by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Domestic Girlfriend ?
Call me naïve, but for some reason I never expected Domestic Girlfriend to go for the harem anime undertones it seems to be pursuing now – I kind of figured that Natsuo would have his hands full already with the whole “I have complicated sexual feelings for both of my step-sisters" business. Yet here we are with “Right Here and Now, Try to Kiss”, where our author protagonist has met yet another complicated girl whose feelings will almost certainly become entangled in the ongoing soap opera of his life.
This episode gets off on the wrong foot from the beginning with the introduction of Reiji Kiriya, the lascivious teacher who runs the school's literature club. Natsuo discovers him taking a smoke break on the school roof, and his first conversation with Natsuo is an intentionally uncomfortable and sexually charged one that sees Reiji waxing about Natsuo's “expressive eyes” and commenting on how well they'd get along. Given that we later discover Reiji using his position in the literature club to get way too hands-on with the one club member, Miu, it's unclear whether Reiji is meant to be a predatory bisexual, but either way it's the kind of cliché I don't have much patience for. Domestic Girlfriend seems to be unironically playing up Reiji's detached demeanor as something to be taken seriously, which is skeevy in a way that muddies Domestic Girlfriend's trashy/romantic tone rather than enhancing it.
I also can't help but feel like Miu is an unnecessary addition to the cast. She's the type of character who initially feels over-designed to satisfy specific character archetypes, as well as to make Rui more jealous than she was already for Natsuo's affection. One of the things I've liked about Domestic Girlfriend is how all of its characters feel surprisingly genuine – Rui, Hina, Momo, and even Natsuo have been given more depth and dimension than I originally expected, which goes a long way toward helping the show sidestep some of the most common issues with melodramatic bodice-rippers. The scene where Reiji tries to get Miu and Natsuo to kiss in order to expand their experiences as writers felt like the kind of transparently cheap setup you'd find in a disposable visual novel, and that's the vibe that I got from Miu in general. She isn't a bad character, but she's the first young woman we've met so far who doesn't yet feel like she belongs in this story.
While I'm feeling mixed over some of its main story beats, the execution of those beats were handled fairly well this week. The animation was also more consistent, and we got some decently creative direction in the scenes between Natsuo, Miu, and Reiji. I also continue to appreciate how the show handles Rui's characterization – it's clear that she's harboring feelings for Natsuo that she doesn't know how to express, but Domestic Girlfriend is doing a good job of pacing her development out and letting her come to terms with those feelings in an understandable way. Plus, she and Momo end up joining the literature club along with Natsuo, so it isn't like the club will be lacking in unhealthy romantic partners that Natsuo actually shares chemistry with.
Rui also shares a great scene with Masaki at the bar where she expresses her frustration with understanding her own emotions, and Masaki recognizes her romantic urges for what they are. He reveals that he used to be a yakuza member of all things, and he first realized his feelings for another man during a vaguely illicit mafia meetup. While there's a hint of his gayness being played for laughs here, the episode treats Masaki's love story with a surprising amount of respect and earnestness, which made me happy. A photo on Masaki's shelf implies that he and his yakuza paramour did go on to have a relationship of some kind, and I'd honestly welcome a spinoff about that particular love story.
We also get the return of Hina this week, so the show is already laying the groundwork for a whole new round of bad choices for our central trio. The first red flag comes when she brushes off Keiji's “oddness” by saying that he's a good enough teacher that nobody else in the school feels the need to complain about his behavior, which is A Very Bad Take™ indeed. Then we end this week's story with Hina thanking Natsuo for how he handled the Shuu situation, and she closes by asking Natsuo out on a weekend date. If Hina hadn't already straddled Natsuo in her bedroom a few weeks back, it might be possible to read this as an innocent sisterly act, but Hina absolutely knows better by know. We may have spent too long in a narrative detour this week, but I predict the drama is going to start escalating quickly in the Fujii-Tachibana household soon.
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