During my journey exploring the vast depths of VNs, there have been plenty of times where I branched out from what I know I enjoy and, as a yuri lover, there is only a finite amount of translated yuri VNs to read. So, as I looked for something that scratched a similar itch, I eventually stumbled upon the otokonoko x girl genre of VNs. While not the most novel genre, it’s easy to see why the genre would be able to thrive in the VN format. While femboys and crossdressers are far from uncommon in anime and manga, these stories often relegate them to one note side characters. Thus, VNs have been able to fill in the niche through moege and slice of life VNs where we can finally find crossdressing boys in the full protagonist limelight and Otome*Domain is here to fulfil that niche.
Years back, when I first discovered this genre of VNs, I was curious about all the big name JP titles from the likes of ensemble and Navel only to be disappointed that, aside from Otoboku, which Mangagamer released more than a decade ago, almost none received English translations. One VN that lingered in my mind was Otome*Domain, a 2016 VN by Palette Qualia (an imprint of Clear Rave and Palette), which stood out with its striking art, banger opening song, and not to mention its pretty solid hentai OVA. Still, with it being the only VN Palette Qualia has released and with a fan translation project that never went anywhere, I assumed it was doomed to be forever lost to untranslated VN Hell. So when Shiravune suddenly announced and released the game in December 2022, I was surprised. The question is, was it worth the wait or were we fine with a hentai OVA?
The premise, par for the course in the genre, starts with Asuka Minato. After the death of his grandmother and with nowhere else to go, Saioniji Kazari offers him to join Whitebell Girls’ Academy, which is a private school she runs (yes, she’s the board chair of the school while also a student). Of course, the school also happens to be girls-only school, and so starts Minato’s new life as a girl. Sharing the same room as Kazari to protect his secret, he quickly discovers the dorm is meant for the outcasts of the school, with the composed but airheaded Kazari, the too-chuuni-to-have-any-friends Oogaki Hinata, and Kifune Yuzu, whose charming demeanor hides her inability to do any domestic chores or cook anything edible. From there, moege hijinks begin with Minato resembling a fish out of water while the girls are overpowered by Minato’s femininity.
To address the elephant in the room, we need to talk about Minato. Famously winning Best Visual Novel Character of 2016, Minato exhibits the best trait of the femboy x girl genre – the great male leads. Unlike the standard self-insert male protagonists you’d expect from a moege, the story commits to giving Minato the full spotlight, being fully voiced (including in H scenes) and having a variety of expressions that do a good job of showcasing his personality and, well, his femininity. Besides his ability to easily pass as the other sex, combined with his talent and passion for household chores while also being quick to blush at the rise of lewd topics, it’s not a surprise when he’s voted “#1 ideal housewife” in the campus newspaper club poll. He’s also passionate for those around him. He spends much of the common route not just befriending and assisting the girls of the dorm, but helping them to get to better know each other.
His charade of acting as a girl and his tendency to run into ecchi scenarios can be a bit silly, but his passion for hard work builds into Otome*Domain‘s larger theme of self-improvement, as Minato inspires the girls to grow as a person throughout the story and actively helps them do so in their routes. Essentially, Minato is the heartbeat of Otome*Domain and makes the story his own.
Kazari is a real treat because of her composed nature, no one can ever really tell what’s going through her mind. There’s a mysterious allure about her, yet she’s a total girl fail. Like Minato, she’s a hard worker. Balancing her school life and her work as the board chair, she continuously trips up and makes mistakes. While she is always looking to make the school a fun and happier place, she’s weighed down by her lack of charisma alongside with the expectations of her position. Her serious nature hides how she can be a bit of an airhead and also an exhibitionist, infamously resorting often to pissing in a bottle in front of Minato. I would recommend reading her route last as she’s extremely open about her feelings during her route and I find this works best after seeing the reclusive side of herself that she shows during the other routes.
Hinata is the lovable chuunibyô that isn’t able to connect with anyone at school until Minato arrives, where his friendly nature and shared interest in boyish things quickly wins her over to the point of always wanting to be around Minato. Like Kazari, she doesn’t have many friends, but it mostly stems from her inability to drop her act and connect with the other girls with the school. Hinata can be a bundle of energy when allowed to let loose but quick to clam up whenever she feels judged. I get the impression that Hinata is a divisive character players will either love or hate depending on their ability to withstand chuunibyo/edgelord characters. However, her route finds a middle ground that both sides can enjoy with her having to tackle whether to leave her chuunibyo antics behind.
Yuzu is the black sheep of the group as she’s not really a girl fail in the same way the other two are. She initially comes off as the bubbly, big tiddy bimbo of the trio but she’s surprisingly competent. While Hinata and Kazari have trouble socializing and making friends without Minato, Yuzu is friendly, extroverted, and has an adventurous nature that she pursues through her role in the journalism club. Her main flaw is her inability to do household chores. Additionally, her biohazardous cooking forces the school to evict her from the normal dorms. Still, considering how Minato is essentially the dorm mother and does all of these things not just for her but for all of the girls in the dorm, these attributes aren’t really special. As a result, her route is a bit different from the others as much of the conflict comes from her insecurities surrounding her femininity rather than a concrete need to change as a person.
As you’ve probably noticed, Otome*Domain‘s art is fantastic and, besides Minato as a character, it’s easily its biggest draw. All of the art is from Tatekawa Mako. From the sprites to the backgrounds, all the work is eye-candy and all of the CGs are worthy of being used as a wallpaper. These CGs can sometimes be a bit spread out over the 20-hour runtime which is where Komowata Haruka‘s SD (chibi) art comes in. Moege readers will know Komowata Haruka from Yuzusoft and Purple software‘s visual novels and the chibi art doesn’t disappoint, with their art being able to elicit grins even when working with the most benign or lame jokes.
The music is good if not a bit generic with the usual elegant orchestral compositions that you would expect from a VN set in a private school. The songs do a good job setting the tone. However, as its a moege on the short side, the soundtrack is on the shorter side, coming out to a couple dozen tracks.
That said, I do really like the OP and I wished they used the non-vocal version more outside of the main menu. One thing I didn’t notice until writing this review is that there’s specific tracks for the breakfast, lunch and dinner scenes. While essentially the same song, the composer adjusted it enough to reflect the mood. The breakfast music starts the day on sweeter and gentler side. The lunch song, with it’s faster tempo and inclusion of drums, being a bit more playful to reflect the classroom lunch girl talk. Whereas the warmth of the dinner song, with it’s slower tempo and its focus on the deeper woodwind instruments, to reflect on the day coming to a close.
The H-scenes are solid, with four for each heroine not including an unlockable one. They are on the vanilla side so don’t expect too much apart from Minato being a bit of a M at times. There’s also a cumshot timer for those who are in to that.
As mentioned, the game features unlockable scenes hidden away in the extras section of the main menu. Aside from the bonus H scenes which unlock after the completion of a route, these unlock while progressing through the common and main routes and they are short slice of life scenes that didn’t quite fit in the story without hurting the pacing. They’re only a couple minutes long so they’re not a huge time investment.
Mechanically, Otome*Domain is above average for a VN. For the character sprites, there are no mouth flaps for speaking lines, but there are eye flaps for blinking. There is a neat mechanic where you can click and drag the sprites around to fully explore them, but it’s pretty easy to forget it exists.
As for the localization, it’s bit of a mixed bag. Not to say that it’s bad; the translation is solid and has a good flow to it. For example, I laughed out loud in a scene where a character, speaking to Minato and his new girlfriend, thinking they’re a lesbian couple, felt the need to clarify that they were straight but you can clearly hear the voice actor differing from the localization by calling themselves “normaru.”
I had no problem with that scene but, as one of Fuwa’s editors, I couldn’t help but notice a distracting amount of grammatical and spelling errors. While I was playing on the release version and hopefully Shiravune since has patched them out, there was enough to consistently pull me out while reading. In one instance, I nearly jumped out of my chair as Kazari referred to Minato as “he” in front of the whole cast only for no one to notice.
As Otome*Domain is a moege, more specifically a RomCom, I usually judge VNs of this genre on three defining characteristics: the Romance, the comedy, and lastly but most importantly, the characters. The comedy is the easiest to discuss as it’s ever present throughout the VN. Otome*Domain is a light-hearted VN which, while it doesn’t have the laughs of an Asa*Project VN, it still has a good number of comedic moments. With the common route’s reliance on ecchi scenes and joking about Kifune’s poor cooking, I found it quite dry. However, I found that the comedy really hits its stride when routes allow Minato to more freely allowed to bounce off the heroine of the route who themselves have more room to stretch their awkward selves.
I’ve already highlighted the main characters but I would say they’re overall pretty solid. While Minato does outshine them at times, it’s a fun cast and it’s compelling to watch them earnestly try to improve as people.
Romance, which is probably the most subjective factor, can be a bit hard to judge in VNs, especially in a shorter length moege like Otome*Domain. I’m usually pretty hard on the romance in VNs and I could probably rant about romance in Yuzusoft VNs for a while. But, for a simple and sweet moege, all I ask is that the story doesn’t rush the romance and for it to simply be cute. All that said, it’s a little rushed, but it is pretty cute! Minato’s strength as the protagonist does add an extra dimension but it’s not taken advantage of as he’s pretty quick to fall in love. I’d say the romance is hurt most by the simplistic structure of the routes where, as soon as the last H scene ends, the plot finally starts.
Overall, Otome*Domain is a solid introduction into the otokonoko protag genre of VNs. It’s a cute, lighthearted moege with a lot of heart and amazing art, but it does trip up at times. I found the routes to be the real highlight, with the comedy and character writing hitting its stride. Not to say the common route is bad, with Minato going through an arc with transitioning into the school and overcoming his imposter syndrome, but, besides Kazari’s tendency to piss in a bottle in front of Minato, the characters feel a bit more closed off and the comedy tends to work best when Minato is alone with another character rather than the scenes with the full cast.
That said, I would give Otome*Domain a 7/10, with it’s art and Minato as a character pushing it over your average moege. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for something new within the moege genre.
If you’re interested in titles like Otome*Domain, the future is looking bright for future English releases of the otokonoko x girl genre! HARUKAZE‘s Monkeys!¡ is slated for an English release and the ensemble recently released their first localization with Secret Agent which, while not being one of their otokonoko x girl releases, will hopefully just be the start.
You can buy Otome*Domain on both Steam and on the Johren store. The Steam version requires an 18+ patch to restore a sizable chunk of content, with Kazari’s route otherwise fully removed. Also, check out Fuwanovel’s guide for Otome*Domain for help on your playthrough!.