Title: Domestic Girlfriend (Domestic na Kanojo) Author: Kei Sasuga Publisher: Kodansha Comics Language: English Format: Digital Genre: Shojo, Romance
Normally, I review manga volume by volume as there is just so much content to take in at a time that doing an entire series is pretty hard. However, in this case, I’m willing to make an exception because this has been a manga that I have followed since day one and there is a lot of controversy surrounding it and I wanted to use this as an opportunity to give my thoughts on everything.
I will preface this by saying sorry. If you’re coming here to see me tear Kei Sasuga apart or completely invalidate her work based on the ending alone, then you are going to be sorely disappointed. While an ending is paramount (remember this phrase), it does not speak for the previous 275 chapters of the series.
Also, I should warn, there will be spoilers ahead.
With that being said, let’s get on with the review.
The story around Domestic Girlfriend is simple and complex at the same time. It follows Natsuo, an aspiring writer, who has a big crush on his teacher Hina. Knowing that a teacher/student relationship just isn’t feasible (not to mention that it’s illegal), he decides to put those feelings aside when he’s invited to a mixer and confronted by a girl named Rui. Rui wants to know what it’s like to have sex so she chooses Natuso and the two of them enjoy a nice evening together.
Soon after, Natsuo learns from his father that he is remarrying and that the bride to be is stopping by with her family. Her family is her two daughters: Hina and Rui. Now, his love interest and the girl he had sex with are now living under the same room.
In the beginning, Natsuo is conflicted. He knows that his relationship with Hina could never be, but at the same time, he’s starting to develop feelings for Rui. After Natsuo and Hina attempt a relationship, it is discovered and it interferes with Hina’s work, thus forcing her to transfer to another school and move away. This begins the catalyst for Natsuo to end up with Rui… which he does.
During this relationship, we get to experience the growth of both characters. Natsuo joins the literary club in his high school and then, after losing his will and desire to write, joins the drama club in college. While this is happening, Rui has conflicting thoughts about their relationship. It’s an on-again/off-again kind of thing but things really get tested when Rui reconciles with her father and decides that she wants to become a chef. She then travels to America which transforms Natsuo and Rui’s relationship into a long-distance one. Meanwhile, Natsuo finds his love for writing again after he gets mentored by a famous novelist.
Things are going well until Rui begins to get harassed at work overseas. Natsuo heads to America to see what he can do about it. While there, he gets Rui pregnant and decides that he wants to marry her. Meanwhile, through all of this, Hina has been on the back burner… she has been playing the role of the sister and has, oftentimes, felt like the third wheel in all of this. Still, you could tell through her character that she still yearns for Natsuo but she can’t bring herself to do anything about it because she wants Rui to be happy.
Suddenly, a reporter is looking for a scoop to save his job. After Natsuo’s mentor dies, he carries on and finishes his work for him which gains him quite a bit of fame. This reporter digs into Natsuo’s past for some dirt and uncovers the forbidden relationship with Hina. He tries to publish it but ends up getting fired for trying to do so. He tries to enact his revenge by driving a car into Rui and Hina but Hina protects Rui and gets hit, falling into a coma.
This is where the entire internet seems to explode because Rui decides that she doesn’t want to marry Natsuo anymore. She feels that Hina should be the one to do so. It takes a time skip of five years for things to play out Rui decides to give her marriage registration to Natsuo and he uses it to propose to an unconscious Hina. Five years after being in a coma, she awakens to discover Natsuo proposed to her. After learning how to speak and walk all over again, she accepts the proposal and ends up marrying Natsuo to end the series.
I know I left out a LOT of details but it really is difficult to summarize 276 chapters over 25 volumes. Now you see why I prefer to review manga volume to volume.
I guess this is the part you’ve all been waiting for. What are my thoughts on this story? I will say that I have been a fan of Kei Sasuga’s for a while. I read and enjoyed her previous series -GE- Good Ending and thought it was pretty well-done. When I saw that she was doing Domestic na Kanojo, I instantly hopped on board. Everything that I had known Kei Sasuga for was in here.
Yes… that includes her infamous usage of plot twists. Trust me, I’m used to them.
However, despite the plot twists working well for most of this story, I just don’t agree with the one used to end it. As I said… the ending is paramount and I think this was either rushed too fast or it was just poorly conceived.
Now. I will go on to say that yes… I am a Rui fan but no… I am not upset that Natsuo ended up with Hina in the end. I am upset over the way he ended up with her and how it was written. Why? Allow me to explain.
While there were subtle signs throughout the series that there was still love there between Hina and Natsuo, the fact that Hina was treated as a third wheel for the bulk of the series, kind of made everyone reading the series to subconsciously write her off. It also didn’t help that Kei Sasuga went in completely on the Natsuo x Rui relationship. I’m trying to draw parallels between this story and real life and I cannot imagine how a scenario like this could even happen to a normal living human being.
Imagine you are Natsuo. Your girlfriend that you love breaks up with you. You beg and plead for her to change her mind but she says no. Time passes and even though your first crush is there to console you, you still can’t get your now ex-girlfriend off of your mind. The day you hope for finally comes and the two of you reconcile. You’re happier than you ever could be. Then, something happens to your girlfriend and the love that you have for her causes you to go to any lengths to protect her… including hopping on a plane and flying halfway across the world just to be there for her. The love between the two of you grows so much that you end up conceiving a child together.
You’re going to become a father. You’re going to do it with the girl that you love and you can’t imagine anyone else that would rather spend the rest of your life with… so you ask her to marry you and she says yes. Everything you could ever want out of life is finally within your grasp.
Then your first crush gets hit by a car, the mother of your child no longer wants to marry you so you say to hell with it and decide to marry your first crush instead because, why not? It’s okay because you’ll still live in the same house as your child and your now ex-fiance all while enjoying a marriage with your ex-fiance’s sister… while still living under the same roof.
I don’t think Jerry Springer could have conjured up a situation like that… and this is where the issues are being had. It is because Hina was treated like a third wheel… it is because Sasuga went all-in on the Natsuo x Rui relationship, only to pull a plot twist at the very end from out of left field that made no sense from a normal human perception. Had there been no baby, had there been no marriage proposal, and had Hina been a bit more forceful to cause readers to question who Natsuo would end up with in the end, and THEN have Natsuo chosen Hina, there would have been no issue with the ending to this series.
Like… at all.
But because readers were lured down a path of certainty that Natsuo would end up with Rui and then get blindsided by a plot twist for, seemingly, no good reason, that’s where the problem lies. Make no mistake about it. I could have been a Rui fan from the beginning, and the roles could have been reversed. Hina and Natsuo could have dated the whole series, gotten pregnant together, proposed to each other and Rui could have taken the hit from the car only to end up marrying Natsuo, thus granting me the happy ending from a pairing standpoint, and I’d still be just as upset with the way the ending was written.
For me, this isn’t about Hina x Natsuo or Rui x Natsuo. This is about writing a cohesive story that actually makes sense and the way this swerve was pulled off didn’t make sense based on the previous 249 chapters (since the swerve started on chapter 250) of pre-established material. I guess what I am trying to say is that Kei Sasuga tried a bigtime plot twist but it ended up backfiring because it didn’t make sense from a realistic standpoint and when this is a slice-of-life series that is steeped in realism… in the sense that the characters are living in the real world, not an isekai, don’t have magic powers, and deal with day-to-day life like every other normal human being walking the planet, that this ending just doesn’t make sense!
Again, had the pre-established content been written differently… to keep both Hina and Rui in balance with each other, to make the readers guess from beginning to end who Natsuo would end up with, this ending could have actually had made sense but the material was not written that way and it created an unrealistic scenario that nobody could relate to because something like this, most likely, wouldn’t have happened in real life.
That’s the problem I have with it… BUT… it does not mean for one second that I am blaming Kei Sasuga for this nor do I think Domestic na Kanojo is a terrible series.
As I said before, an ending does not speak for an entire series. There is a LOT of good in this series and I think that because the series was so good up until chapter 250 that people had such an issue with the way it ended. Some of the moments throughout the series were suspenseful, engaging, at times heart-wrenching, and it made you feel a connection to these characters. Perhaps that connection was a little too strong, otherwise, an ending such as this wouldn’t have prompted such a reaction from the community. Maybe the series was too good to a fault in that sense?
What I do know is that I truly enjoyed Domestic na Kanojo. Even if I feel like the ending should have been either written differently or stayed the same but preceded by a better story that didn’t pigeon hole readers down one relationship path, I still think that the series isn’t worth ignoring. I do believe that people should read it and make the judgment call for themselves. In fact, I know there are people out there who actually liked the ending and are praising Sasuga for it. There is nothing wrong with doing that.
I will also say this about the ending. It has been drawing a bit of ire from people to the point where they felt the need to threaten and harass Kei Sasuga over it. First off, where in the hell do you get off doing that to an author? Sure, I disliked the ending but I am not going to write Kei Sasuga a death threat, call her names, or do anything derogatory because of one simple reason.
This is HER STORY. Not yours. She can end it any way she wants to regardless of how you feel about it! Sorry, if the ending wasn’t the way you wanted it to be but it was the ending SHE WANTED and as the author and creator, she has the right to end it on her terms and that is what she did! Get over it.
I know that seems hypocritical because I just sat there and penned by displeasure over it but stating my displeasure is fine because I don’t have to like the ending but I do have to respect the author’s decision to write the ending that she wanted. As an author myself, you have the right to be pissed off at the way I end one of my series but you also need to respect the fact that I wrote the ending to my series in a way where I wanted it to end… even if you disagreed with my reasoning for doing so.
It is okay to not like something. It is okay to disagree with it. That means you have passion and a strong belief in the story that you’re reading and it also shows just how much that story meant to you if you cared deeply enough to be upset if it ended in a way where you didn’t agree with it. I should know that to be true because that’s how I feel with Domestic na Kanojo. I loved this story and its characters and I just felt that they weren’t done justice in the end. To me, it felt sloppy, half-assed, and just one giant ass pull just to get Hina and Natsuo together. But despite that, it is the way Kei Sasuga wanted it to end so from one author to another, I acknowledge your desire to end your story in the way that you did and I salute you for doing so.
Congratulations on the completion of your series, Sasuga-san. One bad ending isn’t going to deter me from your future works. I look forward to what you are going to do next… as should all of you.