Who wouldn’t want a partner who’d give it all up to make them delightful bento box lunches? I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate or support the careers of those we love, but in Kousuke Oono’s hilarious and sweet manga series The Way of the Househusband we’re presented with an enjoyable and appealing fantasy about a powerful Yakuza boss who sacrifices a life of crime in order to become his wife Miku’s caring and supportive partner. And it is just delightful.
The Way of the Househusband Vol 1-3
Kousuke Oono (story and art), Jennifer LeBlanc (English adaptation, editor), Bianca Pistillo (touch-up art and lettering), and Alice Lewis (design).
The series began life as a mini on the online manga site Kurage Bunch, which explains why — rather than a dense narrative — we begin the story with a series of vignettes about Tatsu and his new life as a househusband. Those who are looking for a linear narrative to get lost in might not immediately find something to grip them, but Oono is a ridiculously talented cartoonist who will quickly engross you in the newly domesticated world Tatsu has found himself in. Imagine a strip cartoon about John Wick before they killed his dog, but far cozier and you’re halfway there.
Tatsu is a loving husband first and foremost. He’s an ex-Yakuza boss second, though the latter part of his life offers up most of the series’ very light conflict. As Tatsu attempts to find the best bargains at the local market, buy his wife a birthday gift, or get stains out of his white laundry, his ex-colleagues, enemies, and the ever-bumbling law are all sure he’s up to something far more nefarious. It’s a smartly farcical setup that adds low-level but always funny stakes to what would otherwise be a straight up slice-of-life story. Because at its heart this is really just that, a look into the day-to-day life of a man whose greatest mission is to make his wife happy and fill her stomach with delicious creations which are also always instagrammable.
Oono breathes life into what many may see as the mundane task of caring for another. Here, that dedication to another is bursting with loyalty and honor, no longer boring but full of adventure. There’s something that feels radical and lovely about that –finally recognizing the importance of all of the tasks which are pushed upon women, or determined by society as “women’s work” expected of those who are tasked with the role of homemaker. In some ways there could be a question of why it needs to be centered around a man to do so? But honestly, with Oono’s light touch and humor it feels like commentary on toxic masculinity and a celebration of the softness and love that anyone can feel for someone that they love.
There’s plenty here to love when it comes to representations of love and home. Tatsu and Miku’s house is beautifully rendered, even when it’s a total and utter mess. The character designs are playful and instantly recognizable, so even as the cast of characters grows you never struggle to discern the many players from each other. Oono is particularly gifted at facial expressions and emotions which brings so much power to the pages of The Way of the Househusband.
Another particularly joyful part is the artist’s love of depicting food. This is the sort of comic that will make you hungry, as you drool over steaming omurice, fruit and veg that looks as fresh as if it was just picked, and cool drinks that can soothe your thirst with just a look.
The Way of the Househusband successfully meshes together multiple popular manga tropes like Yakuza stories, cooking yarns, and slice-of-life tales. And Oono does it effortlessly. With Tatsu’s history as an ex-Yakuza we get action and dynamism in pages about nothing more than finding the perfect produce. While it could seem overblown, anyone who has actually tried to shop and found themselves completely overwhelmed will find solace and recognition here. That actually speaks to the power of what really works about the series. While it should be a silly light feel-good read — and it does work that way–there’s a lot of profound truth about the effort it takes to try and take care of yourself and others. As well as how hard it is to turn over a new leaf.
With a new anime adaptation on the way on Netflix in April, it’s the perfect time to pick up this delightful and sweet romance comic about life, love, and the pursuit of making your wife happy.