You’re a single Japanese father named Yaichi, who spends most of time at home raising his rambunctious but innocent daughter Kana. One day, a large foreigner from Canada named Mike Flanagan arrived at their doorstep and reveals himself to be Kana’s uncle. Not only that, but the husband of Yaichi’s estranged (and sadly deceased) twin brother Ryouji. Illustrated and written by Genoroh Tagame, this is the plot of “My Brother’s Husband”.
“My Brother’s Husband” is about a man rediscovering his partner’s side of the family, and a father finding closure. Despite being a bara-styled manga, what truly makes this unique are two important elements: the characters and the large issues that are beautifully tackled.
Even though I’ve never heard of or reads other works by Gengoroh Tagame, he sure knows how to write these characters as people who are subtly yet deeply complex. Through their relatable struggles, the reader is shown how often silent Japanese culture is in regards of their nation’s LGBTQA+ community, and how, in many cases, this can sometimes be worse than open homophobia. Saying nothing can be as bad as intolerance, is what this manga is saying, but understanding is what always prevails.
Much of this can be found in Yaichi’s story arc. It would have been easy to make him an anti-gay macho guy who either never changes or ends up falling in love with Mike by the end. But no, Yaichi is presented as a steady straight father who can be laid back and goofy when with Kana but shows concern when her estranged uncle comes into their lives. Even though he’s hesitant regarding this ordeal (which can be understandable), you can tell he doesn’t want to alienate his daughter from the uncle she never got to meet until now. It’s compelling to see Yaichi change, evolve and adjust to the life his deceased twin lived, as well as relearn about Ryouji through his widow.
Speaking of which, Mike is also greatly likeable. He’s an immense otaku despite being a large, muscled Canadian, and you feel sympathy for wanting to know more about his husband’s former childhood. He can be a kind, gentle giant, friendly towards strangers (I mean, remember the scene with the neighborhood boy? That got me teary-eyed), but he can also be stoic and strong, as well as have his limits.
On a plus side, I should mention how much I love how there’s no real romance between our two male protagonists, but it doesn’t help either that Mike sometimes sees Ryouji as Yaichi because of their similar appearances.
Meanwhile, Kana provides the innocent, upbeat and optimistic perspective on what her father and uncle are going through. Her endless curiosity infects you as she questions everything she’s been taught. Kana is delightful as a character, and while some can argue she could be too boisterous, it helps mirror more of her father. In my opinion, I personally I don’t mind.
Most of the time “My Brother’s Husband” addresses its important themes in very creative ways, most of which involve how this manga is structured. For example, there are several scenes where Kana asks about homosexuality & Mike being her uncle’s husband, and Yaichi daydreams about objecting while it plays out. This perfectly addresses the instinct of cisgender straight people saying things they often don’t mean.
If I had any objections, there are a couple. Maybe it’s because of how complex Yaichi and Mike are compared to others, but maybe the side characters could’ve had more time interacting with the protagonists. I mean, outside of the neighborhood kid I mentioned in the one scene, there aren’t any other characters who play a larger role in terms of storytelling. Plus, there are moments where it feels a little too cinematic. Don’t get me wrong: these scenes are beautifully drawn and makes me wish to see them as scenes in an actual anime, but often it can sometimes feel like filler, and this may not appeal to as many people as it can.
However, that does not change the fact that this is still a great manga with great characters in a slice-of-life setting. While it might not attract every reader out there, “My Brother’s Husband” is still a charming, fun slice-of-life about overcoming homophobia and rediscovering family ties across different cultures. Granted, there is some small fan service along with many cutesy moments, but you must expect finding those tropes in manga. The real heart of the story is within its three main characters and the interactions between them.
Overall, I highly recommend “My Brother’s Husband”, though I can understand if this format isn’t for everyone. However, for the many readers who would enjoy this, my only other suggestion is to buy two copies: one for yourself and the other for another reader who may currently be in either of the protagonists’ shoes. Have a Happy Pride Month, and enjoy this endearing, culturally-themed tale about acceptance and family!
You can purchase the first volume of the manga here: https://amzn.to/2McfNgx
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