LGBTQ Manga: Otouto no Otto, Volume 2 (弟の夫)

June 12th, 2016

OtnOt2In Otouto no Otto, Volume 1, we meet Yaichi, a Japanese man whose entire life is turned upside-down by the arrival of his late brother’s Canadian husband, Mike. 

In Otouto no Otto, Volume 2, (弟の夫) Yaichi is confronted by the existence of many things he just never wanted to deal with before, but which will not wait for his convenience.

But first, we meet Kana’s mother, who is a perfectly nice person. She and Yaichi are friendly and Mike thinks they suit each other well, and Yaichi has to admit the marriage failing was pretty much on him.

More and more we can see that Yaichi is a traditional Japanese man, who never really thought he’d have to think much beyond his job, and expected, in a sort of vague way, that things would be “normal” for him.

For one thing, Yaichi has never truly dealt with the fact that his beloved brother was gay and he never really accepted that. He’s confused by his own feelings about Ryouji’s death and Mike’s relationship with his brother. And there’s his daughter, Kana, who stubbornly refuses to be embarrassed by this hairy, foreign, gay uncle.

Mike continues on his quest to visit his late husband’s early life and as he and Yaichi become more friendly, by sharing stories of Ryouji, Yaichi begins to question a lot of what he thought and felt…and it’s making really him uncomfortable.

In the meantime, Kana is also starting to feel the effects of homophobia, as friend’s parents share rumors and keep their children from playing with Kana. Her distress is upsetting to Yaichi, who feels extra guilt because he himself was just as homophobic as the neighbors.

The damn begins to break when a neighborhood kid starts hanging around and finally breaks down to tell Mike that he too, is gay. Understanding that Ryouji must have felt that alone is the final push Yaichi needs to begin to empathize.

But as the book ends, Yaichi’s dreams are just getting weirder and weirder…would he be okay if the gay kid was his own? What if he started liking Mike “that way”? What if…?

I love this series. It’s covering everything all at once, and without anger, but with a calm, pleasant conviction that all the negativity needs to be surfaced to be understood and seen to be banished. Yaichi is everyman and watching him painfully confront his own bias and discontent is both satisfying and frustrating in equal measure.

I’m gonna say flat out there are not enough awards to give this series. It’s an excellent read. At the Tokyo Comics Showcase, Vol.1, Tagame-sensei (who is a lovely, lovely man) said that he doesn’t know what the average reader of Action Comics thinks of his manga, but that he is getting a lot of positive feedback. And that, I think, is the beginning of change.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters – 10
LGBTQ – 10
Service – 5

Overall – 10

Thank you, Tagame-sensei, for being part of the beginning of change.

2017 Update: Pantheon Books has released it in a gorgeous English-language (what will be 2-volume, so Volume 1 includes this Japanese V2) edition. My Brother’s Husband, Volume 1 has launched! 

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5 Responses

  1. Will says:

    I really love this series. I think one of the big things I love so much is the way it illustrates that there are many ways to discriminate. Just because you aren’t physically assaulting a member of a minority group or calling them by a slur, that doesn’t mean you aren’t being a bigot.

    The conversation with Mike about how homophobia must not exist in Japan because there aren’t as many violent hate crimes as in the America or Canada, only for that to be followed up with an example of how homophobia does exist, just in a more subtle form, was one of the most realistic LGBT discussions I’ve ever seen in a manga.

    It’s especially poignant because I just finished the Human Rights Watch report on homophobia in Japanese schools, and a lot of the interviews with LGBT students struck me as similar. When it wasn’t taunting or physical bullying, it was the subtle (but just as hurtful) things like teachers and staff not even considering that some of their students might not be straight, and then not wondering how their attitudes could affect them.

  2. Gwyn says:

    This manga reads kind of like a PSA on being gay for those who have had no exposure to it. But even so, I’m completely in love with it. The scenes all seem to be engineered towards debunking one homophobic viewpoint or another, but it’s done in such a natural way and the execution is always on point that it is still a wonderful read for people who are already excruciatingly aware of the microaggressions it portrays. And gosh does it do a good job at portraying them. This is such important work and it is so so so exciting that it is being published in the magazine it is in. I can only hope that the readers – almost certainly seeing themselves in Yaichi – will grow and learn alongside of him and come out on the other side a better person.

    I can’t agree more Erica, this series deserves all of the awards. Every one.

    • Being a PSA is pretty much the point. This runs in a mainstream men’s manga magazine, so Yaichi represents the readers who, presumably, have never really thought about this stuff at all.

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