Way of the Househusband, like Science Fell In Love So I Tried To Prove It earlier, is a comedy anime based around variations on one theme – the theme being, “What if a super badass retired yakuza was really goddamn good at domestic tasks.”
In short, the main recurring joke of Way of the Househusband makes variations on is flipping the perspective reinforced by societal toxic masculinity that being good at housework – cooking, cleaning, and running a house – cannot be manly, by having a protagonist who is a complete and total badass who is really great at doing those tasks.
Where the variation comes in is that rather than, for example, being a Golgo-13 type assassin, our protagonist, “The Immortal Dragon” Tatsu, is probably closer to Kazuma Kiryu of the Yakuza games. He’s got Kiryu’s swagger, and his reputation as the man that veteran Yakuza tell their kohai about to make sure they eat their vegetables and go to bed on time. However, he’s absolutely out of the business, he’s fine being out of the business, and enjoys the domestic life. This does not in any way stop him from using phrasing to refer to cornstarch or wheat flour that makes it come off like he’s referring to drugs.
This plays out in some really good and absolutely hilarious ways. For example, when Tatsu’s wife, Miku, tries to help cook, she chops vegetables in a very harsh, rough way that is clearly demolishing the knife’s cutting edge (which hurt even me to watch), and is clearly hurting Tatsu by proxy as he witnesses the harm being done to that poor knife’s cutting edge. Similarly, Tatsu’s former underling, Masa, ends up being taken under Tatsu’s wing in learning the ways of domesticity, the cops thinking Tatsu growing a small herb garden on the balcony is an illegal pot grow (sometimes oregano is actually oregano), and so on.
The anime adaptation uses a very deliberately limited form of animation, which I think works in the show’s favor. To use the example of Tatsu’s wife’s poor knife work, it makes her strikes seem more forceful and damaging than if they were animated more fluidly. Similarly, some of the more gangster-esque elements of the humor land better that way, as it makes the movements of the characters feel more exaggerated. This is also helped by a score that very much feels like it’s out of the Yakuza Papers films, complete with bits that reference the big brass hits that were used in the opening credits of my video reviews of the films.
If I have a complaint with the show – it’s that while the manga it’s based on is something of a yonkoma (4-panel gag strip), the anime itself feels a little too locked to that structure. It makes the flow of the episodes somewhat jerky, which makes things a little rough.
Otherwise, I really enjoyed the show, and I strongly recommend it.Way of the Househusband is currently available for streaming on Netflix.