Home > Manga Reviews, Reviews > My Brother’s Husband, Vol. 1

My Brother’s Husband, Vol. 1

My Brother's Husband, Vol. 1My Brother’s Husband, Vol. 1
by Gengoroh Tagame, Translation by Anne Ishii
Pantheon Books, 352 pp.
Rating: Not Rated

My Brother’s Husband, Vol. 1 tells the story of Yaichi, a divorced, single parent who works from home as he raises his daughter, Kana. Following the death of his estranged brother, Ryoji, Yaichi finds his life changing as he opens his home to his brother’s widowed husband, Mike. From Gengoroh Tagame comes a thoughtful look at family and prejudice in Japan.

The story provides a very interesting look at Japanese society through Yaichi’s struggle to come to terms with his brother’s sexuality, revealing some of the struggles the Japanese gay community faces at the same time. Through his daughter’s innocence and her interest in learning more about her previously unknown uncle, Yaichi is forced to confront his own internal prejudices and whether or not he had a part in driving his brother away. It’s interesting to see the way Gengoroh Tagame uses Kana to prompt and force Yaichi down this route and to face things he never really considered about himself and how it effected his relationship with his brother. There’s a strong sense of Yaichi slowly shedding off socially ingrained prejudices thanks to Kana and his growing relationship with Mike. Tagame does a wonderful job at allowing this to develop slowly, so that it comes naturally from Yaichi’s own guilt over his strained relationship with his Ryoji. In addition to showing how Yaichi attempts to reconnect with his brother through his relationship with Mike, Tagame also shows how Mike’s presence and his being out about his sexuality effects Yaichi’s family and the way the neighbors react towards them.

One of the most notable things about Tagame’s artwork is just how vastly different it is from nearly anything I’ve seen before. Not necessarily in terms of character designs, or settings, but in terms of the gaze itself. It’s fascinating to see the male body portrayed through the gaze of a gay male creator. Tagame never strays into the realm of pornography, but there’s a sexuality and sensuality to the male bodies that I don’t think many heterosexual comic readers are familiar with. His use of body types is also something rarely seen. Muscular, but not exaggeratedly so. These are no hyper muscled parodies of masculinity, but lovingly drawn, brawny, beefcake.

The interesting visuals don’t stop with the way Tagame depicts the male form. They also include his use of shadows to imply mental and emotional states. Though he’s dead, Ryoji is a constant presence in the story. Sometimes this is purely textual, but on several occasions his presence is felt though reflections, a shadow on the floor, or a brief, suggestion of his form in the corner of a page or panel. He haunts the book and Yaichi in particular.

There’s a softness and warmth to My Brother’s Husband that makes it incredibly easy to get into. At times the message behind the story can be a bit unsubtle, and Yaichi’s personal growth is often punctuated by small realizations that are a bit too on the nose, but there’s a strong sense of heart, honesty and earnestness to the whole thing that makes it charming instead of cheesey. It was difficult to read this volume and not feel like this was a point of view and a perspective that has been sadly lacking, but one that is vital and important in showing the breadth of topics and points of view available in manga.

My Brother’s Husband, Vol. 1 is available now from Pantheon Books. Advanced review copy provided by the publisher.

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  1. May 4, 2017 at 11:35 pm

    I actually just stumbled across this on Amazon today, and I was wondering about it since it definitely looked and sounded unique. Sounds interesting!

    • May 5, 2017 at 1:32 am

      It’s definitely worth a look! I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it or not, family drama stuff can be hit or miss with me, but I really enjoyed it. There’s a great sense of warmth about it, even when dealing with touchy subjects.

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