Hey you! Yea, person reading this review. I spoil literally everything about Domestic Girlfriend in my review/word dump/incoherent thoughts below. Ya been warned.
Domestic Girlfriend is a dumpster fire. A dumpster fire that I enjoyed and has some decent merit but a dumpster fire nonetheless. But to ignore the taboo nature of the relationship between Natsuo, Rui and Hina and focus on anything else is to ignore the show entirely. I have never been so confused trying to figure out if a show is good or bad because a lot of building blocks of the relationships of our main love triangle were set up before they became siblings. Rui and Natsuo bang before they became siblings, Hina and Natsuo started falling for each other around the same time. Its this constant back and forth of these characters trying to follow their hearts but having their desires backfiring usually by having other parties finding out what goes on behind closed doors (although I think these characters don't understand the concept of closed doors).
The whole idea behind Domestic Girlfriend is how these characters deal with their emotions and feelings that began before the remarriage and the falling out after it. This whole concept is equal parts fascinating from a drama perspective and plain bizarre and confusing at times. The amount of times I would scream: "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS" was usually met with this insane curiosity to see how the situation falls apart which was always just around the corner. I actually accepted that at a certain point I was just watching it to see these characters get hurt. I was just super into these character dynamics and I don't have much of a reason why I was other than morbid curiosity.
The story is admittedly pretty bland and predictable at least after the halfway mark. Up until that point however was really solid. We see Natsuo thrown into this massive whirlwind of his feelings for Hina and Rui's prior sexing of Natsuo sending her on a massive arc. We see these characters act on these urges that we all know is wrong and struggle with their new relationships and try to move past it. I say try, but the try is more like a 1 foot wall of popsicle sticks against a steamroller. The blandness comes from this formulaic approach to how conflicts goes about in the story. Rui/Hina make some sort of advancement toward Natsuo or vice versa, advancement gets found out, conflict happens. This happens a lot during the latter half of the show and is borderline just lazy writing. When the beginning of this story shows us its very capable of having interesting things develop between our main cast it sucks that they just go for the shock factor taboo incest route. I do want to say just in case my words sound harsh, I really enjoyed this show I just have issues with the decisions made in the writing.
I have issues with how the overall story is played out and written but our main cast is surprisingly grounded for how crazy the premise is. I think that a lot of the decisions Rui, Natsuo and Hina make aren't the biggest leap in logic when you factor in a lot of their decisions are so heavily rooted in their emotions. Natsuo can't just up and let go of his first love Hina. Rui's first sexual experience was with Natsuo and Hina, well Hina I have issues with. A lot of Hina's character is built on this front that she's the adult in this situation and has to make the grown up decisions and try to put an end to Natsuo's advances. But her defenses are so paper thin and waffley until we learn that she started to grow feelings for Natsuo around the same time Natsuo fell for Hina. Which the reveal feels so weak when we consider literally 2 episodes before they start "dating" she proposes the notion that them trying to date would be like committing double suicide, while dragging Natsuo into the ocean with her to further her point. Like she just gives into Natsuo's advances saying that she did have feelings for him all along just felt forced and weak.
Rui on the other hand got so much more development throughout this shows run time and was overall a much more fleshed out and interesting character than her older sister. We see her go through this entire emotional arc from her trying to keep these dormant feelings for Natsuo away and eventually giving in. The thing is she probably would've been able to move on if it weren't for her discovering Natsuo's feelings for Hina and catching them in the act a few times. She starts off when the remarriage happens going: "what happened between us never happened and i'm moving past this" and putting up walls around these dormant feelings. Only for her discovery of Hina and Natsuo showing her that she does in fact, miss that anime protagonist dick and wants her cut of the action. What makes a lot of the decisions Rui makes hit a bit harder in terms of her character is that she's always been confident when going after what she wants. From her making the move on Natsuo for them to have sex to her wanting secret make out sessions, she understands that the relationship she wants is only weird because society tells them that it's weird and doesn't want that to stop her heart. Little side note but her giving Hina the big No-Chromo when Hina finds out is one of the truest moments to her character and just flat out funny from a memes perspective.
In a way Hina and Rui represent two different mind sets towards incest and how society treats it and plays with those ideas interchangeably and is probably one of the strongest things about Domestic Girlfriend.
Now onto our main man. The absolute Chad that gets both the imouto and the onee-san: Natsuo. He.... is.... an alright character. A lot of his character is just a nice guy trying to follow his heart but not understanding the potential consequences following his heart brings. We get a small cast of other characters he interacts with to try and sell that he's a nice guy who wants nothing more than to live on his novels he wants to write and bang his teacher. It's weird that our protagonist is also the series antagonist because every single one of his actions sets every conflict in motion. His attempts at Hina get found out by Rui and sends her off onto her arc and vice versa. It's his constant attempts at trying to get his first love to reciprocate feelings that causes everyone involved to get hurt in one way or another. But I can't fault him for trying to do his thing in trying to be with Hina. It's been stated in the show and shown that giving up is not something he wants to do and it takes Hina having to leave the school and move away with no one knowing where she is for him to start to understand that it's never gonna be a real thing between them.
Outside of our main trio we have a smattering of side character that serve some function and others little to no function and really is a waste of them existing in the world and potential. The club president and Natsuo's "bros" serve little to no purpose other than adding extra characters I guess? Which is bizarre cause the club president is featured in the OP which one would think would mean she has some sort of impact (also I can't be fucked to look up her name cause she's so useless). Momo on the other while she also had no real impact on the story and also appeared on the OP struck a very weird chord with me specifically. At the end of her episode we learn she has a hard home life and is often alone and depressed which is why she sleeps around a lot and self harms. Critically she only served to be another girl for Natsuo to be nice to but Momo has a weird place in my heart. When I was a bit younger there was a girl I dated with who also self harmed and I discovered that also in a kind of intimate situation. To this day I have a very hard time seeing any sort of self harm and especially cutting in particular and seeing how Natsuo navigated a situation I was just not emotionally equipped to deal with was weirdly therapeutic and is something I won't forget about from Domestic Girlfriend.
Just a side note to those who have a hard time in life and also struggle with depression and use self harming as a means to cope: you are loved, you deserve love and I love you. Don't ruin yourself because you think you're not worth it because to someone out there you are way more than worth it. From someone who also used those means as a way to deal with life to anyone who is struggling and needs to know they are worth it.
Back on track, some of the highlight side characters that just stole all of my attention whenever they were on screen. The manager of L'amant (idk how to do the thing over the a). A gay ex-yakuza second in command who is everyone's muse. I love this guy he's just so wholesome and funny and anytime he was onscreen all of my attention was just purely on him. Then we hop over to my personal best boi: Alex. From the first line he delivered to the last time we get to see him on screen I was always rolling in laughter whenever he just blurts out random things in English and just had so much charm I love him. Fumiya, Natsuo's best friend who is honestly more of a self insert that Natsuo is was just a solid rock for Natsuo whenever he needed some help from a 3rd party. A lot of these characters got way more screen time and time to develop into their own characters way more than club president girl and Momo and is just a shame.
A lot of the auxiliary production is pretty bog standard for most anime. The direction was passable, animation was passable a lot of its qualities were just passable. The warm lighting that was used in a lot of the more intense scenes was about the only thing that really caught my eye but by the end of this show I was largely over it.
I ragged a lot on this show but at it's core its got a lot of solid and good pieces that just weren't executed to the best of their abilities and my morbid curiosity of how things were gonna shake out got me through the latter half of the show. That's not to say this show is bad it has issues no doubt, but its not bad. I feel like anyone that says that this show is bad is mainly saying that because it focuses on such a taboo subject. Which I agree with to an extent. Anime that shoehorn's incest in as a weird fetish thing is flat out disgusting and is one of the main issues I have when admitting that I care about anime as a storytelling medium. As a show where its the forefront of the plot I think Domestic Girlfriend is entertaining as hell and a roller coaster of a ride and is a show I poured way too much energy into thinking and writing about.