Hello! It’s time for another wonderful OWLS tour blog post. This month, the OWLS blog tour theme is around ‘bloodlines’. When you get a chance please check out the lovely Andrealina and her post on ‘Family & Dragon Maid‘. You can check out a full schedule of all the OWLS posts over here!
Family means everything (or does it?) This month, we will be discussing the importance of family relationships in anime and pop culture. Family relationships include a child and his/her parents, sibling rivalries, adoptions, and etc. Some questions about family that we will be contemplating on include how one’s family shapes his or her identity? How do we define family? How does a broken household influence a person’s view on family? We will be exploring these questions and types of relationships in this blog tour—so enjoy!
Who is Gengoroh Tagame?
Before I begin to talk about ‘My Brother’s Husband’, a quick introduction on its creator is in order. Gengoroh Tagame is considered one of the most influential gay manga author in Japan (graphic images in this link and the next one). Previous to Tagame’s work, most BL stories featured bishounen characters – thin and beautiful. Tagame’s work is famous for its feature of hyper masculine men with a variety of body types. Lunsing 2006 believes that Tagame’s work changed Japan’s gay community, allowing great acceptance for larger sized men and even a growth in popularity for hair and muscles! This is one of the reasons that ‘My Brother’s Husband’ is such a significant manga. It is the first manga depicting the struggles of a gay man written by an influential gay mangaka.
The series also marks a significant shift from what Tagame is known for, very graphic works. His previous work is not in line with OWLS vision and values. In an interview with Brigid Alverson (2017) he discussed how he wanted to create manga that dealt with issues that weren’t being dealt with elsewhere. This series is specifically to help bridge the gap between gay and straight audiences. In the future he hopes to write about a series that discusses self-doubt and self-acceptance.
Acceptance in Family
As briefly mentioned above, ‘My Brother’s Husband’ is manga series by Gengoroh Tagame. The series follows Yaichi and his daughter Kana, who are visited by a Canadian, Mike. Mike is the husband of Yaichi’s twin brother, Ryoji, however Ryoji recently passed away. Yaichi is initially very suspicious and unwelcoming of Mike, telling him not to call him ‘brother’ and even not trusting him alone with Kana. It is through seeing Kana’s unwavering acceptance of Mike, that Yaichi begins to question his own position. He slowly begins to accept Mike, as both a part of his family, and as someone who was a significant part of his deceased brother’s life.
However, the series does reflect that not all families are like Yaichi’s, and many hold his previous thinking. For example, the series shows another gay man who lives in Yaichi’s village who keeps his sexuality a secret out of fear. The series also features a young boy who talks to Mike, he is so relieved to find someone like him, and again mentions that coming out to his parents would be too terrifying. So while the series does show us the warm and loving environment that acceptance within family can create, it also shows the opposite. It shows us the fear that one can live in, in their own family, scared that their loved ones will discover ‘who they really are’.
This ultimately reflects a cruel reality. In Australia, about 4.6% of 14-19 year olds identify at LGBTIQ, and 6.5% of people in their 20s. Yet LGBTIQ are significantly over-represented in Australia’s homeless population, with 25% of the young homeless identifying as LGBTIQ. The article cites school bullying and family violence for this statistic. The fear surrounding coming out, and acceptance often reflects a life or death situation.
The manga also explores dealing with grief and death within the family. Mike visits Japan and his husband’s family as a way of reconnecting to his love after his passing. For his husband, Ryoji, it was a dream to return to Japan and introduce Yaichi to his husband. By interacting with Yaichi, Mike is able to overcome his grief. Yaichi tells him more about Ryoji’s life, showing him places from their childhood like parks and restaurants. Mike is able to get a greater sense of Ryoji’s life. Meeting Mike also affects Yaichi. Yaichi explicitly states in the manga that he never grieves, not when his parents died and not when Ryoji died. But seeing Mike brings his brother’s death to the forefront. Yaichi must confront his feelings about his brother, guilt over his treatment of him, and his grief. Through Yaichi and Mike’s relationship, and ultimately Yaichi’s acceptance, the two of them are able to work through their grief, and create their new family.
My choice for this month’s tour is largely inspired by an issue happening within Australia. Many of you would be surprised to know that gay marriage is illegal in Australia, we’re even behind our fellow kiwis over in New Zealand who legalised it in 2013. The issue of gay marriage has been debated over the last few years, and nothing has come of it. The parliament has had enough and organised a plebiscite, essentially a nation-wide poll where we get to vote either ‘yes’ we want gay marriage, or ‘no’ we don’t want it. Sadly, regardless of the outcome the politicians can still decide to usurp public sentiment. So even if we all say ‘heck yeah!’ the parliament can say ‘no’, and it’ll be a shut case. With this in mind I wanted to find a series that celebrate LGBTIQ family relationships. I hope this blog post will reflect my, and the rest of the OWLS team, support for the LGBTIQ community.