Welcome to Queer Fudanshi! Let’s Talk. In this post, we’re going to talk about My Brother’s Husband Volume 1.
My Brother’s Husband is a Japanese comic (or manga) by famous homoerotic bara (muscular men) comic artist Gengoroh Tagame.
The official synopsis of the story is:
“Yaichi is a work-at-home suburban dad in contemporary Tokyo, married to wife Natsuki, father to young daughter Kana. Their lives are suddenly upended with the arrival at their doorstep of a hulking, affable Canadian named Mike Flanagan, who declares himself 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 journey into the largely still-closeted Japanese gay culture: how it’s been affected by the West, and how the next generation has the chance to change the preconceptions of and prejudices against it.”
The comic was originally serialized in Japan through monthly chapter installments in Monthly Action magazine before being published into three volumes (and a fourth coming soon) and completing it’s magazine serialization in May of 2017.
Then, the comic was officially translated in English and the first two volumes were published into a 2-in-1 ommibus volume during the same month. That’s the version I’ll be talking about in this post.
This is My Brother’s Husband Volume 1.
Where to Buy:
Amazon ($12.99 Kindle / $15.50 Hardcover)
Barnes and Noble ($19.96 Hardcover)
Or, check anywhere else you can buy books.
The Talk (Non-Spoilers):
My Brother’s Husband Volume 1 is a light, charming, and enjoyable read. It’s funny that it’s coming from a mangaka who’s known for writing very dark and sexual manga that often involve torture and bathroom kinks, because this comic is almost the polar opposite of that.
The story follows this adorable new modern family that’s light and happy, but also shadowed by deeper issues. The father is troubled by his long lost brother and his failed marriage, but he stays strong for his daughter. Said daughter is normally energetic and accepting, but has her moments of loneliness and confusion with the world around her. Lastly, the Canadian uncle is normally jovial and jolly, but is also grieving the loss of his lover.
That duality that the story plays with is both refreshing and also saddening in the right way. In fact, that’s basically everything that’s right with My Brother’s Husband Volume 1. It is both fun and charming but also sad at times. It’s quick, silly, and episodic like a comic, but its also deals with big issues like death, divorce, and gay visibility in an almost novel way.
I highly recommend checking this manga out because it feels both rare and also totally modern while making me think, “duh, why wouldn’t this be a thing?”
Plus, it’s a book that Anderson Cooper, Alison Bechdel, I, and some random 11-year-old girl named Clara Ware have all read and loved. So, My Brother’s Husband Volume 1’s got a diverse panel of approval.
The Talk (Spoilers):
If one of the three main characters was meant to be “the” main character, it would be Yaichi. He is the most filled out character because he’s given the most development and dynamic storyline out of everyone else.
His character starts off being apprehensive and almost judgmental of Mike for being gay, and through getting to know Mike, and seeing how accepting his daughter is of him, Yaichi begins to change.
That said, that part of him wasn’t the interesting part of the character to me. It was seeing just how tormented and haunted the character is concerning… practically everything. This character brings the darkness/deepest to the comic through his regular introspective thoughts and monologues.
Seeing him being so upset about his late brother, seeing him lost at how his marriage fell apart, and seeing him fight with himself internally over how the world sees his brother’s husband was moving. Honestly, my heart’s swelling just typing all of this out and remembering it.
That said, while Yaichi was moving and dynamic, Mike was mostly stagnant and flat.
He was an enjoyable gay bear who brought a lot of the joy into this comic, along with Kana, but Mike didn’t get very much development in the story. There were a few moments of him getting to actually show his grief over losing Ryoji, but that happened only maybe two or three times throughout the first two volumes (again, this is a 2-in-1 copy I’m talking about).
Really, Mike’s role in this story is to play as the angel or catalyst towards the changing mentality and world view of Yaichi and Kana. He’s there to introduce them both to Western culture and gay acceptance. Plus, he becomes a loving third addition to their family (to the point that I wouldn’t be surprised if later in the story the two just go, “Live with us!”).
But sadly, he’s nothing much else other than that. While I don’t think the character needed a lot more to say or do, I wish there was some conflict going on with him and not just around him.
Lastly, I think Kana was somewhere between the two.
I think she served as another catalyst for her father in that she was this perfect excuse to reflect society. Whenever a societal standard was meant to seem wrong in the story, Kana would act confused by it with her childhood innocence.
That said, because she was a child character, she was also volatile and had dynamic shifts in the story. She’d be happy, then she’d be angry, then she’d be sad. That at least kept her interesting to me and as some sort of dynamic character.
Manga (Re)discovers The Male Body
I do have to note that despite the story being this family friendly comic that’s told mostly through light and happy fanfare, there are a few voyeur shots of the male body.
It seems Gengoroh Tagame couldn’t help himself as he not only wrote the two men as very muscular men, but he occasionally snuck in shots of the men shirtless or naked while they showered, bathed or changed.
It’s interesting that even in this family story there still contained this awareness of the male body. Even more than that, these scenes were invitations to gaze at the male body, celebrate it, and possibly even lust after it.
That said, no sexual organs were shown and the shots were tasteful (as tasteful as obvious fan service can be) and just an interesting addition to My Brother’s Husband Volume 1 over all.
(In fact, mainstream manga is abundant with similar female fan service shots, lets start adding more scenes like these into that. Who else would love an occasional shirtless fan service shot of Naruto or the entire cast of Haikyuu just for the sake of appreciating the male body? Not just me right?…).
My Brother’s Husband is an enjoyable manga/comic with a light flare but also deeper social commentary.
While the characters are fun and engaging, they are also not perfect or perfectly flawed. But, that doesn’t bother from enjoying the story.
Ultimately, this was worth the read, is worth a reread, and has me looking forward to the next two volumes.