What They Say:
Natsuo Fuji has a serious crush on one of his teachers, Hina Tachibana, but since he knows he has zero chance of ever being in a relationship with her, he lets his friends talk him into going to a party where he meets Rui. One thing leads to another and then, well, neither of them is a virgin anymore. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what they expected, but that’s fine. They’re just ships passing in the night and they’ll never have to see each other again, right?
Except when Natsuo’s father announces that he’s getting married again, Natsuo discovers that he’s getting two new step-sisters as well. Now there’s a problem, because one is his teacher, Hina, and the other is Rui. Yep, the family dinners at Natsuo’s house are about to get REALLY awkward!
The audio presentation brings us the original Japanese language track and the English language dub in stereo, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series has its louder and comical moments along the way but the bulk of it is filled with basic dialogue. There are some areas where it shines a bit more in how it works with thoughts and levels, but most of it is pretty standard school and slice of life fare about it. It’s often kept to just a couple of people at a time so it has a nice and small feeling to it that serves the material well and it all hits a good stride quickly. I flipped between the two language tracks regularly and they both come across clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2019, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread between two discs in a nine/three format. Animated by Diomedea, the show has a really good look to it as it brings to life the manga, especially in the color department. It plays to a real world style with some bright spots throughout it, especially in the hair design, that gives it some really nice life. The series sticks to simple material for a lot of it where it’s not high-motion animation but the band scenes stand out really well with the quality while the rest of it is pretty solid as well. The encoding captures the details really well with good color work that lets it shine strongly here. The designs are a lot of the appeal for me with the characters and that works really well here for me.
The packaging design for this release comes in a standard-sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs for the series as no DVD is included. The front cover works with the familiar key visual but isn’t like the Japanese release artwork as we get our three leads close together at school as the sunset moves across the room. It has a very specific feel that a lot of people can remember or associate with well enough and is a traditional anime piece but it still works really well here. The logo is kept simple with a red lipstick kind of approach on the chalkboard. The back cover goe for a black background to it with some amusing taglines along the top in red and white. The right side has some decent-sized images from the show that plays up the sexuality appropriately while the main section to the left of it breaks down the summary of the premises as well as some but not all of the extras included. The remainder runs through the production credits and technical grid that covers the way the set is put together accurately. No show related inserts are included with it..
The menu design for this release keeps things simple with a static design that changes the character artwork for each disc with our leading ladies. But it’s kept simple with a kind of mild erotic approach to it set against an indistinct background. The logo is kept to the corner where it looks stronger than on the cover because of the background while the navigation is kind of awkward as it’s a spiral notebook design with everything “written” in it, which reinforces the school age thing alongside the sexuality. There’s not a lot going on here overall but everything is functional and easy to use both as the main menu and the pop-up menu during playback, which is what you want. But a little more style on some of these releases would be nice once in a while.
The extras included here are the basics as we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences only.
Based on the manga by Kei Sasuga that Kodansha Comics has released, Domestic Girlfriend comes from Diomedea studio with Shota Ihata directing based on the composition by Tatsuya Takahashi. The original work has been growing in popularity for a while as it began in 2014 and has twenty-eight volumes wrapped up right around the time of this release in 2020. The show was appealing to me just from the premise as it covers an area few shows do by admitting that teenage characters actually have sex. So many shows just spend so much of it so perverted but hoping for that first true chaste kiss as the only actual act that happens. So when a show gives us characters that engage in the deed, even with an awkward scenario like this, I’m interested.
Opening the series on a post-coital moment, with Rui getting herself dressed and showing more skin than you usually get, we understand that is the moment that Natsuo lost his virginity and there’s a melancholic aspect about it. The show backtracks us nicely as we see Natsuo and his friends heading out to a mixer together with a trio of girls, but it comes after seeing the way that the girl he really likes – a young teacher named Hina – deals with the “boys” of the school that she doesn’t want much to do with. The mixer is tough for him and Rui since they never felt like they were part of this scene during middle school but he’s also a bit drawn to her because she reminds him of Hina, the teacher he’s in love with at school. Rui has her own plan, however, in that she wants to have sex with Natsuo. It’s confusing as hell for him until she’s blunt about it and he does seem to handle it well overall, since she’s saying she just wants to know what it’s like and Natsuo does come across as the safe type.
It’s an experience that, in the end, simply “was” according to Rui and leaving by saying they’ll be strangers again the next time they meet is cryptic. While many talk about their first experience as life-changing, there are a lot that just have difficulty really connecting with it – especially in this kind of “just to try it” form. You can see from this and from his interactions with Hina at school that Natsuo is just not having the best of experiences in dealing with women. It’s interesting to see him how he deals with her on the rooftop, trying to be more mature than he is and to be there for her as she’s struggling with something that she won’t tell him, saying that grown-up issues are for grown-ups. He shows himself to still be a child in a way here with this, though, and undercuts himself easily enough.
Of course, the big change moment comes at the halfway mark that will define how the series really moves forward. With his father coming into his room, he reveals that things have moved rapidly behind the scenes and since it’s been ten years since Natsuo’s mother died, he’s ready to move on – and hey, they’re here now to say hello! Natsuo handles this well initially but when it’s revealed that the woman has two kids her own, Hina and Rui, that does make for a great situational comedy-drama to play in. The girls are just as unaware of what was happening as Natsuo was, which does help in a way, and their mother Tsukiko is one that I could see being a fun character to watch with Natsuo’s father if given the opportunity. The things she talks about says much about his father and why she fell for him and there’s a cuteness in their pairing that makes me want to see more of them.
Naturally, the series begins to blend things together a lot from there. Natsuo’s seeing Hina as someone he might have a shot with since they’re in close quarters initially has him acting more aggressive than he should, which gets Rui slapping him down, but he also now has to contend with Rui being in his school. It does make sense that Natsuo tries to keep all of this secret from others as the school learning that he’s living with a non-related girl in Rui and that the hot young teacher in Hina being her sister as well would just make life hell for almost all of them with how some people – students and adults alike – would act. Natsuo does thankfully ease down a bit on his aggressive side with Hina, particularly as he sees her in more vulnerable moments regarding her boyfriend and issues there, and seeing her struggling with that reaches past some of the standard teenage boy hormone problems.
The show engages in a lot of complicated issues with all of this as it goes forward more, especially when you consider how absolutely dumb most teenage boys are and their lack of experience and growth. Having him push Hina to dump her boyfriend is something you can understand on one level but he moves too fast into this in suggesting it while also dealing with the way the blended family is operating with all of its confusing elements. To be a bit fair to Natsuo, he gets a lot of conflicting messages from the sisters, including the way Rui is at ease with her nudity at times and when it comes to the baths and bathroom in general. For Natsuo, who has lived with just one parent for the past decade, he’s lost some of the socialization that comes from that and makes plenty of mistakes along the way. And while he should be held to account for them it’s at least understandable why he’s like this at times.
The series has a lot of standard school stuff going on here at times with clubs, issues with friends that mix in at times, and even some material with a teacher that’s secretly a pretty well-known novelist on the side. There’s a good bond forming between Natsuo and Rui but it comes at the same time that things aren’t exactly what they seem because as Hina’s life and relationship itself falls apart, Natsuo’s presence at her time of weakness ends up creating a new relationship there. One that she knows isn’t right but can resist only so much. When you consider that she knew him as a student first and then as a step-sibling, to allow it to progress as it does – including a disturbing moment of him coming into her apartment and watching her sleep – well, it’s not something that’s going to go well no matter how much Natsuo wants it to. Or even how much Hina may want it to. The reality is his youthfulness and inexperience is going to cause it all to fall apart.
And, of course, Rui finding out about it as well. When she does she takes the understandable approach of just ignoring both of them outside of where she needs to at school. It’s such a downward spiral from there, even as Hina and Rui make amends with each other, because it just becomes more and more serious between Hina and Natsuo. That has disastrous results in the end but I actually really enjoyed that the show went there, going all the way in putting them together, showing some consequences, exploring some of the emotions of it all. Even if I dislike the whole “pain is necessary for an artist” thing that Natsuo takes from it in a literary way, putting them through some really bad times is engaging to watch. None of this is the usual “oh, does he like me or not, will we kiss by the end of not” stuff we see in so many romance-oriented series. Here, they go all in and explore and deal with the details, the fallout, the hardship, and the pain. I don’t know that I really like the ending with how Natsuo and Rui are but it has the right kind of tone overall and tease of the future.
Domestic Girlfriend has some strong production values that have me enjoying the visual quality of it and the pacing in general as well. It wants to go for a quiet approach that’s appealing and it delves into some really complicated relationships which may sound like they’re out of porn but do happen throughout the world, just not with any great regularity. It plays to some of the familiar slice of life school elements but there’s this disturbing storyline playing out throughout it that really colors it in a fascinating way. The show has a really good look about it and it holds up well throughout, finding the right way to present the saucier material without being too gratuitous but also making it clear that these characters are engaging in adult situations when they’re truly not ready for it. Sentai’s release is solid with what it gives us in a good looking encoding, a welcome dub track, and some extras to enjoy as well. There’s a premium edition that takes things a lot further with the goods that I definitely understand why fans will be tempted by that after taking in the series.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animation, and Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: June 16th, 2020
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.