Welcome to another Doubletakes session! For each post in this series, I'll dive into an episode or two of Domestic Girlfriend (also known as DomeKano, because "kanojo" is the Japanese word for "girlfriend"). I'll present two “takes” from each episode — two commentaries on plot or character points that stood out to me. One take will be from a fan’s perspective, and the other will be from a fiction writer’s.
All righty. So... DomeKano.
I kept seeing strange, intriguing-yet-awkward commercials for Domestic Girlfriend on Crunchyroll. I thought, “Why am I so drawn to it, yet wary of exploring it?”
I still don’t have the answer — but I’m cracking into the show at last to find out what it’s all about. Enjoy the ridiculous ride.
“I just lost my virginity.”
The show opens with some brief shots of a city, then hones in on two people in bed together. It’s very clear they just had sex. There is not a single sound — not even music — until the slight stirring of sheets can be heard when both characters sit up slowly and dramatically. They both look surprisingly dark.
The first line of dialogue is the guy’s internal monologue. He states in regretful monotone, “I just lost my virginity.”
Reaction as a fan: I’M FLOORED. I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE. This is not what I expected from the Crunchyroll trailers (although from the looks of many of those trailers... they don’t accurately portray shows at all). Typically, when young people lose their virginity, aren’t they more smug or happy about it? Why do these two look so wretched? HOW IT IS I’M THIS INTRIGUED THIS INSTANTLY?!
Reaction as a writer: First scenes can make or break a story — just like a first impression can decide the route an interview will take. When beginnings are executed well, a first scene — or better, a first line of dialogue — can hook a viewer instantly. This show’s opening managed to captivate me. The silence sets the mood and tone, creating tension less than a minute in. A question to further invest the viewer is raised at once: “Why doesn’t it look like these two enjoyed their first time having sex?” I want to know more, RIGHT NOW, and that bodes well for my investment in what’s to come.
Bonus Take — His crush is on his teacher
Yes. The never-ending, horrible anime trope involving student-teacher love. This anime goes for it. Hard.
Reaction as a fan: I hate this trope. I am not okay with the student-teacher thing. What makes it worse is this particular teacher. I already dislike her. While it’s definitely not her fault that Natsuo has a crush on her and can’t control his feelings for her by the end of the episode (going in for a non-consensual kiss while she’s ASLEEP in a revealing outfit — NOT OKAY WITH ME AT ALL), she definitely has a patronizing attitude and a hypocrisy to her that doesn’t help anything. She draws clear lines in speech to Natsuo, differentiating between them and stating that she’s an adult who thinks of him as a child, but her actions fail to uphold her words. She sexually harasses one of Natsuo’s peers by slapping him on the ass and making innuendo, then brushes it off by saying she’s not interested in kids anyway. Um...? She appears to tease Natsuo, too… and I’m not convinced she doesn’t REALIZE that Natsuo is crushing on her. This is a messed up situation even BEFORE the show reaches the “surprise step-siblings” part (yes, you read that right), and both Natsuo and his sensei are making it worse in various ways… but the teacher is older! She should KNOW BETTER. She should have some maturity. She doesn’t deserve Natsuo’s bullshit, but she also needs to learn SELF CONTROL on her end. Don’t do shit that so obviously toes the line of sexual harassment and what is acceptable to do or say to underage students WHO YOU TEACH!
So yeah. I REALLY don’t like her.
Reaction as a writer: Typically, in stories like this where you set the protagonist up to get caught between two love interests, you’re aiming for one major thing — milking the torture around how hard it is to choose between the two interests. To achieve that exploration of difficulty, you’ve got to make both love interests appealing in their own ways. Not only should it be difficult for the protagonist to make a decision/sort out his feelings, but the audience should feel conflicted as well. That’s the beauty of such storytelling. (That’s where you get the feels from.) Ideally, viewers should be able to root for both characters (albeit maybe for different reasons)... but for me personally, this series isn’t setting up for that well enough. I cannot root for this teacher at all. I am immediately, firmly on the ‘blue-haired little step-sister’ side. If it stays like that, it’ll suck a lot of tension out of the show for me, and I’ll lose my patience fast.
That said, often series like this will flip flop, painting first one love interest as the bad guy, then the other, specifically for the purpose of amping up the torture. I may find the teacher infuriating right now, but that could easily turn on its head depending on how her character is developed and what the plot brings next.
I am going to watch more, if only for the main character (and actually, his nerd best friend who seems to be the voice of reason AND the audience’s thoughts — telling it like it is; THANK YOU, SIR). Natsuo has his idiot-teenager, stereotypically-horrible male faults. But overall he seems like a sweet, if misguided guy. I’m still curious about how he’s going to handle his new ‘siblings.’
Natsuo and Rui get to know each other better when Natsuo decides to ‘coach’ Rui through some conversational tactics, so she can make friends despite her social awkwardness. They talk back and forth in a pretend conversation that’s 1) adorable/entertaining, and 2) effective in helping Rui to make friends.
Reaction as a fan: If I wasn’t before, I am in Camp Rui now all the way. Her character is a little typical in terms of anime-girl tropes I’ve seen before, but she’s at least of a character type I find has potential for growth. I still dislike the teacher, despite what more we learned of her and her (apparently abusive, or just difficult) relationship with her boyfriend this episode. I want Natsuo to end up with Rui, hands down. I wonder how long I have until that potentially gets subverted.
Reaction as a writer: So far, so good. The love interest that didn’t actually start out as much of a love interest is now casting anchor into Natsuo’s heart. The plot in this episode executed the necessary set-up; as Natsuo and Rui get to know each other better as classmates and friends, there is more emotion discovered that they can then invest in each other for the sake of drama going forward.
This is going to become a juicy show. Characters are going to get hurt. The drama will heighten.... Surprisingly, I’m still here for it, despite the ridiculous circumstances the show has presented me with.