In the Tokyo underworld, there was an enforcer known as “The Immortal Dragon,” a yukaza known for his immense strength and tenacity, for brutalizing rival crime syndicate members even when outnumbered ten to one and for his unswerving loyalty. But one day, he disappeared, whereabouts unknown until now when sightings have started to occur of the dangerous gangster in…an apron? Tatsu has retired from the yakuza life to become a househusband, keeping home for his career woman wife, Miku, but that doesn’t mean he’s changed totally. Tatsu’s approach to Roomba, point cards, babysitting, yoga, and all manner of daily life activities is quite something to behold.
The Way of Househusband is finally here! Netflix dropped the first five episodes overnight, and fans of the series, like myself, were waiting with baited breath—not only because we’re excited to see Tatsu animated, but because of the animation itself, with worries that the “moving manga” style, where panels are moved, emphasized, and given just small movements, as opposed to more traditional animation, would ruin the show. So…does it? The answer is “no,” it doesn’t ruin the series. While the better choice would still have been regular animation, clearly, I can buy into the producer’s decision at J.C. Staff to incorporate this style, which matches the fast paced gags in the series. By episode two, which this review covers, I’d mostly gotten used to the animation.
The bigger question then is that with the anime really feeling like a colorized, shifting version of the manga, is there any advantage to watching rather than or in addition to reading? Indeed, there is. This adaptation makes incredible use of sound, which with items crashing and knives slashing, is almost as important in the world of The Way of the Househusband as the visuals are. But further, the anime is bookended by a pitch-perfect opening and ending, the earlier capturing the epic feel of a yakuza drama with all the absurdity of this comedy, the latter feeling distinctly like the closing of another series involving syndicates, Cowboy Bebop (though Japanese cinema fans might point to a better allusion), and both capturing the older aesthetic associated with yakuza fare. But most of all, I can’t leave talk of sound without mentioning that which we all knew was going to great—the casting of Kenjiro Tsuda as Tatsu, bringing the necessary intensity, guile, and hilarity to the role. I can’t tell you what a blessing it is to see him singing “Happy birthday” to Miku in only the way that an enforcer could sing it. He was cast in the series after also voicing Tatsu in the promotional video, which featured the illustrious Maaya Sakamoto as Miku, and while she didn’t make the transition, Shizuka Ito absolutely holds her own opposite her anime husband.
The gags hit well—not quite the same as they do in the manga, which may have been the problem that led the animators to go this route in the first place—and had me absolutely cracking up, even as I watched in a public setting. The Roomba “episode” was my favorite (each true episode, which are about 16-18 minutes each, contains mini-episodes that match chapters in the manga), with Tatsu seeing the vacuum as a new recruit in his battle against dust, realizing that it didn’t have the strength to accomplish its mission, and eventually being betrayed to what is apparently a bloody demise in front his “boss,” the neighborhood association head. But every other episode is hilarious as well, heightened by the foul language (though claire discovered that the dub has far less) and frequency of violence, both of which continue to heighten that difference between Tatsu’s old life and new. It never gets old, the same as with the manga, though perhaps it might if you watched five straight episodes. Consider taking a break between to let your mind rest and the comedic tones from this mostly-good adaptation of the wonderfully comedic manga to set in.
The Way of the Househusband can be streamed through Netflix.