Way of the House Husband has to be one of my favorite comedy series that is currently being published. It combines a lot of the factors that have always been of interest to me in stories from Japanese media: yakuza and Japanese masculinity. Kousuke Oono, through his short comedic chapters, points out the daily struggles of housewives through the lens of an overly masculine former yakuza. Each chapter of this volume has made me laugh and I’ve even found a few of the situations very relatable. I’m always looking forward to reading this manga, but not just for the story but also for Oono’s art which is hyper-detailed with exaggerated expressions and body language that adds another level to the overall comedy of the series.
Volume three of Way of the House Husband is another collection of short comedic chapters that are pretty much stand-alones but have an overarching connection of the relationship between Tatsu and his wife. Viz Media’s back cover copy describes this volume this way: “The Immortal Dragon, once the fiercest member of the yakuza, is now a married man devoted to supporting his loving wife — as a househusband! But when the gangster-turned-homemaker needs to make some quick cash to buy her a present, he turns to the only skills he knows — and gets his first part-time job! The cozy yakuza comedy continues!”
Oono’s art is one of the reasons I keep coming back to this series. It is hyper detailed with an emphasis on contrast. Oono contrasts detail with simplicity to create comedy within the situations Tatsu gets involved in. This can involve a contrast between details of a character design or of facial expressions and can also involve a direct juxtaposed contrast or a panel-to-panel contrast. What I mean by direct juxtaposed contrast, is a striking difference in detail within a panel where you clearly see the difference as it is displayed either right next to or even atop the other aspect.
Take the first chapter for instance. In this chapter, Tatsu is fighting for his life and family against a cockroach that has made it into his apartment. We see Tatsu in full detail throughout the chapter, with his yakuza tattoos on full display, expression a complete exaggeration. In contrast, the cockroach is a really simple bug with googly eyes and no real amount of detail. At one point, it lands on his chest and we see the full effect of what I’m talking about. The contrast of the simple googly-eyed cockroach on the background of the highly detailed and rendered yakuza tattoos and Tatsu as a whole creates this moment of exaggerated comedy. The comedy specifically comes from how serious this harmless looking bug is being taken by both Tatsu and his wife which is displayed in the way Oono uses detail in this chapter.
Panel-to-panel contrast is just as it sounds: we see the comedy unfold as the panels progress with a dramatic change in either expression, detail, or mood from one panel to the next. I think you can see this best in Chapter 22 where Tatsu takes up a part-time job at a cafe. Two yakuza members come in to order food and comedy ensues. This chapter’s comedy is more around expectations of masculinity than of how it’s displayed through art, but we do see some of the panel-to-panel contrast here around what they order and how Tatsu delivers it to their table. The first to be delivered is a Latte that Tatsu takes the utmost care in making a cute cat latte art on top. Both gangsters squeal about the cuteness of the cat in contrast to their previous serious personalities. One of the gangster’s is kind of made out to be the more serious of the two as the latte and omelette rice is delivered to the other until a strawberry parfait is delivered to the table and we see his arm shoot up and the mood change from one of overly serious to serene enjoyment. This contrast is nicely displayed through the panel transitions and page turns so it hits a little harder and clearer for the readers.
The comedy and story of Way of the House Husband is built around expectations. We have a specific way we think people of a certain personality or type are supposed to act in certain situations and this manga turns that on its head. Tatsu is a former yakuza who takes everything extraordinarily seriously and we would never think that he would willingly say go shopping for his girlfriend’s dinner or play Santa Claus at a community function for children, but he does, and he does so in his own way. And in a certain sense it makes sense given the combination of the background and the situation he is in, and I think that’s what makes this manga’s story so good, the fact that it is so ridiculous but in a way also makes sense.
As the series goes on and we get to know more about Tatsu’s personality and how he regularly reacts to certain situations, I think there could be a risk of it becoming repetitive. I saw it happen a bit with Sakamoto Desu ka? in that the character’s personality and ridiculous way of acting becomes the joke. However, Way of the House Husband has done a good job so far of preventing that by playing into Tatsu’s love for his wife, introducing new characters, and trying out some side-stories. I’m really interested to see where this manga might go in the future.
Let me know in the comments what you thought about volume three and what your favorite chapter was. Mine was definitely the cockroach one. As someone who has lived more than five years in city apartments, that one was super relatable. I’ll be seeing you all soon for volume four!
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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