The Way of the Househusband turns a lot of tropes on their head in this irreverent, funny tale of a feared Yakuza legend who has given up crime for housework.
This review of The Way of the Househusband is spoiler-free.
Adapted from Kousuke Oono’s manga series, The Way of the Househusband, now streaming on Netflix, feels like an antidote to a lifetime of tough-guy tropes. Taking the usual jumping-off point of a feared Yakuza enforcer and turning it completely on its head, this all-too-brief adaptation provides five breezy episodes of homemaking from a uniquely, ridiculously macho perspective.
The titular househusband is Tatsu, once a feared criminal known as “The Immortal Dragon”, and now a stay-at-home domestic God in eternal service to his careerist wife, Miku. The joke, which is reiterated in various forms throughout multiple numbered chapters, is that Tatsu hasn’t really changed much despite the switch in career. He applies the same deathly serious expertise to DIY, cooking, and cleaning as he presumably once did to fighting, but he seems oddly unaware of how others perceive his legendary reputation as a killer. In one sequence, he sits down with a terrified door-to-door knife salesman to “test out” his wares, and it’s genuinely funny how neatly the whole premise fits together.
This is part of the essential point of The Way of the Househusband, which is that there really isn’t all that much difference between being a deadly enforcer and a devoted husband. Both require a lot of the same skills and attitudes, which means the show works not just as a comedy but as a subversion of long-held ideas about manliness. The punchline of most of the jokes is that it isn’t Tatsu who comes across as ridiculous, but everyone else who continues to find the most obvious way of categorizing his specific way of doing things.
“Everyone else” includes Miku, Tatsu’s father, members of his old gang – especially Masa, who is so taken with his homemaking skills that he becomes his apprentice in the hopes of developing a similar degree of masculine fortitude – and former rivals, with one of whom Tatsu settles his differences by engaging in an impromptu cooking contest to be decided by social media. This is enough of a range of perspectives that the first season’s largely plotless structure of vignettes feels worthwhile even without an overarching narrative or end goal.
There are deliberate anachronisms in the art of The Way of the Househusband, too, with many frames lifted directly from the manga, and actual animation kept to a minimum, with only chattering mouths and roving eyes betraying the fact that this isn’t a one-to-one adaptation of the page. It isn’t the most technically impressive visual style you’ve ever seen, certainly, but it’s so in keeping with the show’s ideas and themes that you can’t help but be charmed by it – that last bit can be said of the series as a whole.