Despite a provocative title, My Husband Won’t Fit is a sensitive and understated exploration of big questions, but its a bit too sterile for its own good.
My Husband Won’t Fit is about, perhaps unsurprisingly, a husband who won’t fit – his *****, that is. But it isn’t because he’s lugging around a gargantuan hog or because he can’t get it up or anything of that sort; he won’t fit because his wife can’t accommodate him. Ah, Japan. Never change.
This is an old story, and apparently a true one. It has its basis in an autobiography and has been retold a few times, in a manga and now in a ten-part live-action series, with a slightly less provocative title. Here and there you’ll see the older, more explicit title, My Husband’s ***** Won’t Fit, which I suppose gives things away a bit.
Besides, My Husband Won’t Fit isn’t exactly what it says on the tin. Despite the inherently comical and provocative title, this low-key Japanese drama isn’t a comedy, although it can be funny, and it isn’t particularly sexy, even though it contains sex scenes of a kind. “Contains Attempted Sex Scenes” doesn’t have the right kind of marketing ring about it, I guess, and in any case creates the wrong impression. The hook is already there, after all.
And the hook is misleading. People will have a shock when they see the title, but they’ll probably have more of a shock when they tune into the first 45-minute episode (subsequent ones are shorter) and find a glacially slow, awkward, and fumbling J-drama, without any of the suggested sensationalism. Kumiko (Natsumi Ishibashi) and Kenichi (Aoi Nakamura) meet in college, where they enjoy a careful and considered romance that isn’t cute so much as realistically mundane. Whey they inevitably venture into pantless territory, they discover that they are, at least physically, incompatible. And from there My Husband Doesn’t Fit is about what that means.
It isn’t so interested in who to blame. The root of the problem is unusual, though to the best of my knowledge based on a real-life condition, and the series handles it sensitively. The leads are likable and considerate of one another. But the problems that emanate from a marriage that isn’t able to be consummated are predictably painful and also quietly tragic. The show has a similar tone. This isn’t upbeat television; it’s a melancholy exploration of what sex means, whether or not it constitutes love, whether long-term romance can flourish without it, and whether celibacy, as a choice or an unavoidable consequence, can or should be embraced by one or both partners.
There’s a lot to like here, the understated performances in particular, and My Husband Won’t Fit shirks a lot of the gonzo excess that tends to characterize Japanese film and TV. But ironically enough it failed to captivate me because of how weirdly sterile it all felt; how sexless, how unrepresentative of life and the people who live it. I laughed sometimes where I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to and switched off when I knew I should be paying attention. Perhaps this is partly due to the unfamiliar rhythms of international media, and some nuance lost in subtitled performances. But even though I was reading the lines it still never felt like there was anything between them. It’s a complex subject approached frankly and with care, but I never located a deeper thesis beyond it all that wasn’t obvious and trite. Some people will get more out of it than me, though, I’m sure, and maybe that’s the point.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.