For the past few years, Netflix has been expanding its reach in terms of the genres it offers. From American classics to Korean dramas to Bollywood films, the franchise has broadened its international appeal. With this expansion comes the gradual globalization of viewers’ tastes. Now that Asian media is not only accessible on but also advertised and produced by Netflix itself, more and more American audiences are being nudged to consider shows outside of their routine, laugh track–heavy sitcoms.
Enter The Way of the Househusband, an anime produced by none other than Netflix itself, based on a widely popular manga created by Kousuke Oono in 2018. The story centers on Tatsu (Kenjirô Tsuda), a retired yakuza (“gangster”) boss previously nicknamed the Immortal Dragon who settles down after marrying. Before marriage, his days were spent intimidating citizens and fighting off members of rival gangs. But now, the Immortal Dragon spends his days packing adorable lunch boxes for his wife Miku (Shikuza Itô), and the only knife skills he shows off are in the kitchen.
The unique premise leads to a lot of hilarious moments and misunderstandings in Tatsu’s life, such as when the police crash a clandestine gathering Tatsu attends—suspecting his involvement in a drug deal—only to find him celebrating a birthday and bringing his homegrown basil as a party favor.
Those unfamiliar with Japanese anime might be surprised at the heavily episodic style of the series. Each episode contains a handful of short stories detailing extracts from Tatsu’s new life, lasting only a few minutes within longer 15-minute episodes. These snippets are often unrelated to each other, though they all follow the general outline of a day-in-the-life structure. The first episode, for example, jumps around from Tatsu’s encounter with a shady door-to-door knife salesman to his run in with an old gang member on the street to his attempts to throw a birthday party for his wife.
The show actually doesn’t stray far from the original manga it’s designed after, both in artistic style and in editing. Unlike other anime and animation in general, The Way of the Househusband doesn’t attempt to delineate smooth movements and seamless transitions between scenes. Instead, its editing style is blatantly and proudly comical. Most clips are extremely brief, lasting only a few seconds before cutting to the next image. The art within each frame is relatively still, with only a few small movements like a hand motion or a mouth moving to indicate a character’s actions.
The Way of the Househusband also plays quite freely with aspect ratio, using thinner frames and non-diegetic backgrounds at times to make the show feel even more like a comic book jumping off its pages rather than a world rendered in sharp 3D.
Between cuts, the show uses hilarious effects like shaking starbursts and captions for onomatopoeia to emphasize movement or sound. The captioned sound effects are quite common in some Asian shows, but the other non-diegetic effects make the show even more comical and reminiscent of mangas. Coupled with the exclamatory, sometimes overly emotional voice acting, The Way of the Househusband is nothing if not sensational.
But for all of its silliness, the show spurs an interesting conversation related to Japanese—and even American—gender roles. It’s still rare to see men quitting their jobs when they get married and settle down. Traditionally, married couples on TV and in animes consist of working husbands and domestic stay-at-home wives. But, Tatsu not only defies this stereotype, but he also seems entirely unaware this social norm even exists in his world. He seems blissfully unaware of how strange his life path is, and he takes pride in the dishes and little knick-knacks he makes while at home, including a hamburger steak and a wooden chair designed like a teddy bear. These eccentric scenes help the show break further out of the mold of traditional gender roles for married men.
To enhance the show’s zany energy, The Way of the Househusband applies the same sensational, frenzied music to Tatsu’s preparations in the kitchen as it does to his encounters with former fellow gang members on the street. While this effect obviously aims for humor, it also subverts expectations for the typically quiet, boring depictions of domestic life. It turns the lives of stay-at-home dads into hilarious, exciting dramas.
Tatsu isn’t the only radical figure in the show. His wife Miku continues to work to support both herself and her husband, and in some clips, she’s depicted as incredibly strong—even capable of overpowering Tatsu.
Though the show’s general concepts and themes may be quite progressive at times, watching the show provides little more than a laugh at its ludicrous hijinks. Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of The Way of the Househusband is that it doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t. It’s a straightforward comedy that any audience will enjoy as long as they’re up for a ridiculous laugh. And if viewers can jibe with the exaggerated animation and enhanced sound effects, they’ll find The Way of the Househusband to be a creatively comical adventure.
Photo Courtesy of Netflix