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The concluding volume of Tagame’s touching two-book manga series picks up where the first book leaves off. The premise: Canadian Mike Flanagan is the widower of Ryoji, who has recently died. (After coming out, Ryoji became estranged to his family and brother Yaichi, left Japan for Canada, and met and married Mike.) As the first book begins, Mike shows up for a three-week visit to Japan, hoping to pay respects to Ryoji’s relatives and learn more about his husband’s past. He ends up staying with the divorced Yaichi and his young daughter, Kana. Although Kana didn’t even know her dad had a brother, she quickly becomes enamored of their hairy Canadian guest, while her father is forced to confront his own homophobia. By the end of volume one, Mike has become a much-loved uncle to Kana, Yaichi has overcome many of his biases, and the three of them have begun to feel like a family.
The second book follows Mike’s remaining days visiting Yaichi and Kana. Kana gets a bee in her bonnet to visit an onsen (a natural hot spring); Mike and Yaichi agree, but then wonder who will accompany Kana to the women’s baths? Yaichi gets his ex-wife Natsuki to come along too, but he still has to overcome his own nervousness about bathing naked with a gay man, eventually admitting he’s overthinking the whole situation. Tagame has fun in both books setting up nerve-wracking situations like this for straight Yaichi, but he’s good about showing how these situations help break down Yaichi’s biases. Yaichi’s relationship with his ex-wife in these books shows how straight as well as gay relationships have to be negotiated and worked on throughout life.
When Yaichi runs into an old friend of Ryoji’s, who is gay but closeted, he realizes how smothering it would have been for his brother to never come out. And when a teacher at Kana’s school asks that Kana not speak about her gay uncle to fellow students, Yaichi refuses to honor the request. Getting to know Mike has changed Yaichi, so that now he actively speaks out to defend his brother and Mike’s relationship.
By the time Mike has to leave, Kana and Yaichi are sad to lose their new friend and family member. All three of them agree to meet again, leaving open whether that will be in Japan or Canada. Yaichi muses on how it is impossible to predict the future. Will Kana marry, have kids, will she be gay or straight? It’s all unpredictable. Mike refuses to swear to Kana that he’ll return, regretful that he swore to come to Japan with Ryoji, and then never could fulfill that promise. Instead, he teaches Kana to say in English, “See you soon!” Tagame excels at capturing the nuance of emotion in both his writing and artwork, and readers will tear up at the goodbye scenes, just like the members of this loving, self-made family.
Tagame’s artwork is at the top of his game. He keeps everything family-friendly, capturing with equal skill Kana’s childlike curiosity and Mike’s rugged masculinity. Both books in this series are recommended as marvelous examples of how an inclusive family works to create the love, respect, and fun that bind them together.
My Brother’s Husband, Volume 2
By Gengoroh Tagame
Hardcover, 9781101871539, 352 pp.