Last year popular shonen romance manga Domestic Girlfriend received an anime adaption from studio Diomedéa. A year later not only has the manga come to its thrilling conclusion, but MVM are now releasing the anime in the UK. Is it worth a watch? Let’s find out!
Our story follows 17-year-old high school student Natsuo Fujii, who is in love with his teacher – Hina. One day he’s invited to a mixer by his friends and meets a girl called Rui, who invites him to sneak out with her and have sex. Natsuo, being a teenage boy, agrees to Rui’s proposal and afterwards, the two go their separate ways expecting to never see one another again.
However, the next day Natsuo’s father reveals that he is planning to remarry (after Natsuo’s mother passed away several years ago) and his soon-to-be wife is coming to their house for dinner. Natsuo is not only shocked by this sudden development but his life comes crashing down around him when he discovers that Hina and Rui are his future stepmother’s daughters!
Having no reason to refuse the marriage, Natsuo ends up becoming a stepbrother to the woman he loves and the girl he slept with. Now he’s stuck having to bottle up his feelings and tries to pour them into a novel he’s writing instead.
Despite his best efforts to ignore his desires, things become difficult for Natsuo as he discovers that Hina is in an unhappy relationship and he dreams of saving her. Elsewhere, Rui is beginning to fall in love with Natsuo after spending more time with him but is she willing to cross the line between being family and lovers…
Domestic Girlfriend is a story of forbidden desire, of love and about growing up. Despite everything I’ve said so far though, the series is a soap opera in anime form. The premise is fairly ridiculous and as things continue to unfold, you’re never quite sure what to expect next. The anime doesn’t take itself all that seriously and throws in plenty of comedy to keep things light-hearted (like Rui looking for Natsuo in a trash can after he ran away from home…) and enjoyable throughout its 12-episode run.
While I mentioned that Hina is one of Natsuo’s teachers, this is her first job in the field and at the beginning, she’s only 23, which is not as big an age gap between the two as you might suspect. As a character, Hina is kind and pure-hearted. She’s a bit ditzy and immature, but she always wants to do her best to support her family. Throughout the run of the anime, she battles with her feelings toward Natsuo, knowing full well that in the position of teacher and stepsister, a relationship would be irresponsible.
In some ways because of Hina’s role in Natsuo’s life it almost makes you want to cheer on Rui instead. For her part, she’s quiet, moody and doesn’t know how to make friends. Natsuo remembers being like that in middle school and tries to help Rui come out of her shell, which is one of the reasons she becomes so attached to him. While she’s the least likeable of the sisters, it’s difficult not to grow fond of her throughout the story.
Outside of Natsuo, Hina and Rui, the anime has some great side characters. Natsuo’s best friend Fumiya Kurimoto is always there to lay down the law when he feels Natsuo is doing something stupid, while there is also Masaki Kobayashi who owns a café that the cast frequent. Masaki is a former member of a yakuza family (who left after falling in love with a man from a rival family) and is always willing to advise the cast in the ways of love. On top of that, you have Natsuo’s father and stepmother who prove to be some of the best parents in anime, constantly worrying about and working to support their children.
Perhaps what I appreciate most about Domestic Girlfriend is the effort it goes to in order to not have the potential relationships feel creepy. Since the characters all knew each other before becoming step-siblings it’s easier to understand where everyone’s feelings came from. I’m not someone who usually likes the idea of sibling relationships (related by blood or not), but I think Domestic Girlfriend justifies it well and proves an exception to that rule.
As previously mentioned, this anime adaptation has been handled by studio Diomedéa (Girlish Number, Fuuka, Beatless) and while it’s by no means the best animation out there, it does the job. Character designs are attractive and expressive, making it easy to read the cast’s unsaid thoughts. The backgrounds are colourful and set a light-hearted but serious tone.
Music for the show has been handled by Masato Koda (Konosuba, Radiant) and the compositions on offer fit well with the show. Koda’s music leans heavily on piano pieces but also makes use of guitars and more pop-sounding tracks as and when scenes demand it. This creates tension and helps elevate the on-screen drama. The opening theme for the series is “Kawaki wo Ameku” by Minami, while the ending theme is “Wagamama” by Alisa Takigawa. Both songs are catchy and capture Domestic Girlfriend well thematically.
Where voice actors are concerned both the Japanese and English cast do a great job, although I find the Japanese side more suited to the characters overall. In Japanese, Natsuo is played by Taku Yashiro (Lyde in Listeners, Aogu Shiji in Kakushigoto) who gives the protagonist a mild-mannered tone of voice which suits his personality well. In English, the lead role is handled by Austin Tindle (Goro in Darling in the Franxx, Michiki in Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash) who gives Natsuo a much more adult voice, which I feel is ill-suited to him. Since the rest of the English cast play their roles well, I’m not sure Tindle’s performance is enough for me to say you shouldn’t watch the dub, but it ultimately just didn’t work for me.
This series comes to the UK thanks to MVM Entertainment who have released the show on Blu-ray. The release includes all 12 episodes and on-disc extras include clean opening and ending videos as well as some trailers. The episodes included on this set differ slightly from the simulcast on HiDive as they include extended sex scenes. This amounts to roughly 4 extended sequences which, believe it or not, do add to the series.
The sexual content is not there to arouse the viewer so much as it’s there to deepen the emotional connections between the cast. I think the show does a good job of finding the balance between being tantalising and mature in how it handles these elements.
Overall, Domestic Girlfriend is a soap opera in anime form and not to be missed! The blend of drama and comedy is conveyed well to the viewer and despite being a potential step-sibling romance, it approaches the subject matter maturely. While the show certainly won’t be for everyone, it’s an enjoyable watch that you won’t be forgetting anytime soon!