The Way Of The Househusband is how it should be – quirky, funny, unforgettable and above all, blatantly feminist. Based on a Japanese manga written and illustrated by Kousuke Oono, The Way of The Househusband was released in April on Netflix and soon gathered attention for its unconventional style. Following the story of an erstwhile gangster (a part of criminal group commonly known as Yakuza) – Tatsu, The Way of the Househusband explores his life when he becomes a, well, househusband. After reading a lot of reviews from various sources, I went on to watch this manga turned anime to see what all the fuss was about. Many people were impressed by the motionless, manga styled anime while others were frowning and blaming Netflix for budget cuts.
My concerns about The Way of the Househusband were different: I didn’t mind the motionless, manga styled anime at all, in fact, I enjoyed it. However, what concerned me initially was – would this show be another redemption story, where women are supposed to provide free therapy to some masculine gangster for them to become more human?
Would it be too preachy for the younger generation to watch, since most of us have an attention span suitable only for TikTok videos? But well, as soon as I dived into the show, I was pretty sure about one thing – it is exemplary! The Way of the Househusband is witty, smart, action-packed and funny with one of the best animations I have seen in a long while. Tatsu’s struggle of becoming a househusband from a yakuza (a Japanese gangster) has been tackled with such precision that it doesn’t fail to amuse and yet provide a reversal of gender roles. He does everything that a housewife is supposed to do – he cleans, he cooks, takes care of the pet, takes care of himself by taking yoga classes, babysits neighbours’ kids, basically all the work associated generally with housewives.
The Way of the Househusband, through its sharp portrayal of characters, almost masters the art of satirical comic timing which completely bashes the concepts of masculinities associated with yakuzas. In Japanese society, like most societies of the world, a gangster is a hypermasculine figure, who is good at only one thing: violence. Yet here we have a Yakuza who cooks, cleans, goes grocery shopping and basically tries to redeem himself from his past mistakes by becoming a better husband and thus a better person.
Tatsu’s relationship with his wife, Miku, is also shown beautifully and is worthy of discussion. Usually women are shown working to get everything right for their husbands, but here, Tatsu’s struggle to make his wife happy, his care for everything from her lunch to dinner to her love for Policure (an anime game in the show’s universe) – Tatsu tries to do it all correctly without even an ounce of shame that is commonly seen in men who have to toy with the idea of becoming homemakers.
Miku is a career-focused woman around whom Tatsu’s world revolves. We also see characters like Tatsu’s friends and erstwhile enemies who try to provoke Tatsu, but he is hardly affected by these hypermasculine yakuzas and is rather always trying to impress his mentor, an elderly woman, whom he calls “boss lady” for helping him in becoming a better househusband. In one of the episodes in The Way of the Househusband, where Tatsu enters the ladies’ locker room mistakenly after his yoga class, he starts to punish himself as if he had committed an unforgettable crime.
Ladies’ locker room is usually associated with men’s fantasies and hardly seen for what it is – a private space for women. Tatsu’s repentance after entering the room deconstructs this idea of the ladies locker room being an object male fantasy, thus becoming a real space with real women. Another crucial episode is when Tatsu goes to buy a new car with his wife. As they are investigating various cars, we see how the makers of this anime actually show Miku liking cars that are mainly associated with men while Tatsu is so involved in being a househusband that he can think just about the utility of car for chores related to his everyday work. We also see Tatsu roaming around in a mall wearing his apron and while his wife tries to make him wear something more “charming” and “approachable”. He goes on to choose an apron with his wife’s favourite – Policure imprints on it.
There are many such incidents throughout this 10 episode series and all of them focus on normalising the concept of a househusband. Excluding most Studio Ghibli Movies, Puella Magi Madoka Magica which deconstructed the genre of magical girls in anime, Oreimo which tackles the issue of incest in the funniest way possible and few others – anime, like most popular media telecasts, is usually dominated by male gaze. But here we have an anime for future generations – a show that redefines masculinities. At the same time, it is important to understand that deconstructing the notions associated with the gender binaries need not necessarily mean a role reversal wherein women have to act in conventional masculine ways, which is what Miku is often characterised as doing in The Way of the Househusband. Yet, while people may continue to argue about the format of the show, a bunch of us feminists could sit back and enjoy a truly unique, funny and sensitive show.
Shambhavi Siddhi completed her master’s degree in French and francophone literature from JNU. With a penchant for poetry and fiction writing, she is dedicated to smashing patriarchy and other systems of oppression, one write-up at a time. You can follow her on Instagram.