The Way of the Househusband
Seinen – Comedy, slice-of-life
3 Volumes (ongoing)
In many households around the world, one person works while the other takes of the home. That’s the way it is for Tatsu and Miku. Sure, it may be a little unusual that Miku, the wife, is the breadwinner. But Tatsu makes a perfect househusband thanks to his past as… a gangster?!
The Way of the Househusband should lead you on the way to your nearest bookstore so you can buy it.
“The Immortal Dragon” — it was the name of a legendary yakuza member. Was being the key word: he has left that life to marry an office worker! And now he’s doing all the cooking, cleaning, and other household chores while his wife, Miku, supports them financially. The fact that this scarfaced, tattoo-clad, glasses-and-suit wearing man hangs out at the grocery store wearing a dog apron befuddles those around him. Surely, there’s no way that this very unordinary man is now living an ordinary life?
But no, he is. But while you can take the man out of the yakuza, you can’t take the yakuza out of the man.
That’s the whole premise of The Way of the Househusband. Basically, all those around him are experiencing gap moe in real life. Tatsu acts very much like a stereotypical gangster, as if he were a criminal offering drugs or to take someone out (and I don’t mean for a date). In actuality, he’s just trying to bake the perfect meal or something innocuous like that. And because he usually acts all dramatic and scary, others… just don’t know how to react. After all, they’re worried that they’ll say the wrong thing and will soon be swimming with the fishes.
For Tatsu, however, that way of life is so far in the past, he can’t see it in the rearview mirror. He’s just busy thinking about what’s for dinner and maybe how to earn some extra money for gifts and bills. But, as all people should have and do, he does have some downtime to relax and helps out in his community. But whether it’s him test driving a car by imagining people shooting at him, sharing real-life reasons for yoga poses, or demanding performance from a Roomba, his yakuza roots are impossible to ignore.
But he doesn’t really realize how he presents himself to others. It’s not like most similar manga where Tatsu seems to be normal most of the time but his violent history emerges when he’s ticked off. He’s himself all the time, and he tends to be overly serious. Which, again, tends to freak people out even when he’s handing them something cute like a rubber ducky.
I like that his wife, Miku, is well-aware that her husband’s looks and background don’t normally mesh well with his current identity. Miku is introduced a bit into the story, and I thought she would be on the ditzy side, a cutesy-style heroine who is so sweet that any oddities or bad behavior doesn’t register with her. Here, though, Miku is often joining right in with the same “WTF?!” thoughts that others share about her husband. No doubt she loves him (and he her), but she also know he’s clearly an eccentric, to put it politely. Fortunately, she has her quirks too: she loves a police-themed PreCure-style show.
Fortunately as well, Tatsu is not alone. He becomes quite close with a couple local housewives, and one of his underlings/admirers gets household training from Tatsu after seeing how tough the ex-gangster still is. And that’s all this manga is: the adventures of Tatsu’s daily normal-but-abnormal life. But the manga often doesn’t focus on his perspective; chapters often concentrate on others panicking or just wondering about Tatsu, or they are done from an objective viewpoint as if caught on camera. The short episodic format of The Way of the Househusband means that, while the overall gag is always the same (Tatsu looks/acts violent but is really doing typical family-centered tasks), but the situations change regularly to keep it fresh. Sometimes it’s the everyday events like going grocery shopping; other times are the activities you hope you don’t have to do very often like car shopping.
The downside of this is that the manga can be a quick read. While each volume is around 160 pages, the main story ends several pages before that and usually includes more side story-ish content, like two pets talking to each other. I never found these as good as the main chapters. Of course, even then, not every one is a 10/10, but still the level of humor is way above most. Yes, it’s usually visual, but it works so well. It’s a great pick-me-up, but of course it may not be great for all audiences considering a lot of unsavory histories of the characters. Fortunately, there’s not much actual violence to make this much of an issue.
The only other real note is that because this is a comedy, there’s not much story to it. Obviously, things build off of each other, but it’s not like each episode ends with a new dramatic development or anything. That’s not a criticism, but if you are looking for a variety of jokes or a wide cast of characters, this is probably not the best to fill that role. The majority of the humor is outlandish (Miku being so clumsy a knife lands in the wall), but some of it is relatable. For example, trying to fit in, or the horror when the great deal you just got is already ruined. Tatsu’s outer and inner self is the primary source of humor, but let’s just say he’s not the only tough guy who would probably fit in with the gang from The Snuggly Duckling in Tangled. Because, above all, Tatsu loves Miku and would do anything for her, and he shows it every day with his own dramatic flourish.
The art is also full of power and energy. Characters tend to look fairly stereotypical, but that works in a manga like this, especially with a realistic style. Tatsu and his cohorts are supposed to look scary to most people. And even though readers know there’s an expected twist coming, the combination of others’ reactions and the dialogue work in harmony. For instance, when Tatsu is exercising his heart out, the manga doesn’t show the instructor’s face or her thoughts, letting Tatsu himself shine until we hear her interrupt Tatsu’s thoughts on the yoga positions. Scenes are drawn as if this were an action manga, with all kinds of poses and ready-to-pounce stances — and yes, even some blood and battles. But these are also balanced by the more innocent actions like closely examining a Roomba or the mixed emotions of getting pampered. Oono is a very talented artist as the manga is visually strong right out of the gate. Chapters may end a bit abruptly at times, as the filler page funnies often provide a better laugh after is all said-and-done, but otherwise, from the layouts, the inking, and the style, The Way of the Househusband looks as if it’s been drawn by a long-time manga veteran.
No honorifics are used outside of “Tacchan”, used by Miku. Tatsu’s nickname was 不死身の龍(たつ), Fujimi no Ryu (Tatsu). So yes, the direct translation would be “The Immortal Dragon”, but the “Dragon” in his name is also the same kanji used in his name. So you could make a case for his nickname to be “The Immortal Tatsu”. Masa calls him 龍(たつ)の兄貴, Tatsu no Aniki. That’s typical in yakuza stories. It’s translated as “Boss Tatsu” in the English version. Tatsu does speak with a yakuza accent, and that’s usually reflected. Some times the English version seems to take a little more liberties than usual to try to make speech sound more like street punk-ish or mobster-like.
The Way of the Househusband is an award-winning work, and it doesn’t take much analyzing to see why. If the premise sounds interesting to you, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.