My Brother’s Husband, Volume 1 by Gengoroh Tagame
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Recommended Age: tempted to say “all”
Genres & Themes: Manga, LGBT, Japan Culture, Family
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.
This manga charmed me from the very first page. I was under its spell for the entire reading duration. Actually, it was so well-paced and heartfelt that I read it in one single sitting, and it does contain more than three hundred pages.
It is true that there exist Yaoi manga with characters somewhat discussing the anxiety of being openly gay in Japan—although not as many as needed—but I found the clash of two cultures (Japanese and Canadian) so interesting.
I even learned some things myself. I had no idea gay people could not marry in Japan. How did I not know that, after all the Yaoi and Yuri manga I have read? There are tons of Yaoi and Yuri manga, but homosexuality is not accepted? I find that to be a paradox. Or perhaps the government recognizes these manga to be fiction alone, a fantasy for entertainment. That would be wrong, but not implausible.
This is a great book to expose to young readers and adults alike. We’re never too young to learn about same-sex marriage. It should not be a taboo subject. Because when is man + woman marriage a taboo topic? Never, that’s when. It’s a dream for a lot of people, so why shouldn’t same-sex marriage become a possible dream everywhere, too, and for everyone?
However, I do admit it is a bit “too” educational at times, in the sense that the dialog did not always feel natural, because the author tries too hard to educate people about gay stereotypes versus reality and about being more open-minded and understanding. It makes the manga very self-aware, which means that it makes it hard for us to forget we are reading a fictional (though realistic) story.
Still, extremely beautiful. That Kana is a sweetheart. And I liked the ending a lot, although one could argue it is somewhat of a cliff-hanger. To me it just showed that a person can’t change in a snap of fingers. It takes time, but it is possible.
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