Domestic Girlfriend is a hard show to recommend seriously. The very premise reads like the trashiest of soap operas: a high school boy, depressed that the teacher with whom he is in love has a boyfriend, has a one night stand with a random girl at a mixer, only to find out that his father remarried and now both the girl he had a fling with and the teacher he was in love with are now his stepsisters. (Because just hormonal melodrama is not trash enough, gotta add that incest bonus in there!) This show seems to be made just for the perverse entertainment of watching selfish people do selfish things and ruining each other’s lives in the process. Even the show itself is in on it, with a few side characters clearly enjoying the pandemonium of certain key scenes.
That said, these kinds of shows where selfishness runs relatively unchecked can be an interesting window into just how sin messes people up. And sometimes, we need a reminder that sin is real and can cause real problems. Episodes 3 and 4 of Domestic Girlfriend in particular bring this to light as the male lead Natsuo and his younger stepsister (a.k.a. his one-time bedmate) Rui find out that her older sister Hina (a.k.a. Natsuo’s teacher and crush) is actually going out with a married man. Hina being the mistress in an affair seriously rubs Natsuo the wrong way, and he even confronts Hina about it… only for Hina to write his concerns off as the naïve cries of a kid who does not know what it is like to be an adult and what “true love” feels like.
Now, Natsuo’s approach has its own moral problems, starting with how he proceeds to force a kiss on Hina as his way of trying to change her mind. Not that Hina is much better, making her own advances to “prove” that Natsuo is still a child, with the hint that she secretly loves the attention. And while it is one thing to try to talk a family member out of an illicit relationship, Rui plotting with Natsuo and his friend to uncover and forcibly end her sister’s affair is too much of an underhanded scheme to have any moral justification. Nevertheless, the whole situation does highlight something important: how romantic love fails at being a justification for sin.
This particular trainwreck starts when Hina and her lover, Shuu, enter a café they have been to before, unaware that Natsuo is friends with the owner’s son and that he and Rui have been using the place to plot the exposure of the affair. With the anticlimactic exposure now complete, Shuu somehow figures that the best thing to do is to politely introduce himself as a married man that is cheating on his wife with Hina. (I am pretty sure there is a “galaxy brain” meme in here somewhere.) He tries to justify the affair by saying he truly “loves” Hina. And when Natsuo gets angry over this, Shuu only adds more fuel to the fire by asking him, if the problem is the whole affair thing, would he would approve of the relationship if Shuu officially divorced his wife? The insinuation here is that Shuu knows that the real reason Natsuo is angry is because he has feelings for Hina, and that Natsuo has no real moral ground for his objections. He then goes on to say that he does want to go through the divorce proceedings but cannot yet because “reality does not work that way” and he needs more time. This leads to Shuu getting dunked on—literally, via glass of water—by Rui, before she runs off, forcing Hina to think more seriously about her relationship and how it is affecting her family.
Even in the aftermath, Shuu holds fast to his position. He writes off Rui’s anger as the outburst of a child who cares a lot about justice (implying he does not care much for justice at all), and when Hina suggests that they spend some time apart, he challenges her concern for family by hugging her and asking her what her own feelings are, regardless of what others think. To Shuu, romantic love is the god that trumps all other things: family, marriage vows, and even justice itself. There is nothing wrong with cheating on his wife, if it means he and Hina can be happy together.
Those who worship the idol of romantic love do not care about how infidelity hurts people. Shuu does not care how much he would hurt his wife, or how Hina’s sister was hurt to the point she ran away from home for some time. He even did not realize how Hina herself had been hurting from his inability to commit to her. And that is to say nothing of the many actual lives that have been impacted by marital infidelity. How many exes and children have lost the ability to trust after the person they trusted the most betrayed them for the sake of romance? And all this is to say nothing about how much infidelity hurts God, who created marriage to be a bond representing His everlasting love for His Church, only to see that bond broken over and over by those who only care about the dopamine high of romantic love.
To make matters worse, the god of romantic love is a fickle one. Shuu might not care about justice, his wife’s feelings, or Rui’s anger, but the one thing that does concern him is that Natsuo has feelings for Hina and that Hina might feel the same way back. With no weight to the power of commitment behind them, the romantic love worshipper feels most threatened by romantic rivals. Shuu had asked if the kids would approve of his relationship with Hina if he divorced his wife, but even if they did approve, what is stopping him from one day falling out of love with Hina and cheating with another girl later? Shuu has already shown he is willing to throw aside marriage vows for the sake of love. He might claim he loves Hina now, but the physical, passionate feelings that drive romantic love tend to fade after time. When romantic feelings fade and the pressures of a long-term relationship build up, the god of romantic love, in its dissatisfaction, will latch on to any opportunity to get what it needs through a new lover. In this way, Rui’s concern for Hina’s affair makes sense: she has no reason to have faith that Shuu will not dump Hina for yet another girl in the future.
Hina was following the god of romantic love for some time, but at the end of episode four she comes to her senses (at least for the moment) and announces that she has broken up with Shuu after realizing her family is more important. At least for this part, it is definitely nice to see a character acknowledge that some things are more important than romance, an idol that so many other stories worship. That said, the cynical side of me knows that all this does is free up Hina to participate in the most twisted love triangle on this side of New World Order. The god of romantic love will be enticing Hina back with promises of good feelings and happiness, and like infidelity, this idol cares not for what people think of incest or “proper” teacher-student relationships. This god also has its eyes on Rui, who has grown more emotionally intimate with Natsuo throughout this whole ordeal, which combined with their night of passion that will likely be impossible to truly forget, means all the ingredients are in place for yet another romantic affair. (And that is to say nothing of outside parties looking to add sides to this love polygon…) These three might have escaped from one trainwreck, but even bigger trains are incoming and no one has made any efforts to install brakes.
Now, this is meant to be a Valentine’s Day post, so I do not want to slam on romantic love too much. Romance is a great thing, and romantic stories are some of my favorite stories. However, like all others, romantic love must ultimately kneel in service to God. After all, God created romance as a good thing, as a way to make our lives better and more enjoyable, and thus bring more glory to Him. By that same token, though, that means anytime romantic love tempts us to do something that goes against His commandments, we are to stop and remind ourselves who our true God is. And for Christians and non-Christians alike, we must avoid making an idol out of romantic love, for romantic love makes for a poor god, one that cares not for the destruction it can cause or the happiness of its followers when its whims take it in new directions. If you need a reminder of that, perhaps watch Domestic Girlfriend for a reminder of the problems the god of romantic love can cause.