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The Way of the Househusband: episode one

Kousuke Oono’s popular manga has arrived on Netflix as a six-part anime series.

When a deadly yakuza boss leaves his life of crime to become a househusband, he rises to the challenge with extreme gusto. From clothing sales to birthday surprises, this fast-paced anime gives us a fresh take on domestic banality.

A still from the original manga, The Way fo the Househusband. In these panels we get to see Tasu is his full thrilly apron, complete with pockets and bows. He's wearing sunglasses and knows he looks incredible. Speed lines surround him, giving the impression that he's radiating effortlessly cool energy.
Category is… apple pie extravaganza

Wayne

Don’t tell ex-Yakuza legend Tatsu this but, I really didn’t think I was going to enjoy Netflix’s latest flirtation with anime.

I say anime. There’s so little actual movement it’s more like a motion comic. A shame given how much action there is and how great the characters look, especially the incredibly cool Immortal Dragon himself. Talk about a cosplayer’s dream.

This won’t be everyone’s cup of sake. At first glance it feels, well, cheap when compared to Netflix stablemate Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045. The more you watch, the more you appreciate the simplicity of it and the makers’ faith in the character and the voice cast.

This first episode, collecting six stories from the Kousuke Oono manga, jumped around a lot. It’s a very wham-bam, throw away after watching approach. Audiences used to today’s slow-burning, over-arching storylines might not like.

As the parent of a 19-month-old, the bite-sized minisodes are great if you don’t have much time on your hands. They’re also ideal if you just want something quick and easy to watch before deep-diving into your next boxset obsession.

I was disappointed at the lack of any character or plot development. Why did the feared Tatsu vanish at the height of his power, only to reappear as the devoted husband of hard-working career woman Miku? We see so little of her in this opener that I wonder how she persuaded him that his skills were better used preparing her bento or battling bargain hunters at the supermarket. Does she know who he was? There’s so little interaction between the two that I don’t get their dynamic, which makes it hard for me to buy into the story.

I’ve terrible FOMO, seeing some ultimately awful series through to the bitter end. I don’t want to be smiling and nodding cluelessly while everyone else dissects the latest episode round the photocopier. I would’ve added this series to my watch list just for answers. Luckily, The Way of the Househusband is full of fun and heart. It reminds me, strangely, of the recent Harley Quinn animated series on E4. Despite it’s hyper-exaggerated setting, she too deals with real-life concerns.

I was won over watching the comedically dour Tatsu stumble from one mishap to another as he uses his deadly skills to conquer the most mundane daily chores. Tonally it’s pitched just right. It knows how absurd the setup is but plays it completely straight. The jokes are at his expense without ever trivialising his lifestyle change. Japan has seen the rise of the house husband, but for generations it’s been a country where the man’s job came before family life. Even 20 years ago you’d have been hard-pressed to see briefcase-wielding women waiting for the train alongside their suited breadwinning male counterparts. Until the country’s Equal Employment Opportunity law was introduced in 1986, career-track jobs weren’t even an option. To have Tatsu, whose upbringing I imagine was steeped in tradition, flip established, cultural gender roles on their head and it not be a “thing” was refreshing

It also helps that under Tatsu’s deadpan delivery, intimidating nature and razor-sharp focus is an engaging, sweet, earnest heart. I even went ah when his attempt to surprise Miku on her birthday went awry. It was the creepiest rendition of happy birthday I’ve heard for a while though.  

And, honestly, any series that devotes part of an episode to a story about the main characters’ cat teasing the neighbourhood dog is worth a continued punt.

Tatsu is shouting at a cat cluthced between his hands so that they're face to face. The cat looks perplexed, but not unaccountable. Tatsu is wearing a white bandana to cover his hair and his signature sunglasses.
Best of friends

Sabrina

I lost count of how many times this ‘deadpan’, ‘absurd’ and ‘quirky’ (Netflix’s words) episode startled a laugh out of me! 

The Way of the Househusband is unlike anything I’ve seen before. I loved watching scenarios where Tatsu (the Househusband) completely defies what people expect from someone of his demeanour, gender and/or Yakuza history, and turns tricky situations around using unconventional means. I think my favourite involved a pair of gloves and a touching vignette of a side-character’s backstory, or the one with croquettes (I almost died laughing).

The switches in mood are rapid-fire and striking, enhanced by sudden shifts in voice acting, background music, sound effects and colour. I think that these changes were what made me laugh the most – I just couldn’t tell what would happen next and everyone’s reactions to the plot twists were so extra. I’m a pretty dramatic person so I always find it entertaining to see characters expressing themselves so vividly.

Going back to the rapid changes, I did find that the transitions between panels were hard to keep up with, and the sub-stories within the overall episode do jump around quite a bit. I definitely got my money’s worth out of the rewind button… However, in all fairness, because I’m both reading the subtitles and looking at the panels, I’m perhaps slower on the uptake here than Japanese-speaking people or those watching dubbed versions. 

I already knew about some classic anime/manga features, e.g. exaggerated expressions or speed lines, but there were several things that stood out to me as an anime newbie. The ‘camera’ often panned up over a single static comic panel, with a voiceover in the background, and only certain parts of a panel were animated, usually the mouth (while speaking). I did some Googling afterwards and apparently this is a technique called ‘limited animation’! I know very little about anime other than watching some Ghibli films as a kid (and more recently ‘Your Name’, which I 100% recommend) and it was fascinating to get more insight into this style of animation and storytelling. Hopefully I can read the original manga too and see how their artwork translated onto the screen.

Aside from the episode’s content itself, the introduction sequence and closing credits were also distinctive and enjoyable. The former was colourful and dizzying (in a fun way!) and the fast-paced heavy rock music really captured the overall vibe of the episode. The gravelly singing also formed a sort of prelude to the deep rasp of the main character’s voice. The artwork/animation in the credits was surprisingly beautiful and sweet, with soft watercolours of Tatsu’s cat gently illuminated by gorgeous golden hour lighting as it (she?) playfully bounds around chasing butterflies and the like. I say “surprisingly” not because the rest of the episode’s art isn’t pleasing to watch, but because the episode’s main art felt so sharp, forceful, alternatingly slick and jagged, whereas the credits felt more…soft-focus, like breathing time after the breakneck rollercoaster of the episode. (And…to be perfectly honest, watercolour paintings are probably my favourite kind to look at so I guess I’m somewhat biased.)

I’m really glad I got the chance to review this for rrramble – I probably wouldn’t have even heard about it otherwise – as it was such a hilarious and unexpectedly sweet watch, perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up. I’ll definitely be checking out the other four episodes soon!

Tatsu is smiling at the camera with his eyebrows furrowed, eyes just visible over his shades. Behind him is an amalgamation of grocery shopping images including a basket, eggs and a magazine. The image pops on a yellow background.
Thinking about that omlette…

Ellie

We’re going to take this one slow. Given that the never-ending nature of the internet means you could be reading this at any point in time, it’s important to understand that UK pub gardens opened after months of lockdown on Monday. It’s now Sunday afternoon. I have a headache. My housemate and I dragged our sorry selves onto the sofa this morning with a tall glass of water and a large plate of marmite on toast (delicious, not up for debate) ready for The Way of the Househusband: Ep. 1. We were not, however, ready for almost two minutes of intense Japanese rock theme music the moment we hit play.

Despite the initial sensory kick to the skull, I thoroughly enjoyed Netflix’s new anime. The animation style is a little jolting, as we move through the scenes as though we’re reading the panels of a manga. I’m a fairly slow reader so it was a challenge at times to keep up with the dialogue and visual since the panels would swiftly shift to the next before I really had time to decipher each image. In one particular scene (spoiler) Tatsu is flung through a window by his wife in an attempt to stop him performing Yubitsume (ritualistic cutting off of the pinkie finger to show remorse for offending another) and somehow I missed the whole bit. One second they were having a birthday party, the next all hell broke loose. My housemate was very helpful in filling in the gaps. Note: you can now watch the show with English audio rather than the original Japanese.

To clarify, the style of animation really does enhance the overall show. Its premise is wacky and dramatic and fully delights in its own absurdity. Kon Chiaki had fantastic source material to work from thanks to the success of Kousuke Oono’s original manga. The style pays homage to Oono’s work rather than attempting to separate itself from the books.

It might have been the result of long-awaited chilly evenings sat in good company, or perhaps the salty goodness of marmite kicking in – regardless, Tatsu’s presentation of positive masculinity was truly wonderful to witness. I couldn’t help laughing at the intensity with which he performed mundane tasks, always striving for perfection and somehow looking bad ass in his apron. Never has a man taken croquettes so seriously. As Tatsu says, “being a househusband ain’t no joke.”

The anime never sacrifices Tatsu’s essential character despite his rather dramatic lifestyle change from feared criminal to househusband. His sincere attitude to his daily tasks had me fully on side, equally frustrated when people from his past didn’t understand the importance of a clothing sale. Tatsu touches the lives of strangers through small acts of kindness. He’s completely untouchable as the Immortal Dragon and as a househusband. He seems like a great catch and I’m sure his fictional wife is very happy. I hope the next episodes feature their relationship more so we get to see fantastically over the top romance mixed into all the rest. This show has a lot to offer and I really recommend checking it out. 

You can watch all of season one of The Way of the Househusband on Netflix here.

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