My Brother’s Husband (弟の夫)
Gengoroh Tagame (Author), Anne Ishii (Translator)

May 2, 2017
Pantheon Graphic Novels, 352 Pages
Print/Digital

While I’m not an avid reader of gay manga, I was intrigued to hear that legendary manga artist Tagame Gengoroh had created a work that represents the reality of being gay in modern Japan. And what a splendid work it is.

A departure from his usual fare, which typically depicts hypermasculine men in erotic situations, My Brother’s Husband paints a delicate story about love, loss, and family.

Yaichi is a single father living with his elementary school-aged daughter Kana. When Mike Flanagan, the widower of Yaichi’s gay twin brother Ryoji arrives on his doorstep, Yaichi is compelled to evaluate his relationship with his late brother and come face to face with his own prejudices.

Yaichi’s daughter Kana acts as a catalyst for his progress. While Yaichi is perturbed by Mike’s sudden arrival, Kana enthusiastically accepts him as the gay Canadian uncle she never knew she had. Her innocent curiosity about Mike forces Yaichi to evaluate his own preconceptions about homosexuality. He also comes to wonder if his unspoken actions (a manifestation of his ingrained prejudice) may have forced a wedge between him and his brother many years ago.

My Brother’s Husband is driven by its well-formed, realistic characters. Yaichi’s thoughts are exposed to the reader, allowing us to follow along as he struggles with his prejudices and begins to process his relationship with his late twin. Tagame’s also adeptly illustrates his character’s facial expressions, drawing the reader into their world. It’ a treat to see stoic man Yaichi’s perpetually furrowed brow make way to wholehearted smiles, and Mike and Kana’s chemistry as uncle and niece shines though their often lighthearted and playful interactions.

The comic is just reaching the end of its serialization in Japan, and with any luck, the second English volume will be on the way soon.

My Brother’s Husband is a wonderful read for anyone curious about the reality of being gay in Japan or for anyone who can appreciate an emotionally gripping story with sharp, beautiful artwork.