I have a hard time finding a better heart-warming comedy than those involving yakuza members. Hinamatsuri was a fantastic anime a couple seasons ago that highlighted a relationship between a young homeless girl (who happened to have psychic powers) and a yakuza member. Now we have Way of the House Husband that takes the over-masculinization of being in the yakuza and flips it on its head. I spoke about this series in the past when I wrote about it in the article “The Changing Face of Paternity in Japan as Told Through Anime and Manga,” but just last week it got its first English release to the states by Viz, introducing more people to this hilarious series. I honestly have to say that this series is up there with Hinamatsuri in its hilarious comedy and portrayal of the yakuza. With its fantastic art, great exaggerated gags, and hilarious premous, Way of the House Husband is sure to entertain fans of comedy manga.
This manga features Tatsu, the former Immortal Dragon, an ex-yakuza member turned house husband who is just trying to adjust to being the best husband to his wife. From cooking her lunches to running to the grocery store to doing all the cleaning in the apartment, Tatsu takes his duties as stay-at-home-husband very seriously, trying to leave his yakuza past behind him. But sometimes that’s harder than it might seem as people from his past start popping up around town. Created by Kousuke Oono, the English edition of this manga is now being distributed in North America by Viz.
The biggest aspect of this series that drew me into it besides the concept was probably the art. Oono does a fantastic job with the art, often applying a ton of value, shading, and contrast to really make each panel pop. The first couple pages of the first chapter really grab you in this way as we watch Tatsu make a delicious looking lunch for his wife, complete with swirling egg yolk, highly detailed water coming out of the tap, and a lot of attention paid to Tatsu’s every expression. I really think those first few pages were key to this manga grabbing people and really pulling them right in. I really felt like I couldn’t look away after reading on in the chapter and seeing just how ridiculously contrasted his actions were in comparison to what was actually going on.
And in some ways, it’s because of Oono’s highly detailed art that the comedy of the series really sticks and hits its readers so hard. I think in a way, Oono uses the contrast of the highly detailed panels as its own form of comedy, with the amount of detail turning the impact of a panel up to the next level while at the same time adding a sort of comic seriousness. The simple act of making a lunch or cutting up fish now comes with added movement, detail, and seriousness where it almost makes me think of a cooking series like Food Wars where every action is just dialed up to 11. But here, the difference is that his actions are seen as weird, and the end result of all of this ends in people either being weirded out or frightened of him, in direct contrast to all the food-specific series where they take the ridiculousness very seriously.
A lot of this also has to do with Tatsu being a former Yakuza member and seeing how he tries to hard to do normal everyday things, but he just can’t shake the pizazz and rituals that came with being in a yakuza family. And it’s in the meeting of Yakuza and normal house-husband that we see the comedy really come out. This manga is full of contrasts that make the comedy what it is. The main one being his history of being a Yakuza, that comes with all of the hyper-masculine tendencies, paired with his now life as a domestic house-husband, which has typically been a woman’s role. This kind of flip-flopping on gender roles adds a nice base to the story and the comedy to really set up everything that happens in a more comedic way. It creates repeated situations that are both believable and hilarious because we see how his history and background are influencing his current actions.
In a way, I kind of like to think of this series as a weirdly modern take on a “Taming of the Shrew” story, wherein the outspoken and confrontational “shrewish” woman who is very averse to love and marriage is “tamed” or winds up finding love with someone she can relate to. I can sort of see this as almost a gender reversal of that, with Tatsu playing the part of the “shrew” being tamed by his wife and taking on a domestic role. However, I know this can be quite a stretch, but it’s a fairly amusing picture to think about.
But this is not to downplay the relationship between Tatsu and his wife, because I actually really enjoy it. I think she comes off as a great partner for him and seems to understand him in a way that maybe other people around him don’t. She is, herself, a strong character within the manga. She has a successful job, is independent, but also shows she has a loving and understanding side when it comes to Tatsu. She’s a bit of magical girl otaku, but I think that just adds to the comedy when we see him purchasing an anime figuring for her birthday. We see she tries her best to help him acclimate to his new life and can hold her own against some of his more violent tendencies (which are never turned against her).
All around, I really enjoyed this first volume, and I really hope you all will pick it up for yourselves. There are some great chapters in here that really cannot be passed up. Like Tatsu versus the Roomba and a chapter surrounding the adventures of just their cat. If you’ve been on the edge with this one, I really hope this gives you the push you need to pick it up.
~~Thanks for Reading~~
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