Kei Sasuga‘s Domestic Girlfriend began a lengthy run in Weekly Shonen Magazine in April 2014 and that run ended this week with chapter 276. This series is a perfect illustration of the differences between the comics in Weekly Shonen Magazine and Weekly Shonen Jump as American audiences were shocked at the amount of sexual content in the earlier chapters that were adapted into last year’s Domestic Girlfriend anime. The extra chapters in the collected editions even feature explicit nudity, though the sex was toned down later in the run as the melodrama was even more ramped up.
If you’re not familiar with the series, the first page of the first chapter features protagonist Natsuo Fujii losing his virginity to a girl he just met in a completely disastrous attempt to get over his teacher who he’s in love with. When he gets home, his widower father announces that he’s remarrying and introduces Natsuo to his new step-sisters: Hina, the teacher he had tried to confess his love to a few hours ago, and Rui, the girl he slept with to forget about her the day before. The series follows the long and extremely melodramatic story of how Natsuo comes to love both of them and which one he ultimately ends up with.
From here on out, it’s spoiler city. You’ve been warned.
I don’t think Sasuga-Sensei had a clear plan of how to end this series. It seemed like the ending was set when Natsuo and Rui get engaged and Rui is pregnant, but Natsuo called off the wedding when he realized how much Hina had sacrificed for him and that she is the one he has to dedicate himself to, even though she was in a coma and would probably never wake up, and she hadn’t as of the beginning of the five year time skip that happened two chapters ago.
But Hina does wake up and the final chapter skips even further ahead into the future, so far that Natsuo and Rui’s daughter Haruka appears to be nine or ten years old. Hina has woken up, done years of rehab and in the end, marries Natsuo. Even though they always seemed like the better couple to me, something felt off about the ending. It was like Sasuga-Sensei suddenly changed her mind on how to end the series at the last minute and this was the only plausible way she could get out of the corner she had painted herself into. The melodrama of the last six chapters of this comic was way over-the-top, even for Domestic Girlfriend. It almost seemed silly, like watching an episode of Soap or Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman but it was clearly meant to be touching.
There were some interesting moments of symmetry with the first chapter of the comic, though. For starters, the color title page called back to the first title page, but instead of Hina, Rui and Natsuo all lying together naked and looking wistful, they’re lying together with Haruka, fully dressed with huge smiles. Also in the first chapter Hina, still 17-year-old Natsuo’s teacher, asks him to read the novel he’s writing, and he won’t let her, telling her he doesn’t want anyone to see it until it’s finished. At the end, Hina again asks to read a novel he’s written, this time an advanced copy of he had written about their relationship and he hands her a book with a title reading Domestic Girlfriend.
I won’t spoil GE- Good Ending, Sasuga-Sensei’s previous work, since it’s just now being published in English for the first time, but I will say that it had a much more satisfying and organic ending that managed to accomplish the same feeling of not knowing what was going to happen until the very end.
That’s not to say that Domestic Girlfriend was a BE – Bad Ending, though. It was never going to be easy to end this comic, and I believe that Sasuga-Sensei wanted to convey that Natsuo chose Rui because Hina hadn’t properly expressed to him how much she truly loved him, even though it was Rui who had trouble expressing her emotions earlier in the series. I just think there was probably a more elegant way to accomplish that than having someone try to murder Hina and having her fall into a coma for five years. To do all that and then skip ahead a decade and end on a chapter that’s supposed to be so happy it’s almost saccharine creates some serious narrative whiplash to an extent that almost makes it feel unsettling.
A lot of things happened over the six year run of Domestic Girlfriend, and it feels like a very different book than it was when it started. I was somewhat disappointed with the ending, but it doesn’t take away from all the passion and emotion and even humor that we got over the course of the series. While it’s always disappointing when a series doesn’t end as strong as it began, I’d still recommend Domestic Girlfriend to someone who hadn’t read it.