Regardless of your sexual orientation, there’s a very good chance that you’ve seen Gengoroh Tagame’s illustrations of bearded, muscular men... enjoying one another’s company. While Tagame’s most widely known for his adult-oriented manga, his latest book My Brother’s Husband focuses more on the uneasy relationship between Yaichi, a single father raising his daughter, Kana, and Mike Flanagan, who was married to Yaichi’s recently deceased (and estranged) twin brother, Ryoji.
My Brother’s Husband is due out from Penguin Random House tomorrow, but you can read a couple pages from the book now to get a sense of what kind of story Tagame’s crafted. Hoping to capture something of his husband by spending time with his family, Mike decides to show up at Yaichi’s house unannounced and slowly begins to learn about Ryoji’s past in Japan and what led to the brothers’ falling out.
As the trio wander through the neighborhood that Yaichi and his brother grew up in, Mike slowly gets the more socially-conservative man to open up and enjoy the time they’re spending together as something like family.
My Brother’s Husband introduces commentary about elements of homophobia in modern-day Japan when Mike begins to push Yaichi about parting ways with his brother.
While we often think of Japan as being a place with relatively progressive politics with regards to queer sexualities, My Brother’s Husband gently alludes to the sort of small, everyday aspects of homophobia that ultimately drove Yaichi’s brother to leave. Yaichi never explicitly took issue with his brother’s being gay but, in his conversations with Mike, he begins to realize that maybe, on some level, he wasn’t as comfortable as he originally thought.
There’s something beautiful in the careful way that My Brother’s Husband handles Yaichi’s coming to terms with his feelings about his brother that’s rarely seen in mainstream comics. Rather than treating the tension between Mike and Yaichi as a massively dramatic point on conflict, the book instead treats it like the complicated and messy holding pattern that it is.
The excerpted pages from My Brother’s Husband make it clear that the book isn’t always trying to lift your spirits and ultimately, that’s a good thing. The message the Tagame’s trying to get across—that quiet, subtle bigotry can be just as harmful as loud, bombastic bigotry—isn’t always an easy one to process. Tagame understands that and hopefully, as the rest of the book unfolds, readers will too.