My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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.
I honestly picked this up because I saw it had just been turned into a drama, and a lot of people were talking about it on twitter. The premise was low key intriguing, and it made a good manga for a rainy day! I really liked that it was a nuanced look at homophobia in Japan (but also in the world at large), and I loved the growth of the main character Yaichi and (to probably a lesser but still important extent) his daughter Kana. It was really sweet to see the way they grew to properly accept Mike as part of their family.
I actually just really like the dynamic of a man, his daughter and his dead twin brother’s husband, as they kinda tried to work out how to operate as a family. I think you could really feel that they were a somewhat broken family, hit with both a divorce and then a dead brother/uncle/husband, but they were trying their best and it was a sweet read!
As much as you can see that the divorce affected Kana, I very much like Yaichi’s relationship with his ex wife. The maturity there is really nice to see, and I like the way they are raising their daughter. I also like how supportive they grow to be of both Kana and Mike, and how the whole family seems to grow closer for Mike being there.
I want to see more of Yaichi and Mike actually talking about Ryoji, because I feel there’s a lot to be gained there. I like, so far, the way he’s included in both Mike and Yaichi’s memories. There’s a handful of scenes where Yaichi talks to his brother through either a mirror or a shadow, which are a really good insight into how Yaichi is taking it. But I feel like actually talking about his death would be a good breakthrough for them both, as they haven’t really touched on what happened and how Yaichi, in particular, is coping. There was one scene with Mike breaking down that was really touching, but it was so short! Like one panel of tears and then he was asleep. I hope for more in coming volumes! (More breakthroughs, not more tears, though tears do help breakthroughs..)
My one complaint is that sometimes it’s a lil heavy handed. I do think the messages should be kinda direct, especially given that the audience for this may be those who are kinda less familiar with LGBTQ . And I like that Yaichi came from a place of like thinking he’s tolerant but low key homophobic, and realising like hey gay people are actually people and I shouldn’t treat them differently. But also it’s low key sad that that’s a moral people need to see in a book. Idk, that’s probably more a flaw of the real world than a flaw of the book.
The emphasis on morals and learning from experiences can make it seem a little less authentic, though. Like some of the conversations don’t exactly feel real? And I think while their content is important, if they’re not careful that sort of delivery can turn people off.
The art wasn’t necessarily my favourite, but it was cute! There was somewhat of an… awkward focus on times on their bodies. I’m not familiar with the artist/author but you can tell there is usually a more… adult focus. Maybe it’s only awkward to me because the beefy ‘bear’ look isn’t my type… Though! I did think there was an important note in the book (I think it was this volume, but it may have been the next??) about sexuality. Yaichi notes that it is obvious people have sex, he is a father after all.. but it’s only considered dirty or shameful when it’s gay/not straight. I liked that it called out the hypocrisy of avoiding gay men for the dirty stigma but not parents. (Though still maybe we don’t need shower scenes haha)
I think more than anything, though, I’m very happy to see a story like this in a manga. And the fact that it’s becoming (is now?) a drama is super promising! I’ll definitely be checking that out as soon as I can get my hands on a subbed version…
(Note: I see the author apparently writes lots of graphic BDSM and violence?? Just a heads up that this book was very much family friendly/wholesome! There were no graphic scenes/violence, I promise c: )