[Manga Review] Domestic Girlfriend Vol. 1

Volume 1 Synopsis

High schooler Natsuo is hopelessly in love with his cheerful and popular teacher, Hina. However, one day at a mixer, he meets a moody girl by the name of Rui and ends up sleeping with her. Soon after, his father announces that he’s getting remarried to a woman with two daughters of her own. And who shows up in tow, other than both Hina and Rui?! Natsuo’s outrageous new life starts now!

 

Information

Title: Domestic Girlfriend
Author: Kei Sasuga
Published: July 17, 2014 (English release via Kodansha Comics – April 2017)
Genre: Shounen, Romance, Drama, Comedy

Review

Soap Opera romances is like poison for the soul. Of course, if unobtainable yearnings rife  with forbidden love is more than enough to satisfy those vicarious desires (without having to live them yourself), look no further than volume 1 of Kei Sasuga’s twisted world in Domestic Girlfriend. Known more her work in GE: Good Ending, Domestic Girlfriend contains the same level of carnal naughtiness, intense drama and light-hearted humor as it follows hapless protagonist Natsuo and his confusing life as a high school student. Having a crush on his teacher and sex with a girl after a botched social function is one thing, but finding out both will be his new step-sisters is beyond baffling. Seems like it is going to take more than a couple of therapy sessions and Maury Povich pep talks to sort out this boy’s feelings.

Where the introductory volume does tend to shift gears quickly and makes it somewhat difficult to get a clear grasp of the characters personalities or tone, on the flipside, it did make for a more breezy and refreshing read as well as build some interest in the cast. Whether it be Hina’s bubbly demeanor as a cover up for her strained relationship problems or Rui’s chilly facade masking her social inept graces, I did find myself caring for the characters immediately despite employing some common tropes. Hopefully, these elements will play a role later on since not much came to fruition in this volume. Another aspect that I liked is that the manga does tend to stay away from the typical romantic template that seems to be a standard many manga authors follow and just plain  frustrating to fans. Again, characters are a large part of this, especially with Natsuo taking the lead male role of the generic “nice guy”, but does not come off like a lovesick puppy that can not speak at the mere presence of his affection. Again, counting on future volumes to keep up this trend or do something with the dynamics. Either way, it does lead to a pretty saucy cliffhanger.

Being largely unfamiliar with Sasuga’s artwork and style, I must say that I have become a fast fan. Not being too overbearing on the sex appeal or too unbelievable in character designs, most of the cast do feel like representatives of actual human beings unlike the light and fluffy high school romances that flood the market. Of course, for the male viewer, Sasuga does provide plenty of eye candy. As aforementioned, even though the work feels very light and quick to get through on a train ride (beware, not all that safe for public consumption) the panels do factor into this as there is a lot details packaged in, yet not too the point of cluttering pages and messing with the flow. Admittedly, it also somewhat shorter than a normal volume (even with the humorous extra chapter at the end), but think that might be attributed to my own reading pace and not being able to put it down.

In conclusion, the opening act of Domestic Girlfriend is the start of a promising work and sure to sit right with fans frustrated with the common romantic setup or looking for something more mature to an extent. Filled with plenty of laughs to drown out the drama and tension bringing it back, it has to be one of the better titles I read this year in the genre. Still having a few misgivings on the future of the project, I’m sure Sasuga is hard at work to make the following volumes will be just as addictive as this one.

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Pros: Nice introduction to the cast of characters and world, a nice mix of humor and drama, subject matter is a little on the mature side, nice character designs, bonus chapter at the end is a nice palate cleanser.

Cons: Very little in means of actually developments for characters, the main character is not timid, yet does seem to be easily swayed.

Final Verdict: While volume 1 is short of being the raunchy and debaucherous carnival I was thinking of, it is still a very satisfying read all the same.  For those that are in love with taboo and forbidden love stories, I certainly would not miss on this one from the beginning. It will still take time to solidify character personalities and the overall tone, but so far, the manga has some interesting writing and dynamics pulling it forward.  My only hope that this does not end up becoming redundant.

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