“一听惊惊今次整定煲要掟” –許冠傑, 追求三部曲
Natsuo Fujii is a high school student and aspiring writer with feelings for Hina Tachibana. He attends a mixer with the intent of burying his feelings and ends up banging Rui Tachibana when she asks him to sneak out of the mixer with her. Later, Natsuo’s father reveals that he wishes to remarry, and that his partner happens to be the mother to Rui and Hina. Natsuo subsequently struggles to deal with his lingering feelings for Hina, joins the literature club and later, reaffirms his desire to be with Hina. When their relationship is discovered, Hina agrees to quietly transfer to another school for a fresh start; Natsuo is devastated and pours his heart into writing a novel which subsequently wins a literature prize. With Hina absent, Rui admits to Natsuo that she’s fallen in love with him, and that she’s now free to pursue her own feelings towards Natsuo. This is the short of what goes down in Domestic na Kanojo, a series that turned out rather unexpected: I had entered with no expectations and ended up being compelled to see what would happen with Natsuo each week as his social circle and circumstances entangled him in situations that tested his resolve. In Domestic na Kanojo, I found a series whose setup was improbable to the point of absurdity, and in spite of this, managed to stick the landing in its finale, resulting in a series that truthfully, exceeded my expectations going in. The odds of something akin to Domestic na Kanojo‘s setup occuring in real life is much smaller than the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field, but the premise aside, themes of relationships, resolve and growth were developed to a surprisingly satisfying extent.
Whereas I originally anticipated Domestic na Kanojo to be incoherent in its themes, Natsuo’s enduring resolve to be with Hina throughout the series proved to give a constant reminder of what the series was about. Meandering into realms of infidelity, unrequited love and the dangers of entanglement in situations beyond one’s understanding, all of these elements are relevant to the turbulent, but single-minded nature of love: Natsuo’s determination to court Hina is admirable to an extent, and despite moments that pull him away, Natsuo remains committed to Hina, regardless of the consequences. This persistence corresponds with Natsuo becoming emotionally invested with Hina, and after such a build-up, sets the stage for his tribulations once the school discovers his relationship with Hina. In the manga, all of this build-up sets the stage for Natsuo exploring different relationships and finding them unsatisfactory; in the anime, it is also shown that Natsuo channels his frustrations and pain into a new novel that is written from the heart. From a manner of speaking, Domestic na Kanojo suggests that the most powerful works are written from raw emotion, as readers may empathise with the author’s honesty about how they feel. For Natsuo, it also represents catharsis, and creates an opportunity to start his career on a solid footing. The events of Domestic na Kanojo lead up to this and provides a host of experiences that drive how Natsuo himself chooses to handle things, and overall, while Domestic na Kanojo is rough around the edges, the rawness seen in Natsuo’s work is reflected in the anime itself.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Twenty screenshots is not adequate a space to showcase all of the most risqué or relevant moments in Domestic na Kanojo, which was admittedly quite restrained in its portrayal of skin considering its genre, but for the sake of brevity, is the size I’ve opted to go with. The first episode opened with Natsuo plowing Rui purely for the experience, and this seemingly emotionless action creates a bit of lingering tension throughout the series. This seemingly one-off decision sets in motion events that cannot be undone, and admittedly, was the reason why I started watching Domestic na Kanojo to begin with.
- The odds of something happening in real life the same way it happened in Domestic na Kanojo is probably much smaller than the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field: at 3720 to 1, this means that there is to be one successful attempt per 3720 attempts, or 0.0269 percent (to three significant figures). Assuming the asteroid field odds, it means given 3720 students of Natsuo’s age, demographic and location, there would be one case where the student’s father remarries a woman with precisely two children, one of which coincidentally happens to be his instructor, and whose younger sister is the person he had a one-night stand with. Assuming these odds, things out there would be a mess: this isn’t the case, so we can conclude the probability of something like this going down in real life is considerably smaller.
- While not daydreaming about Hina’s style, Natsuo sets about trying to help Rui socialise more with others, hangs out with his friends or otherwise, can be seen writing his novels. An aspiring novelist, Natsuo is remarkably sensitive and thoughtful, ever mindful of what those around him are feeling. While he might be entangled into various situations, his feelings for Hina never waver, and in a series that could easily devolve into one where Natsuo’s feelings are ambiguous, Domestic na Kanojo portrays Natsuo as being singularly focused on pursuing Hina.
- Of course, there are some situations that Natsuo himself is not prepared for, and he usually abstains when unsure of his feelings in that moment. Hina is 23 at the beginning of Domestic na Kanojo, while Natsuo is 17 – it strikes me that I’m now a ways older than Hina herself and consider her perspectives on “adult” matters to be remarkably immature. This stems from the benefit of hindsight, and thinking back, I do not feel too much more mature at 23 than I did at 17. With this in mind, when I sat through the Otafest volunteer orientation a few days ago and found myself amongst students, I definitely did feel an age gap there.
- Rumours abound that Hina is seeing someone: Natsuo takes this particularly hard and decides to tail Hina, learning that she’s dating a man named Shū Hagiwara, her former instructor and a biology researcher at a university. Rui accompanies him, although their fieldcraft is terrible and would almost certainly lead to their being burned had Hina even the slightest trace of counter surveillance know-how. Here, they run into Fumiya Kurimoto, Natsuo’s best friend: Fumiya helps Natsuo adopt a new appearance for high school and is always there to support him. He works at a local café run by Masaki Kobayashi.
- Learning the truth from Shū does little to help Natsuo, and in the heat of the moment, an irate Rui douses him with ice water. Shū does not deny what what he does is wrong, and attempts to placate Natsuo: such moments show that despite his relative naïveté, Natsuo’s black-and-white view on things helps simplify complex situations such that they are appropriately framed for the narrative. Highly intricate, complex stories with unexpected plot twists can grow tiresome, and while some may find these enjoyable, I personally prefer keeping to simpler stories.
- As Domestic na Kanojo continues, new characters are introduced into the story. Momo Kashiwabara makes an appearance: she’s someone who gets around, but despite this, is a capable student. As it turns out, Momo grapples with loneliness and isolation, seeking companionship in relationships that invariably crumble because of her partner’s lack of understanding. These misunderstandings, coupled with a well-developed figure that draws male gaze, causes Momo to be held in disdain by her female classmates. Rui befriends her in spite of her classmates’ warnings and the two get along cordially.
- Holding feelings for Natsuo, who views her differently than other boys would, Momo attempts to get closer to him. However, when Natsuo learns of her past suicide attempts and her family situation, he realises that a sexual relationship with Momo wouldn’t help her. He instead opts to cook for her, and decides to support her in a different manner. It’s a rather well-chosen solution that illustrates Natsuo’s character, and also shows audiences that Domestic na Kanojo has no intention of dealing in ambiguity.
- I admit that I was a bit surprised to learn that Maaya Uchida (Gochumon wa Usagi desu ka?‘s Sharo Kirima and Rei from Vividred Operation) voices Rui, with Yōkō Hisaka (Mio Akiyama of K-On!) providing Hina’s voice. From what I gather, the anime adaptation of Domestic na Kanojo only deals in the earlier events: three years’ worth of content is found in the manga, following everyone’s stories after high school. Immediately, CLANNAD comes to mind, having taken the same approach by portraying Tomoya and Nagisa’s life after high school, but I cannot say that I found Domestic na Kanojo anywhere nearly as compelling as CLANNAD.
- When Natsuo first meets Miu Ashihara, the literature club’s only member, he sees Reiji Kiriya close to her and assumes they are kissing. However, this turns out to be a misunderstanding, and Reiji, sensing Natuso’s spirits, compels him to join the literature club. Momo and Rui end up joining, as well: this gives Natsuo something else to focus on, as he concentrates on writing short stories to hone his craft as an author.
- Natsuo’s determination to court Hina comes across as foolish, but his stubborn refusal to stand down is integral for the story: in the absence of this determination, Domestic na Kanojo would quickly decay and unravel, resulting in a series that would be quite devoid of drama. The reduction or even absence of common sense in fiction is something that I am willing to tolerate because it drives the story: characters who act rationally might do so in such a way as to resolve a situation more quickly, shortening the story.
- I’m pretty sure that all of my readers would unfollow me, or even report me, if I were to go the whole nine yards and show Hina engaged in onanism, even if Domestic na Kanojo doesn’t go the whole nine yards with its portrayal. I am reminded of a similar scene in Yosuga no Sora, where Haruka is horrified to see Sora doing so while calling out his name. Domestic na Kanojo deals with the awkwardness that follows: Hina is almost certain that Natsuo spotted her in the fact.
- Admittedly, I entered Domestic na Kanojo wondering if it could be a contender for “most interesting anime” when compared with the likes of something like Yosuga no Sora: the verdict I have is that while Domestic na Kanojo goes in an interesting direction, it is not anywhere near as interesting as Yosuga no Sora – I don’t mind admitting that after watching Yosuga no Sora, I’ve been wanting to see another anime that is as raw and visceral, but so far, I’ve not found anything quite like it.
- During the summer festival, Hina showcases her lack of maturity by wrecking her phone, and then pouting when Natsuo attempts to talk to her and manages to bring Masaki to the table. After seeing Rui kissing Natsuo, Hina announces that she is moving away with the aim of acclimatising to everyday tasks, and it takes a bit of effort for Natsuo to learn of the reason behind it. During this time, Natsuo frequently visits Hina, even when he breaks his leg in an accident. Rui does her best to support him, but later learns that he’s been spending a bit of time with Hina. Distraught that she’s been lied to, Rui runs off, and Natsuo manages to find her.
- The page quote comes from one of Sam Hui’s songs: “追求三部曲” (jyutping zeoi1 kau4 saam1 bou6 kuk1, “Pursuit Trilogy”) is a comedic song about romance that just goes wrong, with the end result that the suitor is unceremoniously dumped. The Cantonese expression “掟煲” (jyutping deng3 bou1) is slang for breaking up; while literally meaning “to throw the pots and pans”, I imagine it was picked because of the commotion surrounding break-up, which can be as noisy as throwing kitchenware around. Machine translators cannot pick up this subtlety.
- Domestic na Kanojo‘s interpretation of Okinawa is nowhere near as intricate or personal as Non Non Biyori Vacation‘s presentation: Okinawa forms the backdrop for a school trip here, during which Natsuo gives Hina an inexpensive engagement ring as a placeholder for when he’s able to have a relationship with her without the associated stigma. However, during their last night, the two succumb to their temptation and their relationship subsequently becomes known amongst the high school’s staff: someone photographed the pair in the aftermath.
- In order to avoid exposing Natsuo, Hina agrees to quietly transfer schools. The decision is not one that is taken lightly, and Hina does so with utmost secrecy, leaving her address and contact information unknown. This is done to keep Natsuo from the consequences, and in the aftermath, he is unable to accept what’s happened, falling into a depression. Fumiya later slaps sense into Natsuo, who attempts to move on by putting his experiences to paper as a story.
- Readers have likely become accustomed to me writing about slice-of-life, military-moé and other series with a strong life lesson component, rather than shows with a stronger dramatic element. It’s fun to occasionally step out of my comfort zone to watch and write about shows where my familiarity is lower. It is not lost on me that I have a lot of “theoretical” understanding about romance despite next to no field experience, and as such, my thoughts are not likely be considered as having weight. For those in a relationship, how idealistic, improbable or downright foolish are my thoughts?
- In the end, Natsuo submits his finished manuscript and meets with his friends, having somewhat made peace with what’s happened. This story later wins an award, and Natsuo is introduced to one of Reiji’s colleagues: things for his career have turned around as a result of the emotional rollercoaster he experienced with Hina, and Natsuo constructively channels this into writing. It was a welcome turn-around in that, whereas some series have the protagonist wallow, Natsuo ends up taking this curse and turning it into a blessing. While his feelings for Hina don’t waver, he ends up recovering.
- Domestic na Kanojo managed to be the anime that took off, had an engine shutdown mid-flight and then managed a safe landing nonetheless. For exceeding my expectations, I feel that the series has earned a B grade (3.0 of 4): while rough around the edges and implausible by all counts, it is also honest in its portrayal, with the characters learning something through their experiences. With this post done, and the remainder of April looking quite busy, the only posts I can really assure readers of this month will be for Kimi no Suizō o Tabetai (I want to eat your pancreas) and my initial impressions of Valkyria Chronicles 4, after I’ve made it a quarter of the way into the campaign.
Overall, Domestic na Kanojo was not something I had expected to write about, but for a series whose setup is implausible, the portrayal of internal and external conflict, where relationships are concerned, were genuine despite being unrefined. By making use of these implausible situations, Domestic na Kanojo explores directions and elements of romance that would otherwise be unexplored: it is, in a manner of speaking, similar to MythBusters in that conditions are very finely manipulated to determine if a particular myth can occur. Rather similar to how Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman create outrageous scenarios to see if certain things can happen as claimed, Domestic na Kanojo does the same with relationships, lining up the circumstances to create situations that allow romance and desire to be explored in ways that more natural setups cannot replicate. Fiction is a realm where such occurrences are possible; with exaggerated circumstances and characters present, the series ends up being unexpectedly rewarding to watch. Having said this, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this to all audiences, especially those looking for a more natural relationship. This series does require some suspension of disbelief to enjoy, and the characters’ actions can seem illogical, even foolish, at times. However, while Domestic na Kanojo may have its flaws, I remain reasonably satisfied with how things did turn out, and would not really consider watching it to be a poor use of time. I’m not certain on whether a continuation is possible, but the manga continues to detail what happens to Natsuo, Rui and Hina later on; folks interested in seeing what happens next will likely find that to be satisfactory.