.
However, that realism aspect pales in comparison to the train crash that the anime ends up becoming. While I personally have never had a complaint about age differences, I do have complaints with differences in experience. In other words, if a 50-year-old marries a 35-year-old, they’re both adults who have lived lives and are independent people to make their own decisions. However, if it is a 21-year-old in college together with a 16-year-old in high school, I am against the relationship. When you have gone through college, your viewpoint is vastly different and more expanded versus you as a teenager who is still exploring what life has to offer.
This disapproval I have expands even more when Domestic Girlfriend explores the relationship between a teacher and a student. Not only is the gap in experience an issue in itself, and ignoring legality issues as Japan had only in the last few years declared that all teenagers younger than 18 requires parental approval for marriages, there is still the ethical issue of favoritism that prevails in the environment. In the same way that it is frowned upon for a boss to have a relationship with their subordinate for, even if unintentional, favoritism in the workplace, it would work the exact same way in school. One cannot imagine a teacher honestly giving grades, and even in a more objective course with clear right and wrong answers (ie. Math), the teacher would not privy the student to extra credit lessons on the side. And even if Hina is portrayed as this wonderful person who has no intention of taking advantage of Natsuo, the underlying power imbalance is still present in just their titles of teacher vs students, forgetting any quality data of experience. So when the anime largely focuses on a hormonal teenager lusting after a hot teacher, and a relationship actually ensues from that, I simply cannot watch it with enjoyment knowing the repercussions that were bound to happen.
But even without the experience gap, this became an anime heading for disaster. Which is quite disappointing because the first few episodes of the series were actually well done. I was intrigued by the situation, I found the drama entertaining, and the comedy had actual laugh out loud moments. But as the series continued to milk on relationship ridiculousness and nothing else, the series began to falter. Natsuo never seems to truly grow, even in the end. The animation and art were just mediocre. Even the supporting characters could not save this series. Mono did have one telling episode, but she quickly faded into the background again once her role was over.
All this detracts from the few good points the anime did have. For one, I sincerely think the cast did the best they can with the materials provided to them. Mayaa Uchida is pitch perfect as Rui Tachibana, and Hikasa Yoko does a wonderful job as Hinata Tachibana. The weakest link in the ensemble of seiyuus is actually Taku Yashiro as the protagonist Natsuo, and it’s not even because of his acting. Rather, I just found his voice to not fit the character naturally as well as some of the others, but he still gives it his all as well and should be recognized for that.
Another thing that the anime also developed a wonderful soundtrack. I absolutely fell in love with both the opening and ending theme songs, and I think the music really elevated what fun I had with the anime. However, a good beginning, voice acting, and soundtrack simply cannot save bad writing and bad characters. And for that reason, I think unless you’re looking for a head-shaking, cringeworthy drama that you can’t help but roll your eyes towards, you better skip Domestic Girlfriend.
I am planning to rate all my anime based on the anime rating system that Japanese anime critics use. I will have 5 categories, each with the top score of 10, and then a final multiplier of 2.
Voice acting: 7.5
FINAL SCORE: 68