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Manga / My Brother's Husband

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Canada is known throughout the world for its majestic bearsnote .
My Brother's Husband (Otōto no Otto) is a domestic dramedy manga series by Gengoroh Tagame. It is the first family-friendly work by Tagame, previously known for his Bara Genre gay male erotic manga. It was originally serialized in Monthly Action magazine from 2014 to 2017, and published in official English translation in two volumes (double the length of the volumes of the four-volume Japanese collections) in 2017-8 (an oversized single-volume edition came out in 2020). A live-action TV adaptation was broadcast in 2018 on NHK BS Premium.

The series is a Culture Clash comedy dealing with the similarities and differences between Japanese and Western attitudes to gay men, with a dual audience of Japanese people, and Western manga fans who, thanks to reading Yaoi, may have an unduly romanticised view of what life in Japan is like for gay people.

The manga's main character is Yaichi, a stay-at-home single dad whose gay twin brother, Ryoji, emigrated to Canada years before and became estranged from him. His quiet life with his tween daughter Kana is disrupted when Mike, Ryoji's widower, comes to Japan to meet his in-laws and explore the country.

My Brother's Husband contains examples of:

  • All Gays Are Paedophiles: There are subtle hints of Yaichi holding this prejudice, such as his discomfort with Kana's fascination with Mike's body hair and later when she wants to sleep in Mike's room overnight. He later realizes how absurd that thought actually is.
  • Ambiguously Gay: There are some hints in the first volume that Yaichi might himself be gay and very deeply closeted. He is unable to explain quite why his marriage to Natsuki failed despite how well they get on, and he tells Kana that he doesn't really know what "making love" means, which could be avoiding going into sexual detail with a child but could be something of a confession. However, the story ends before anything about his sexuality is explored further.
  • Amicable Exes: Yaichi and Natsuki, to the point that Mike wonders why they divorced.
  • Armoured Closet Gay: Katoyan is one.
  • Author Appeal: Both Mike and Yaichi are big, muscular guys, which anyone who's seen Tagame's erotic work would know is definitely his type.
  • The Bear: Mike is a stout, hairy man who fulfils all the stereotypes of this gay subculture.
    • In the live-action adaptation, he is less outwardly muscular and a Big Beautiful Man all around.
    • This is then joked about when he wins Kana a giant teddy bear at the onsen amusement arcade and she names it "Mike".
  • Big Fun: Mike, of the muscular kind.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Mike goes back to Canada, and he can't bring himself to promise to Kana and Yaichi that they'll meet again after he saw Ryoji's own promise remain unfulfilled by his passing. However, all of the characters are on good terms and do want to see each other again sometime in the future. Yaichi finds closure with his brother's death and accepts Mike as a member of his family.
    • The live action show end on a happier note. Mike does go back to Canada but after a time skip he comes back to visit and this time he bring his parents and sister along to meet everyone.
  • Book Ends: Towards the beginning, Yaichi is taken aback and distressed that Mike hugged him out of nowhere. At the end, Yaichi actually asks Mike for a hug goodbye.
  • Censor Steam: Used along with Censor Water Reflections to avoid showing genitals in shower scenes.
  • Character Development: During Mike's stay in Japan, Yaichi learns to let go of his latent homophobia, stand up for his brother-in-law, make amends with the memory of his brother and accept Mike into his family.
  • Coming-Out Story: The subplot relating to Kazuya, the teenage elder brother of one of Kana's schoolfriends, who is inspired by Mike's presence in the neighbourhood to come out and adopts him as a mentor.
  • Cool Uncle: Mike, full stop!
  • Courteous Canadian: Mike is super nice and polite while he's in Japan and apologizes a lot, befitting of the "Canadians are nice" stereotype. That said, he doesn't talk in any stereotypical Canadian way though that's mostly because he's speaking Japanese most of the time. Also the fact that Ryoji moved to Canada and found Mike, shows Canada's gay friendly nature compared to other countries, especially Japan.
  • Cry into Chest: When Mike comes home late and drunk, he mistakes Yaichi for Ryoji, falls on the futon on top of him, and tearfully asks him why did he had to die while enacting this trope.
  • Culture Clash: A major subject of the manga, between Japan and Canada. Mike occasionally misunderstands Japanese customs, but just as often he's an "interpreter" of sorts between the two cultures. For example, in one chapter he explains to a pair of tattooed foreigners why they're not being allowed into a gym: many businesses in Japan ban customers with tattoos due to their association with the Yakuza.
  • Dramedy: It's mostly light and humorous, but the themes of grief and homophobia are always present.
  • Due to the Dead: Towards the end, the protagonists visit the tomb of Ryoji and Yaichi's parents to pay their respects and officially introduce Mike as a family member.
  • The Faceless: In flahbacks, Ryoji is always seen from the back or in silhouette, and Yaichi's imaginary conversations with him use the mirror reflection as a stand-in. It's only towards the end that we see his actual face in the photos on Mike's tablet. This is a purely artistic choice; Yaichi is his identical twin, so we obviously know what Ryoji actually looks like to begin with.
  • Fanservice: Mike and Yaichi both have some scenes in the nude. They are justified, since they all happen in the bathroom or at the hot springs, and genitalia are covered by Censor Steam or some other object.
  • Food Porn: Much focus is devoted to Yaichi's recipes, which are constantly referred as (and look) delicious. In fact, several chapters are named after dishes or beverages.
  • The Glomp: Mike does this to Yaichi at their first meeting, to Yaichi's embarrassment.
  • Good Parents: Yaichi devotes his life to Kana, and she adores him. Natsuki, too, does the best she can in her limited time, but both she and her daughter lament not spending more time together.
  • Gratuitous English: Mike, being Canadian, is prone to this. Obviously Averted in the English translation.
  • Hot Springs Episode: Chapter 16, where Kana insists on visiting an onsen with Mike, and Yaichi has to invite Natsuki along so that Kana has a female chaperone at the single-sex baths.
  • House Husband: Yaichi is bringing up Kana at home after the divorce, which he feels a bit of an inferiority complex about.
  • Imagine Spot: Yaichi has several about what he really wants to say or what he fears might happen.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Kana is this all the time with her innocently curious questions about the nature of gayness.
  • Jaw Drop: Mike's reaction to first meeting Natsuki, who he had mistakenly assumed to be dead rather than divorced.
  • Jerkass Realization: Yaichi finally realises that Ryoji's behaviour hadn't really changed after he came out, it was he himself that drove his brother away by being cold and distant.
  • The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: There are a couple of fantasy sequences where Yaichi's reflection in the bathroom mirror talks to him as Ryoji.
  • Manly Gay: Mike is a hairy, muscular guy who lifts weights, doesn't act effeminate, and insists, to Kana's Innocently Insensitive query, that both he and Ryoji were "husbands" in the marriage.
  • Manly Tears: Mike in his Cry into Chest moment.
  • Married to the Job: Natsuki literally defines herself as this.
  • Mentor in Queerness: Mike acts as a paternal advisor to Kazuya, the closeted elder brother of one of Kana's schoolfriends, who is struggling with his homosexuality and the hostility of society to it.
  • No Longer with Us: Between the photo of Natsuki in Yaichi's house being from when Kana was still a baby and unfortunate word choices by Kana while telling Mike about her, the first few chapters make it look like Natsuki is dead, to the point that Mike gets the idea as well. When Natsuki shows up very much alive to Mike's surprise, she correctly guesses that the photo had something to do with it.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Mike appears like this to Yaichi, being very prone to hugs and such. However, it's more a case of Culture Clash given Japan's more reserved attitude towards personal contact.
  • Parental Substitute: Mike acts as this towards Kana, despite both her parents being alive and very much caring (even if Natsuki has very little time to spend with her).
  • Posthumous Character: Ryoji. His passing is what drives Mike to make the trip to Japan at last.
  • Precious Photo: Yaichi, Natsuki and Kana's picture, as described above. At the end, it's joined by a photo of the three of them plus Mike.
  • Settle for Sibling: Yaichi's exact resemblance to Ryoji sometimes creates embarrassment between him and Mike.
  • Shame If Something Happened: This is the homophobic teacher's approach when he calls Yaichi into the school, talking about what a shame it would be if Kana were to be bullied and become a social outcast because of her gay relatives. Yaichi doesn't budge an inch and calmly tells him that Kana has a right to love and talk about her uncles, and that he expects the teacher to do something if any bullying happens.
  • Spit Take: Yaichi's response when Kana asks Mike who was the "husband" and who the "wife" between him and Ryoji.
  • Supreme Chef: Yaichi is one, and according to Mike, Ryoji was one too.
  • Thicker Than Water: One of the main themes of the story is the relationship between the main characters. Ryoji promised to present Mike to his relatives in Japan as part of his family, and at the end Yaichi accepts him as such.
    Yaichi: I was asking myself, how can we call our relationship?
    Natsuki: Well, I think that... "family" works perfectly.
  • Title Drop: During Yaichi's talk with the teacher, he stands up for Mike and refers to him without hesitation as "my late brother's husband".
  • Unable to Cry: Yaichi wasn't able to cry at his parents' funeral, and he wasn't when he got news of his brother's death.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: There appears to be still some lingering feeling between Yaichi and Natsuki, though it remains unresolved.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Yuki is this, being able to autonomously realise that homosexual couples aren't different from straight couples and definitely not a "bad influence", despite what her mother might (or might not) have said.
  • Women Are Wiser: Downplayed, but Natsuki easily waves away Yaichi's worries about his relationship with Mike and his fears about not being a good parent to Kana.

Alternative Title(s): Ototo No Otto