“Housework without honor or humanity” reads the back cover of a manga whose opening image is a massive dragon tattoo on a man’s back. He puts on a dark outfit, draws a large knife, and… prepares lunch for his hard-working wife. Turns out, Kousuke Oono’s domestic comedy is full of humanity and humor. Boss Tatsu, now a househusband, applies his hard-fought expertise in running the streets to calmer but no less intense tasks such as cooking cheese croquettes and turning a two-by-four into a cute, sturdy chair.

This manga’s paper-thin premise should not hold up so well, but I was zipping through chapters with a smile. Oono’s so good at illustrating Tatsu as an incredibly focused, motivated yazuka boss that watching him shop for groceries or babysit with gambling games becomes irresistible. Some of the best punchlines come from scenarios where people—neighbors, cops, rival yakuza—think they’re witnessing a violent incident, when the reality is something infinitely more innocent, like a cat’s hijinks or burying a broken toy.

The Way of the Househusband is rated T+ for Older Teen, largely on account of some four-letter words. There are acts of violence, but generally in service of humor: Tatsu smacks around a would-be protege, Tatsu’s wife Miku arm-bars him through a window when he gestures to cut off one of his fingers to atone for a mistake. However, the majority of the content revolves around Tatsu’s seemingly effortless comfort within his feminine-coded role. “Let’s give this simple DIY project a try, all you housewives!” he reads aloud from a book while wearing an apron adorned with a Shiba Inu design. His old reputation and nickname as the “Immortal Dragon” causes other men to pay respect to the life he’s chosen. “I’m protectin’ my family in my own way,” Tatsu explains to a young hothead who wants to see him kick some ass. “You can’t protect what’s precious to you through violence.” Point a gun at him, though, and he’ll replace it with warm gloves in the shooter’s hands.

Three bonus chapters at the end of this volume show moments in the lives of Tatsu’s cat, protege, and local otaku. The Way of the Househusband feels more like episodes of a slice-of-life comedy than a linear narrative, though it is already building an interesting cast in its first volume. The broad humor and mixture of domestic/gangster scenarios, guided by Oono’s attractive artwork, lead me to recommend this for many kinds of manga readers. Fans of “overblown misunderstanding” comedy Handa-kun or “leading by playing it cool” comedy Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto will find domestic bliss here.

The Way of the Househusband, vol. 1
By Kousuke Oono
Art by Kousuke Oono
ISBN: 9781974709403
Viz, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)

  • Thomas

    | He/Him Teen Services Librarian, Richland Library

    Features Writer

    Thomas is a teen services librarian at Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina. While studying for his MLIS at the University of South Carolina, he won an award from Thomas Cooper Library for his curation of the works of “God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka. He has spoken about manga, graphic novels, teen programming, and podcasting at NashiCon, DragonCon, ColaCon, New York Comic Con, and American Library Association conferences. He has been on on YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels For Teens selection committee, written articles for Public Libraries, The Hub, Book Riot, and Library Trends, and reviews for School Library Journal and Kirkus.

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