The news that Domestic Girlfriend, or Domestic Na Kanojo, the seinen-romance manga series by Kei Sasuga-sensei, the author of Good Ending before this, has been making it’s rounds among the anime and manga communities, not just because of the fact that this kind of popular series which just received an anime adaptation last year has ended, but because of the way in which it has ended.
I had been an early follower of Domestic Girlfriend, having been roped into the dramatic story in my mid-teens. In my last DomeKano post, I expressed my stance as a staunch Hina-sensei supporter, so it would shock some of you to know that I am not happy with the ending. If you want to avoid spoilers, though I do not recommend reading the manga further than the twenty-first to twenty-third volume, you should avoid the remainder of this post.
First, I want to address some members of the Domestic Girlfriend fandom, I am neither saying that Kei Sasuga should have caved to fan pressure and walked away from her original vision for the story, nor is this a personal attack on her. This fandom is kind of known to be toxic, whatso with the Hina vs Rui debate naturally allowing for tension to rise, but I do not want to promote any kind of harmful message here.
Second, I want to address the people who are the saltier than the Dead Sea, that whenever they see a criticism of the ending, they automatically assume a baser, more nefarious reason behind that criticism. A lot of people really didn’t like the ending, and the people did like it are in the minority, that is for certain, not because of any Hina vs Rui opinion, but because the ending was not satisfactory, and I will explain why in this post.
Having addressed these issues, let me move on to my critique.
I don’t have a habit of criticizing much of anything on this website, my ranting and negative-type posts are in the far minority, and end up as a more of a reaction to an annoying trait rather than a thought out critique of that thing. Take my post on How Not To Summon A Demon Lord, where I was annoyed by the overall spinelessness and weirdly soft behavior of Diablo, but still liked the series as a whole. I even chose not to cover the Quintessential Quintuplets’ ending, because even though I didn’t like it, it didn’t invalidate entire arcs of the story, or you could even see it as removed from the actual story, because QQ was the type of manga where the journey counts more than the ending, primarily because the journey was a recollection of events from an already set future.
I’m not going to describe the entire ending of DomeKano for you, Gigguk’s video does a far more entertaining job than I could, let me just break the down the major points that I want to address.
- Rui and Natsuo rekindle their relationship
- Rui gets pregnant, the two decide to get married
- Hina has an accident, falls into coma, Rui gets impostor syndrome/survivor’s guilt
- Rui and Natsuo don’t get married, Rui still has the child
- Child puts wedding ring on Hina’s finger and she magically starts getting better
- Hina and Natsuo get married, because it was fated
Now let’s address the problems with these.
The thing that irks me the most is the fact that Natsuo actually left Rui after she got preganant, despite the fact that he loved her. The last major relationship he’d been in was with Rui, she was going to be the mother of his child, they were set up to get married, and Natsuo acquiesced to a decision Rui had obviously steeled herself into due to some sort of guilt, just because of an unreliable thing such as fate? Even disregarding the fact that Natsuo had some sort of fate with Hina, he was at that time, and for a long time before, it immensely in love with Rui, and it is simply lazy writing that this scenario played out the way it did. This is even before we talk about the fact that Natsuo left Rui to functionally be a single mom at a pretty young age.
Now the part about Hina’s accident, I seriously didn’t understand why this had to happen. I mean I kind of do, but the conclusion is that it’s still pointless. Hina had to have an accident so that she could fall into a coma, so that five years later, Natsuo and Rui’s child would be able to act as an angel of fate and re-awaken her to be Natsuo’s bride. Both these things, the accident and the child are wholly unnecessary, and in my opinion, actually reductive, because if Hina was not in a coma, or not incapacitated in some other way, it would provide a huge moral dilemma for her when Rui would have expressed the intent to not marry Natsuo. In fact, Rui might not have even considered not marrying Natsuo if Hina hadn’t fallen into a coma.
We encounter lazy writing again when we talk about Natsuo and Rui’s child being the one to awaken Hina by putting the ring on her finger, like why? I know it makes the story that much more like, ‘oh, even the heavens approve of Natsuo and Hina’ and that kind of bullshit, but again, it’s lazy writing, and also acts against the purposes of creating tension in the story. I would say that the entire end sequence commits the sin of removing tension from the story. Let me explain.
For me, the final part of DomeKano suffers the curse of many a soap opera, opting for forced dramatic tension rather than naturally creating that tension, since it’s easier to plan out forced drama that plan around introducing it naturally.
Envision a scenario where Hina wakes up in a hospital room, unaware of what is going on. Her memories are in a haze, she looks around, only to find a young girl, who looks awfully like Rui when she was younger. She thinks she might be dreaming in a more lucid state, close to death, because she’s seeing a younger version of her sister, a version from before their relation got complicated, from a much simpler and happier time. Then she realizes she’s awake, and actually in a hospital room, the kid is real, and realization dawns on Hina, that that is Rui and Natsuo are now married, and she has been in a coma long enough for their child to grow that big. A sense of finality would begin to overtake the scene until someone notifies the family and Rui rushes in and hugs her big sister, bursting into tears on her recovery. Hina would hug Rui and feel a little dejected, she would feel like it really had been a few years from her marriage. Then she either she would notice the lack of ring on Rui’s finger and/or Natsuo rushes in and hugs her as well, bursting into tears as well and explaining that Rui and him hadn’t been married yet. Maybe relief, maybe happiness, most likely a mixture of both would appear on Hina’s face, mixed with a little sadness for her little sister, but Rui would say that it’s what her decision had been and she shouldn’t feel bad accepting it.
Come on, that isn’t forced, all the tension is natural and expected, and it flows well, compared to Natsuo asking a comatose Hina to marry him and the runt putting on that ring and fucking off.
Next, imagine the kind of story and emotion that could be naturally generated had Hina not been in a coma. If Rui refused to marry Natsuo, Hina would feel a lot more apprehension, because of Natsuo and Rui’s unborn child. Do you think someone as caring as Hina-sensei would ever be able to let her pregnant little sister give up on the man she loved for her sake? Do you think she’d be convinced to take such a step with the little amount of prodding that the ‘convincing’ Rui does in the final chapter actually amounts to? NOOOOOOOOOOO!
In the Days With Hina extra chapter, we see Rui and the runt just fuck off to god knows where, wouldn’t having them stay and still be a kind of family be better? I mean mother of Natsuo’s kid and Hina’s sister for god’s sake! Rui would eventually think of moving on and getting romantically involved with someone else, but I’ll be damned if it’s barely a few months after Natsuo and Hina are married. Come on, these are basic things forgotten for the sake of simplicity. It isn’t as if the nuclear family dynamic is extremely popular in Asia, joint families are a thing you know.
I don’t know what to say anymore….I just feel so bad that this story had to end this way. Even now when I look at any page of the last chapter, I get that heavy feeling in my chest that this is how it ended. This is how this series spanning so many years and memories had to finish. I will borrow a quote from Gigguk and say, “Domestic Girlfriend died as it lived, a dumpster fire from the beginning to end”
This story started off as a simple affair between an emotionally frustrated teacher and a naive kid, a meeting of a hurt soul and a person who wanted to heal that soul. Then it turned into the over-dramatic, will they won’t they type of deal with Rui(along with the fact that both ladies became his sisters), then it went through many arcs and turns, some well thought out, some not, and finally ended with our initial pair getting married, because it was fated. Such a nice and simple explanation, seems satisfying even, if you just told this to someone unaware of the nuances of the characters anf the stories they lived through, they’d see no problem with the ending, but nuance is where the heart of any story is, and the lost opportunities and potential of this story make me feel sad, right from that place in your chest where your heart throbs(I’m trying to be unnecessarily poetic), something I haven’t felt in a long while.
Am I happy that Natsuo and Hina ended up getting married? Absolutely. Am I happy about all the stuff surrounding and leading up to it? Absolutely not. As a staunch Hina supporter from day one, I can only apologize to all the fans of this manga that this was how the manga had to end. Some may see it as a victory for Hina supporters, I see it as a scenario where both sides lose.
I will once again refer to two concepts I hold paramount when creating stories. One is build-up and payout, and both the build-up and pay out are lackluster when it comes to the final moments of this manga. Second is Creator’s Sin, where I feel that it is the responsibility, nay, duty of the author to end a story that seems to be going south as soon as they can and no longer allow it to deteriorate into something worse.
Now you may ask me, Kami? Why did such a thing happen? Why was the end of this story so rushed and lazily written? Why was this series ended in such a manner? Well the answer the Gigguk quote from above. Some things simply can’t escape the fate that they are given(Of course I’m joking). The real answer is that Kei Sausga has a new project up in the work and needs to divert more attention to that project, a fact I highlighted when I predicted that this manga would probably end with the final volume somewhere in the mid-20s and probably not reaching thirty. Never have I been this sad to see one of my predictions pass. It’s a fate shared by a lot of manga, including Quintessential Quintuplets, I just wasn’t expecting it to be this bad in the case of Domestic Na Kanojo, because I wasn’t expecting a kid to show up in the story like that. Kids really do fuck up everything up don’t they?
It’s really a shame, what else can I say? It just feels so surreal, like no one could have expected that this manga would have ended like this. I was speculating heavily about how Natsuo could end up with either of the main girls, how he could end up with Hina-nee and how all of this would pan out, but this? What we got just feels cheap. It’s like buying a cream filled doughnut and eating it, just to find out there’s no cream inside. That’s what this ending is, hollow, and that’s what all the characters eventually become, hollow, because, you cannot, for even a second, convince me that Natsuo was the type of person to leave everything to fate and basically neglect the mother of his child, just from what we’ve seen in the rest of the manga. You cannot convince me that a strong willed person like Rui would give up to something as ethereal as fate and give up on a man and life she loved, who was the father of her child, in such a superficial manner. Maybe they would have postponed the wedding until Hina-nee woke up, and then something could have happened? So many things could have happened that would have made the ending more satisfying, but they didn’t.
It’s sad, but it is what it is.
Anyways, farewell for now my dear readers, if you want to heal from the pain that the ending of Domestic Girlfriend might have caused you, or any other manga for that matter, I would say read some happy go lucky trashy romance manga where you know the ending is pretty satisfying, or just the overall story is satisfying, I would recommend Love Hina or Tonari No Kashiwagi-san, they’re the kind of low hanging fruit that’re easy to consume and make you feel good afterwards.