In Volume 1 of Gengoroh Tagame’s Otouto no Otto, we meet Canadian Mike Flanagan, who has come to Japan in search of his late husband’s early life. We also meet Yaichi, Mike’s husband’s older brother. Yaichi’s assumptions about life and the passive homophobia he feels are challenged by Mike’s very existence.
In Volume 2, Yaichi begins to see his passive homophobia and start to examine it, in the context of his accepting daughter, Kana, Mike’s talk with a closeted young boy from the neighborhood and a neighbor’s negative reaction to Mike. Volume 2 ended with Yaichi having a dream of Kana growing up to be gay and waking full of uncertainty.
In Otouto no Otto, Volume 3 (弟の夫), the volume begins with Yaichi’s mind full of that dream. Kana doesn’t help by deciding that she, Yaichi, Mike and her mother Natsuki should all go on a trip to an onsen. When Yaichi shares the dream with Kana’s mother, Natsuki’s acceptance of that future adds to Yaichi’s confusion. And he’s sharing a bath with Mike. Yaichi is absolutely bombarded with things he has never before had to deal with.
Returning from the onsen trip, Yaichi is recognized by a classmate of his brother’s. As a reader, it was almost impossible to not instantly realize that the friend was himself gay. Mike, for the first time, is brought face-to-face with the uncomfortable tension of adult gay life in Japan.
The volume ends with trouble brewing. What, specifically will happen we don’t know, but it will involve Kana, which makes us angry.
In Volume 3, the honeymoon is over. Mike’s no longer the teacher, and Yaichi, the student is flailing in deeper water than he ever realized. There’s moments of sincere discomfort and, for me, anger, as so little has changed, or can even be done.
Tagame-sensei’s deft drawing of expression and body language communicates so much more than the text itself. It’s very adult and subtle book and assumes an adult readership, attuned to adult society. Such a pleasure to read, even when it hurts, as it surely will.
Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters – 10
LGBTQ – 10
Service – 7 (Nude guys in bath, duh)
Overall – 10
This manga reminds us that the world is changed one person at a time.
2017 Update: Pantheon Books has released it in a gorgeous English-language (what will be 2 volume) edition. My Brother’s Husband, Volume 1 has launched!