Domestic Girlfriend Collection (Cert 18)
2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 329 minutes approx.
Release Date: August 10th
The harem set-up in anime is the ultimate male wish fulfilment fantasy for lonely losers like me to live vicariously through, except it is always played for comedy since it won’t ever occur in real life. But what if it was taken seriously with a premise that is somewhat plausible?
17 year-old high school student and aspiring novelist Natsuo Fujii has a crush on his teacher Hina Tachibana, and though they have shared personal conversations, nothing romantic has been reciprocated. When Natsuo’s friends drag him along to a karaoke mixer, he meets the taciturn Rui, also only there to make up the numbers. Outside the room, Rui has a surprise proposition for Natsuo.
Rui asks Natsuo to sleep with her so she knows what it feels like, rationalising Natsuo’s similar lack of experience means no weight of expectation is on her. Natsuo agrees and after the deed is done, Rui suggests they never meet again. A few days later, Natsuo’s father announces he is to remarry and his future bride is coming over for dinner with her two daughters.
I’m sure you’ve already guessed who the daughters are, but I deliberately omitted Rui’s surname just to keep the tease going. Whilst a stranger requesting to sleep with you is a very unlikely occurrence in real life, finding out you are going to be related by marriage to someone you know isn’t so unfeasible, but still plays into the wish fulfilment fantasy as well as laying the foundation for a provocative and prickly drama.
Domestic Girlfriend is based on the manga by Kei Sasuga, which only recently ended its run but this twelve-episode adaptation manages to bring things to a satisfying conclusion regardless. Despite the tacky premise, this is a sensitive drama about relationships, emotional growth, and responsibility of those fighting to suppress their urges due to a change in their circumstances.
Natsuo might appear as a totem for every deviant minded horny teen by living under the same roof as two cute sisters in love with him, but the idea of secret dalliances is not an immediate priority. Natsuo and Hina have to reconcile the fact that legally they now are siblings, and besides Hina has a boyfriend already, so their relationship has to stay platonic, even if Natsuo finds this a struggle at first.
Elsewhere, Rui has already made it clear that their prior intimate meeting is to remain secret, but even she can’t help with subtle teases – she walks in on Natsuo in the bathroom without a care since they’ve seen each other naked before. But in learning of Natsuo’s crush on Hina, a little jealousy arises in Rui and despite her best tsundere efforts, she tries to make Natsuo look in her direction rather than her sister’s.
Outside forces do their best to both complicate and strengthen the relationships between three corners of this awkward love triangle – Hina’s boyfriend is in fact a married man, and Rui and Natsuo conspire to break them up. Now at the same school as Natsuo and Hina, Rui is befriended by Momo Kashiwabara, a girl with a reputation who has Natsuo on her radar.
Lies, betrayal, temptation, and misunderstandings follow as all three struggles to contain their emotions, acting on them when they shouldn’t and in the case of Natsuo, even though he doesn’t commit to Rui, he always feels guilty afterwards lying to her when he is with Hina. The key factor is the moral implications of them being siblings by law but not by blood, which they agonise over but fail to resolve.
Because both stepparents are oblivious to the truth, every time someone runs away or acts in a negative or depressed manner, they think it is in protest of their marriage. They even go as far as to file a divorce petition out of guilt but the kids talk them round, insisting it is not their fault. Unless this is addressed later in the manga, there is a missed opportunity in not having the stepparents trying to make sense of this situation and either asserting their authority or displaying unexpected understanding.
You may have noticed the 18 certificate awarded this title by the BBFC, which is due to the borderline explicit sexual content – borderline in that it is one step away from being soft porn. A certain infamous scene in episode seven probably earned that rating alone, whilst another, involving curing a fever with a suppository (!) is decidedly gratuitous and handled with typical sleaziness.
However, the show didn’t need to be so lurid and could have left the sexual interactions as implied; instead, barely 10 minutes into the first episode, Natsuo and Rui’s mutual deflowering occurs with less left to the imagination than you’d expect for a mainstream anime. Amidst the prurience and high drama, there is sufficient levity courtesy of the support cast, including a former yakuza boss who likes to dress in women’s underwear!
The anime producers clearly know who their target audience is as the episode previews consist of the title strategically written on a body part of a real life bikini model shown in close up. This might deter female viewers tempted to watch for the inherent dilemmas of the main plot, at whom this would be more likely directed, unless the idea is to attract cynical males with the smut and nudity of the generously proportioned females.
Settling on a rating for Domestic Girlfriend is hard because it is a well-written drama and covers its central issues with maturity and sensitivity for a show with so much tawdry material, and that is what I want to reflect. But I don’t want my score to appear as if I am also endorsing the divisive priapic content since the show would have worked just as well without it.
Conclusion – take from this show what you will and whichever side you choose – lewdness or drama – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
English Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Disc 2 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animations
Limited Collector’s Edition
5 Art Cards
36-page Art Book
Rating – ****
Man In Black