LGBTQ Manga: Otouto no Otto (弟の夫)

November 8th, 2015

OnO1If there is, in 2015, a single series I would call “most-anticipated,” Tagame Gengoroh’s Otouto no Otto (弟の夫) is that series.

Tagame-sensei is best known in North America for his overtly sexual comics by about and for gay men, with an emphasis on large, hairy men (what are called “bears” in western gay vernacular). The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame and Massive, an adult anthology, are available in English.

In an interview on Tokyo Underground, Tagame-sensei  talks about drawing comics for gay men’s magazines and BL magazines. This series is his first gay series for a more mainstream men’s manga magazine, Monthly Action. This magazine is notably published by Futabasha, which also published Morinaga Milk’s GIRL FRIENDS. Clearly, there are some allies on the Futabasha staff.

The protagonist of Otouto no Otto (弟の夫) , My Brother’s Husband, is Yaichi, a single father, who has been estranged from his now late twin brother for many years. The volume begins on the day his brother’s widower, Mike Flanagan, arrives at Yaichi’s home. Yaichi is not at all comfortable with Mike, or the fact that his brother was gay, or married, but Kana, his daughter, can’t see the problem. The only problem she sees is that she had no idea she had an uncle at all! So when she invites Mike to stay, Yaichi can’t really say no.

The story is both realistic and very poignant, as Mike tries to stay close to his husband by visiting places from his past…and as Yaichi has to deal with the fact that he never really accepted his brother for who he was. Kana is terribly excited to share her newfound uncle with friends, and the only disapproval she expresses is when she learns that in Canada men can marry men, and women can marry women, but not in Japan. “That’s weird,” she says to which Yaichi responds “Right?” She explains patiently, “Its weird that they can’t marry each other here.”

Mike is instantly likable and his emotional range is refreshing and unusual in a manga. Yaichi is the more stereotypical manga male, his emotions left unexpressed and unresolved, while Mike, who is trying so hard to not offend, breaks down in open grief when given his husband’s boyhood bedroom to sleep in.

Overall, one of the most real comics I’ve ever read. Everyone is utterly believable, from Yaichi’s, quiet, non-violent, but omnipresent homophobia, to Kana and her friends’ curiosity about this completely new concept.

The manga ends with Kana’s mother coming over, which will throw another level of complexity into the mix. We do not yet know what her and Yaichi’s relationship is. How will she react to Mike? It’s an interesting cliffhanger for this family drama. Having said that, you know, this would make an excellent live-action TV drama.

Tagame’s art is lovely, favoring simple, realistic backgrounds and some great body language. And there’s a fair dollop of service for people who find the male body appealing. The men here look like men. No willowy, long-haired bishounen, these are men with body hair and male genitalia.

I strongly recommend this series, but even more, I strongly hope that you’ll buy the book itself, even if you read it in scans. Your money will support the author and the magazine that threw itself into the ring for work like this. More realistic LGBTQ work in mainstream manga magazine is a very good thing. Think about it – this is a comic about gay men, running in a men’s manga magazine. Not an audience you’d think that would be terribly receptive to a comic about a big, muscular man grieving over the loss of his husband. And yet, so far the feedback seems to be positive.

I know what you’re all thinking right now …”Will it come out in English?” Maybe. Possibly. There is publisher interest and relationships in place that make it more probable than not. If I were a magic 8-ball, I’d say “Outlook Good.” But no promises. The world is complex.

2017 Update: Yes. Pantheon Books will be releasing it.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters – 10
LGBTQ – 10
Service – 4

Overall – 10

For a hotly anticipated series, I have to say, Otouto no Otto actually  manages to exceed expectations. And now I will anticipate Volume 2, when it becomes available.

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15 Responses

  1. Kathryn says:

    I LOVE THIS MANGA. Thank you so much for reviewing it!!

    I mean, it’s just so adorable, and the pin-up shots of Yaichi made me giggle with girlish glee (TAKE THAT MALE GAZE), and I think I cheered out loud at the chiffhanger and the end of the volume in which Yaichi’s wife is not dead or absent but still totally a part of her child’s life (whatever her circumstances might be). The open curiosity and occasional unintentional awkwardness of Kana and her friends felt very real to me, but I love how Kana is more interested in Mike “Canadianness” than she is in his “gayness.”

    The opening color spread, in which Yaichi is wearing a hakama, Mike is Commodore Matthew Perry, and Kana is wearing a Victorian-style red dress and running to embrace Mike while Yaichi looks on skeptically is a thing of glorious and transcendent beauty. I might have teared up a little when I opened the book and saw it for the first time.

    I also enjoyed the “Mike’s Lectures in Gay Culture” sections, especially the first one, which is an intentionally long and unwieldy list of all of the countries in the world in which same-sex marriage is recognized legally, like, GET WITH IT JAPAN.

    • Aren’t the service scenes still Male Gaze? They are gay male gaze, but still, sexualizing. I found the “guide” section a little tiresome, if only because every manga that has an actual gay narrative still includes them, and while I understand why, I’m also tired of reading them. ^_^; But yes, they still serve a purpose.

  2. just me says:

    More manga for grownups! :) Can Vertical work with Futabasha? Do they have contracts to work with each other’s competitors instead?

    If they can work together, Vertical could try to get the English license for this to sell copies to the same people who buy What Did You eat yesterday? :)

    • As I said, there are publishers with relationships that are working on it. I can’t comment any more specifically because there is no more information to be had. Really, if you take a moment to think about it, why do you think publishers might release any information about negotiations of potential licenses? Does that even make any sense? All negotiations are confidential. Publishing a comic isn’t an IPO, the public does not have any right to any information until all parties have signed and are ready to release information. Take a deep breath and wait. If and when someone licenses it, they will surely announce it, don’t you think?

  3. just me says:

    In one way I wouldn’t think an audience of men in general would be terribly receptive to a comic about a big, muscular man grieving over the loss of his husband. He’s gay, most of them are straight, etc.

    In one way I *would* think an audience of men most of whom are straight would be terribly receptive to a comic about a big, muscular man grieving over the loss of his husband. He’s a man, they’re men, etc.

    I don’t know! I’m just guessing! Here are some guesses and nobody has to answer them:

    Maybe some men grieving over the losses of their wives relate to Mike grieving over the loss of his spouse?

    Maybe some big, muscular straight men relate to Mike being a big, muscular man?

    Maybe some men raising their kids on their own relate to Yaichi raising Kana on his own?

    Maybe some men trying to reconcile with their wives’ relatives relate to Mike trying to reconcile with his spouse’s brother?

    Maybe some men who have anal or oral sex with their wives even think “eh, I’ve done it too” about the possibility of Mike’s marriage having involved anal or oral sex, instead of just going “ewww” at the idea?

  4. JRB says:

    “And there’s a fair dollop of service for people who find the male body appealing. The men here look like men. No willowy, long-haired bishounen, these are men with body hair and male genitalia.”

    Erica, I love your reviews and all, but this is just ridiculous. Slim pretty men are still men, and have dudeparts, and can be aesthetically and erotically appreciated as men. The male body doesn’t have to be barrel-shaped and covered with fur to be authentically male. And you don’t have to like bulky hairy men to be authentically attracted to men.

    Seriously, what would you think if I implied that butch, muscular women aren’t really women and that women who are attracted to them aren’t really lesbians?

    That said, I do hope that someone is able to license this, it looks quite interesting. I’m automatically suspicious of Tagame’s stuff through having read the manga that he has out in French, which mostly leans towards his more, shall we say, “extreme” BDSM material, but I’m assuming there is none of that here. :)

    • No, there is no sex at all in this book, this is a book about a straight man dealing with his late brother’s husband as the title states.

      • JRB says:

        I know; you explained the premise very nicely and I’ve heard of the book before. I was trying to explain why I’d be interested in reading this even though it would take a large cash bribe to get me to read almost anything else Tagame has written at this point. :)

  5. Mudakun says:

    Thank you for this.
    I swear I will buy an English version when it comes out and donate it to my local library. The look on Mike’s face at the door, meeting the twin brother of his dead husband…

    This is not for Japan only, it could be set in Alberta, or in Ohio, or anywhere. It hit like a punch.
    Found this, an interview with the mangaka, it might be of some use, or you have it already and my search skills are deficient.. In any case:
    http://mangacomicsmanga.com/tcaf-2015-gengoroh-tagame-talks-gay-manga-bara-bl-and-scanlation/

    Thank you
    /M

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