My Brother’s Husband should be a manga that needs no introduction, but I still needed one when the omnibus popped up on our review list. Despite it winning a Will Eisner Award in 2018, I have heard about this manga only in passing. Which is a shame, because I’m sure this series is right up most people’s alleys.
This story about life begins at a funeral. The parents of twins Yaichi and Ryoji have passed away. In the front row, Ryoji has his head in his hands, sobbing uncontrollably. Yaichi, back straight, doesn’t shed a single tear. Yaichi is the “everyman”, taught to be stoic and polite. So when Ryoji comes out to Yaichi as gay, Yaichi can only respond in a stoic, polite way. It became a defining moment in their relationship as they would grow further apart, with Ryoji eventually moving abroad to Canada. Fast forward decades later: Yaichi is now a single, stay-at-home dad to a precious girl named Kana. In Canada, Ryoji got married to a man named Mike, and Ryoji passed away shortly after the marriage. Now Mike is coming to Japan to visit Yaichi. Yaichi not only has to face Mike but also his personal prejudices.
What I really enjoyed about this book was the realness of it all. Conflicts between characters are solved without direct confrontation. There’s a lack of physical conflict; the conflicts instead come from Yaichi’s beliefs being challenged by outside forces. In the story (and the real world) there are made-up standards of what “Normal” is. Yaichi’s life is not “Normal”, but he believes in the idea of normalcy, and part of that idea is heterosexual relationships. It’s this societal Normal that drives much of the depicted homophobia. The discrimination is never overt but very passive. This passive discrimination is present when Kana wants Mike to meet her friends, but one of her friends can’t come because her parents say Mike could be a “negative influence,” or when Mike gives Yaichi a tight hug, making Yaichi feel uncomfortable.
It’s easy to root for Yaichi as he changes as a character. He’s a genuinely good person and an even better dad. But he wasn’t a good brother, and this is his time to make things right. The characters are also well developed, beyond just Yaichi. Kana is adorable and a wonderful representation of innocence. Kana latches onto Mike and can’t understand the discrimination against him. She shows the potential bright future for the next generation. As for Mike, he doesn’t get much development in the first half; his mere presence is enough to set off inner conflicts. But in the second half, we really get to learn who Mike is as he interacts with characters besides Yaichi.
All in all this is a great drama that covers many topics without saying it directly. It uses subtext and inner conflicts to successfully show character growth. It also doesn’t skimp on fleshing out it’s supporting cast. Despite its short length, I got to know the characters very well, so by the time Mike’s visit had to end, I was thinking about putting the book down so that in my mind Mike never left and everyone stayed the way they were. But people change and grow, things you thought you knew about a person could be proven wrong, and that’s okay. What's important is that we’re excellent to each other.
Yaichi is a work-at-home suburban dad in contemporary Tokyo; formerly married to Natsuki and father to their young daughter, Kana. Their lives suddenly change with the arrival at their doorstep of a hulking, affable Canadian named Mike Flanagan, who declares himself to be the widower of Yaichi’s estranged gay twin, Ryoji. Mike is on a quest to explore Ryoji’s past, and the family reluctantly but dutifully takes him in. What follows is an unprecedented and heartbreaking look at the state of a largely still-closeted Japanese gay culture: how it’s been affected by the West, and how the next generation can change the preconceptions about it and prejudices against it.Add to CartLearn More