Not just good for what it was, either.
It’s always nice when a series that was totally off your radar screen manages to hook you in all the way to the end. It’s something you’d think would happen all the time, but that hasn’t really been the case with me. Maybe it’s recompense for all the series over the last year that started out in my higher expectations tier and bombed out altogether – there have certainly been more of those than usual. Mind you I’d gladly defer from that trade-off, but I’m still grateful for whatever I get where good anime are concerned.
Honestly it’s actually a bit of a misnomer to say that Domestic na Kanojo was off my radar screen. I knew about it, and I had expectations – namely, that it would be a disaster. I don’t think it has been – in fact, it turned out to be a couple of notches better than most other anime romances. It struck a nice balance between realism and absurdity and treated its characters with a surprising level of respect – the latter, I think, being a key to its success.
As for the finale, it elected to largely avoid histrionics, which again might be seen as a bit of a departure from expectations. As it turned out no one intentionally outed Natsuo and Hina, they were just unlucky. And Hina chose to deal with this exactly as I would have expected her to. Her career at the school was toast at that point, so the best possible deal for her would be to agree to leave in exchange for the affair not being made public. Of course that the school is fine with her going off to teach somewhere else is a potentially troubling matter – certainly if you believe what she and Natsuo did was wrong – but it’s a method of resolution that should be familiar to anyone who follows the news…
As to whether Hina should have buggered off without telling even her family where to, that’s more of a problem to me though I certainly understand why she did it. Natsuo going into a tailspin over this is again about what I would have expected. He did at least get an explanation from Hina (who loves writing letters, clearly), but that just means Natsuo is going to blame himself over what’s happened. Writing as therapy is obviously his path forward, and it’s good that he was smart enough to figure that out on his own.
Throughout all this Natsuo has gotten more than his share of development, which alone sets him apart from the generic passive MCs of most series like this one. Natsuo is neither passive nor generic – while his arc starts with a passive act (letting himself be talked into having sex by Rui), he ends up being pretty proactive for the rest of the series. He makes dumb decisions sometimes, as teenage boys (and everyone else) are prone to do, but he doesn’t stand idly by as what he wants slips away from him. Even if what he wants is probably not what’s best for him.
The manga is of course ongoing, so DomeKano had to conjure an ending out of nothing and I have no idea how it compared to the source material. But it’s open-ended, which I think is wholly appropriate given the premise. Neither Rui or Natsuo is giving up, but the epilogue with Hina suggests she isn’t either. And having his therapy novel win a significant prize is only going to make Natsuo more confident that he can be a partner for Hina, whose path will inevitably cross his once again. She’s going to return to her family soon enough, and then… We’ll see. It’s not like she’s 50 and he’s 15 – there’s a five or six-year difference, and Natsuo will be in college (or a full-time professional writer) soon enough. And the heart wants what it wants.
While certainly no masterpiece, Domestic no Kanojo took what was undeniably a dramatic scenario and presented it in a surprisingly coherent and measured way. As I said earlier, I have no problem with an anime showing people make bad decisions as long as they arrive at them in believable ways. Maybe there’s a voyeuristic component to enjoying DomeKano but it never felt exploitative or mean-spirited, and it was sometimes downright fascinating to watch. A pleasant surprise, certainly, and a reminder to keep our minds open when we look at the schedule for a new season.