by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Domestic Girlfriend ?
“Liar” is a strange penultimate chapter for Domestic Girlfriend, as it manages to somehow feel dull and uneventful even when it's cramming as much story as possible into twenty-two minutes. This week, Natsuo learns that his teacher is also the author he's been idolizing for years, he gets pushed down the stairs by Miu and breaks his leg, and Rui finds out about his affair with Hina. On paper, this is one of the most plot-heavy and climactic episodes of Domestic Girlfriend yet, so why does it end up being so boring?
Watching all of these events unfold has cemented a few problems I've had with Domestic Girlfriend lately. These issues have been in bubbling under the surface for a while now, but only in these past few episodes have they started to detract from the quality of the show. Here's what I've come to realize:
1. The Literature Club stuff feels pointless.I get that this is an adaptation of a much longer manga, and I'm sure all of the other characters in the Literature Club get much more to do in the source material, but it has amounted to almost nothing over the past ten weeks. Momo has become virtually invisible since Episode 5, I'm still not entirely sure why Alex is here, and Rui accidentally breaking Natsuo's arm was the most presence she's ever had in the show's plot. Even Reiji has been sorely underutilized – the reveal that he's the one writing novels under the pen-name of You Hasukawa gets swept aside immediately, more like table-setting for a hypothetical second season instead of anything relevant to what's going on now.
2. Natsuo and Hina are just a terrible romantic pairing.
This has nothing to do with my inherent discomfort over student/teacher relationships. If anything, these two could stand to be a little more illicit, because I have absolutely no patience for their lovey-dovey “we can barely make time to breathe and chew our food in between make-out sessions” routine. Whenever the two are killing time at Hina's apartment, they're just saccharine to the point of being off-putting, pawing at each other while they exchange the kind of lame platitudes that border on self-parody.
Not only that, but the relationship seems to have made both Hina and Natsuo demonstrably less interesting. Hina has been downgraded from a conflicted and emotionally unpredictable force to a doe-eyed schoolgirl that exists only to cook and blush and get all flustered by Natsuo's incredibly lame sexual advances. Natsuo might have actually gotten dumber – his inability to spin an even halfway convincing lie to Rui about spending time with Fumiya instead of Hina makes him come across as comically inept. The relationship plays out like an inexperienced teen dreaming up a PG-13 version of a steamy hot-for-teacher romance. I kind of hate it. Speaking of which, I also can't help but notice that…
3. Domestic Girlfriend is terrible at being sexy.
Most of this has to do with the animation and direction, which have been degrading more and more every week. A solid few minutes of this episode is quite literally a slide show, and most every other scene varies between decently animated close-ups and frequently off-model medium shots. The editing is oddly paced, and a lot of dialogue scenes contain shot-reverse-shot sequences that don't quite match up, which kills any sense of sexual tension or comedic timing. For instance, there's a frankly absurd scene where Rui gives Natsuo a bath-time scrub-down that ends with her grabbing his junk instead of the soap-dispenser somehow. I'm pretty sure the gag is that he ended up “dispensing his soap” all over her hand, but the episode does a poor job of communicating this, so the joke doesn't really land, and the whole thing just feels awkward.
Then there's the kissing. I can only imagine how hard it is to animate a truly sexy make-out scene, but Domestic Girlfriend seems to have responded to that challenge by just not animating them at all. Whenever Natsuo is locking lips with either of his sisters, the end result is so decidedly un-sexy that it kills the mood right away. Twice in this episode, Natsuo and Hina smash their lips together while holding absolutely still, as the camera lingers for just a couple seconds too long on their unmoving forms. It's literally the classic image of a kid smashing their dolls' faces together as they yell “Now kiss!”.
As of now, Domestic Girlfriend is hemorrhaging a lot of the goodwill it built up in its unexpectedly strong first half. The more time Hina and Natsuo spend together, the less I end up caring about either of them, and poor Rui hasn't had much to do outside of getting lied to, shut down, and ejaculated on by her brother. She and Natsuo finally get his relationship with Hina out in the open by the end of the episode, though I can't imagine how things can be resolved satisfyingly in only a couple of weeks. Time will tell, I suppose, but I'm predicting that Domestic Girlfriend will have as much finishing power as Natsuo, which is to say it delivered too much too soon, and now it's got to clean up its own mess with as little embarrassment as possible.
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