#1 Overcoming homophobia
Homophobia is not always clear cut or easy to identify. Sure, yelling slurs and assaulting gay people is homophobic; few would deny that. However, there are also homophobic behaviors that are less obvious. Behavior like that of My Brother’s Husband protagonist Yaichi.
The story kicks off with him meeting a burly Canadian called Mike, who is the husband of Yaichi’s recently-deceased brother. Yaichi grew distant from his brother after he came out as a homosexual, for reasons he struggles to articulate. He doesn’t consider himself homophobic, but he has “misgivings” about gay people. He didn’t attend his brother’s wedding nor his funeral. He didn’t even tell any of this to his daughter Kana, who finds out that she had an uncle only because Mike shows up when he does. Yaichi was content with just letting his twin brother fade from his family history. Not as an overt action of hatred, but rather the absence of any action at all.
Yaichi initially treats Mike’s visit as bothersome; sparing him only the barest of hospitality. When Kana then starts asking questions about being gay, Yaichi fully expects her to be disgusted by the answers. Imagine his shock when she accepts Mike’s explanations unconditionally. She is ecstatic about discovering that she has a cool uncle she never knew about and him being gay doesn’t bother her in the slightest.
Seeing his daughter accept homosexuality so easily inspires Yaichi to consider why he himself feels so anxious about it. Why does this bother him so much? Why did he abandon his brother just because he was into dudes? This sets Yaichi unto a path towards bettering himself, during which Mike plays a big role. Through Mike, Yaichi comes to learn a lot about his brother that he never knew. Including how genuine the love between him and Mike was; something that becomes apparent as Mike himself struggles to cope with his grief.
Following Yaichi’s growth was a major appeal for My Brother’s Husband. It tells the tale of a man navigating his own insecurities and biases, and coming to not only disavow but also oppose the bigoted views he once held. All while also being a touching story with heartwrenching moments peppered throughout.
#2 Becoming a family
A big theme throughout My Brother’s Husband is the notion of becoming a family. Mike is only related to Yaichi and Kana by the laws of a foreign country. He’s effectively a stranger walking into their lives. It is only through spending time together—sharing experiences and joy—that they become a family in the emotional sense also.
That may sound serious, but it’s really a fun and lighthearted process. Many of the manga’s 28 chapters revolve around fun activities and everyday interactions between Mike, Yaichi, and Kana. Stuff like playing with each other, family trips, enjoying dinner together. Fun activities that you’d expect from a family.
#3 The LGBT+ Experience
My Brother’s Husband is the kind of manga that I wish I could have read when I was a teenager. In helping Yaichi better understand his late brother, the manga touches a lot on the experiences of gay people in today’s society. Particularly those who are young and still trying to find their place in the world.
Stories about kids being outcast from their families, the fear of coming out, all the dangers and anxieties that come with being homosexual. My Brother’s Husband weaves these struggles into its story in an impactful way.
The dialogue and discussions that unfold from this made me feel very heard. The stories that Mike relates, the advice it indirectly gives, and the catharsis of seeing adults accept and discuss homosexuality; I enjoyed it a lot and imagine it would have been tremendously encouraging to a younger version of me. Even as an adult mostly confident in who he is, the story resonated strongly with me. I saw a lot of myself in Mike. That made a lot of his interactions with Yaichi and Kana touching, especially as Yaichi comes to accept Mike. The idea that positive interactions can sway the close-minded was very uplifting.