Image Description: The book-cover of My Brother’s Husband – Volume 1 by Gengoroh Tagame. In the background of the cover, is a modern contemporary Japanese house and a grey cinder-block fence around it. In the foreground are three characters, from left to right are Mike, Kana, Yaichi. Mike is wearing a grey t-shirt with an upside-down pink triangle on it, a pair of khaki shorts, and blue flannel shirt over the top of the t-shirt. Kana is wearing a pink jacket, a white t-shirt with verticle blue stripes, a navy-blue skirt with white polka-dots. Yaichi is wearing a navy-blue and white baseball-jersey with light brown trousers.
About The Author:
Gengoroh Tagame was born in 1964 and lives in Tokyo. After graduating from Tama University of Art, Tagame worked as an Art Director while writing manga and prose fiction, contributing illustrations for various magazines. In 1994, he co-founded the epochal G-Men Magazine and by 1996 he was working full-time as an openly gay artist. He is the author of dozens of graphic novels and stories, which have been translated into English, French, Italian, and Korean. His artwork has been exhibited in galleries across Europe and America. My Brother’s Husband marks his first all-ages title and earned him the Japan Media Arts Award for Outstanding Work of Manga from the Agency of Cultural Affairs.
About The Book:
Yaichi is a work-at-home suburban dad in contemporary Tokyo; formerly married to Natsuki, father to their young daughter, Kana. Their lives suddenly change 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 and heartbreaking look at the state of a largely still-closeted Japanese gay culture: how it’s been affected by the West, and how the next generation can change the preconceptions about it and prejudices against it.
~Book Recommendation: I found out about this book via Joce @ SquibblesReads (YouTube Video). Her description of it inspired me to look it up at my local Library. The funny thing about my local library, and by funny I mean frustrating, is that all manga and graphic novels are put under the Young Adult category, even if that’s not true or technically not appropriate (but this is a rant for another time). In saying that, I definitely think this is a book for all ages, Young Adult audiences will benefit from reading this book, but Adults will also benefit from this as well.
~Artwork: I really liked the artwork style. I’ve been reading a lot of manga series recently that have complex artwork and complex interweaving scenes, however, it’s nice to read something a little more simplistic and clear. This manga is dealing with the complex situation of subconscious prejudices and biases towards homosexual men in Japan, and I think the simplistic style helps keep those complex topics in proper focus.
~Characters: As John Green is fond of saying, “The Truth resists Simplicity”, it would be easy to paint the situation in extreme black and white terms, but Tagame does not do that. It would be easy to portray Yaichi as extreme and the source of all the problems (and to be honest sometimes he is the problem). Throughout the Manga, Yaichi is often forced to confront his biases, his misconceptions, and stereotypes he’s picked up along the way. To be honest, it’s Yaichi who is the one who has to change, and he knows it.
Mike Flanagan is not a teachable moment, he’s a regular person with thoughts and feelings just like everyone else, and Yaichi’s journey is about him realising that basic truth about Mike, but also about his deceased twin-brother Ryoji. Kana, Yaichi’s daughter, is the heart of the story, she is the one who is able to fill the awkward space between Mike and Yaichi. Kana, like most children, will bluntly ask questions but she will also grasp concepts (once they’re explained to her in a way she understands) a lot easier than Yaichi, something Yaichi notices.
All in all, an enjoyable volume that takes place in contemporary Japanese society, the most enjoyable aspect of this manga is how normal it is. While it’s set in modern Japan, I can easily see these situations taking place in conservative Australian households as well.