The Fall 2019 Manga Guide
The Way of the Househusband
What's It About?The Immortal Dragon was one of the fiercest Yakuza to ever roam the streets. But one day, suddenly, he disappeared. What happened? Did he die? Did he simply fade into a dark alleyway, never to be seen again, swallowed up by the night? The truth could never have been predicted. For you see, The Immortal Dragon has become a stay-at-home husband. Evidently, he just met someone he liked and decided to settle down. And now, he spends his days cooking, cleaning, and shopping, like any good homebody. But the ways of the Yakuza do not simply fade into the ether. From arguing with difficult vacuum cleaners, getting presents for his wife's birthday or going on a simple shopping spree, his means are only that of a gangster tough who has seen a few too many street brawls. But, you know what? He might not know what Policecure blu-rays his wife owns, or what games to play with children, but he's happy and in love and dedicated. At the end of the day, what else does one need?
Is It Worth Reading?
A comedy can live and die on its premise, so it's fortunate that The Way of the Househusband has a good one: a former yakuza enforcer has restarted his life as the househusband of a hard-working wife. Lest you think that being the primary homemaker isn't all that much work, allow the series to disabuse you of that notion – our hapless hero has to cook (including making the perfect cute lunchbox), clean (including tangling with a clearly evil Roomba), shop (which means having the right coupon at the right time), and even be the available neighbor when someone needs help, which in the case detailed in this book means babysitting a little boy. Add to all of this run-ins with other yakuza who aren't quite ready to accept that he's retired and this is a man with a very busy life. It all puts me in mind, as I said in my full-length review, of the original Mary Rogers novel Freaky Friday, which basically put forth the message that being a stay-at-home parent is in no way an easy, carefree lifestyle.
That the creator of this series manages to skillfully blend Rogers' 1970s message and sense of humor with his own while also lampooning the tough guy yakuza character (and story) is what makes this even better. The juxtaposition of “Tacchan” (as his wife calls him) in his sleazy-looking suit and shades throwing an apron on over it is the through-line of the comedy, but it goes beyond that. Listening to him compare cooking class to a hostile takedown or lambast the Roomba as if it was one of his underlings is a blast, and his attempt to buy his otaku wife her favorite Pretty Cure in-world knock-off at an anime store allows for another level of parody to enter the picture. That Tacchan clearly has a soft spot for kitties (there's a great scene where he stops to make goo-goo eyes at a stray cat and he has a Japanese bobtail named Gin) is a nice bit of implication that he wasn't always Mr. Tough Guy; something the one scene we see of his initial meeting with his wife bears out. The one drawback here is that the original short story format pre-serialization means that the first two chapters have no follow-through; they just sort of cut off after the punchline. Once the story gets its feet firmly on the ground, however, it becomes a delight of a comedy and one fans of humor, yakuza, or both shouldn't miss checking out.
The Way of the Househusband is hilarious. I haven't smiled or laughed at a comic this much in quite some time. It's a fast-paced, energetic comedy manga made verve and care that grabs you with fun characters, a striking premise and good joke after good joke and never once let's go until its end.
Apparently, The Way of the Househusband is this author's first serialization, and I find that extremely difficult to believe. Way of the Househusband is confident and expertly paced, with gorgeous artwork and perfect comic timing. It feels seasoned, as if it knows the strengths of the medium and how to leverage them like it were the protagonist and his penchant for street brawling. Even though the root of the jokes doesn't change all that much (our lead isn't equipped to deal with the needs of househusbandry due to having lived a life of crime), the variations and new scenarios never seem to be exhausted. Be it running into old Yakuza rivals during a shopping free-for-all or teaching a neighbor's kid how to play dice and mahjong, Way of the Househusband is continuously mining new, fresh ideas out of its core premise such that it never once gets boring or stale.
But it's not just good goofs that makes The Way of the Househusband special. It is also fundamentally kind and gentle. The reason why our main character left the Yakuza is because he genuinely loves his wife. His attempts at caring for her, taking care of the house, getting her presents for her birthday, though oftentimes bungled by his only knowing violence and gangster methods, are rooted in affection. This is a manga about a person trying his best to care for someone important in his life, and its this core of tenderness that takes Way of the Househusband past being a good comedy manga into being something really and truly wonderful.
The Way of the Househusband is a total blast. It's so addicting and so fun that the short length of the first volume is almost disappointing, leaving you wanting seconds and then some. I need more good-natured tough wearing pre-cure aprons and being a loving, caring husband, dammit. I need it injected straight into my veins. Suffice it to say that I will be picking up the second volume, and if you like Sega's Yakuza games (which the series is definitely of a tonal piece with) or energetic, fun comedy manga, Way of the Househusband is a must. It is the breakout hit of the fall for a reason.
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