Ever since Netflix entered the anime market, the company has produced many high-quality series with its seemingly unlimited budget. So it puzzled many viewers that the latest anime coming to Netflix, The Way of the Househusband looked not only cheap, but that it looked like a PowerPoint presentation, containing mostly still frames with very few moving images.
Fans of the manga were initially excited for the anime adaptation. Kousuke Oono's fan-favorite manga tells a comedic story about an ex-yakuza turned house husband, but the trailer of the anime confused many given its motionless style. But at the time, some believed it to be a gimmick for marketing the anime, so when the trailer turned out to be an accurate representation of the animation style, many fans were disappointed. However, what at first seemed like blatant corner-cutting is actually more complicated.
It turns out that the style is a deliberate choice, according to an interview with director Kon Chiaki, the request from the anime producer was to “make an anime that's exactly like a manga…it never moves” It allegedly took a lot of trial and error from the director to grasp the right tone for this anime. There are many scenes, such as the ones with the cat Gin, where it’s more difficult to present as motionless, so the style is not as simple to execute as it looks. The manga’s creator Kousuke Oono also appreciated this style of animation and praised it for preserving the comedic timing of the source material.
The choice of Chiaki to direct the anime looks to be deliberate as well, she previously directed the comedy anime Back Street Girls, about three yakuza members that were forced into sex-change operations and became underground idols. The yakuza comedy and the “gap-moe” angle are very similar to The Way of the Househusband, and there are also many scenes in Back Street Girls that barely move. So Chiaki is the perfect choice for the style of anime The Way of the Househusband has landed on.
Even though The Way of the Househusband is an extreme example of non-moving animation, it’s not the first to use this style. It’s actually quite common in the gag comedy genre to contain motionless scenes for dry, comedic effect. For instance, the short-form comedy anime Gag Manga Biyori often uses static images to comedic effect and relied heavily on the cheap-looking style to enhance its deadpan humor.
The reason why The Way of the House Husband’s non-moving style feels jarring is that the story has many dynamic scenes where characters fight or get into conflicts, so it looks weird when these scenes don’t move. But as the director notes, the manga is focused on presenting exaggerated character expressions for comedy, so the non-moving style succeeds in highlighting this aspect.
The best part of the anime is the voice acting, which significantly enriches the viewing experience. If there is an argument for the existence of this anime, it would be to show what excellent voice acting can bring to an anime. Tsuda Kenjiro’s kansai dialect and the dramatic yakuza speak perfectly embodies Tatsu (and gives the most hilarious rendition of the birthday song ever). The cast of supporting characters, lead by Shizuka Ito as Tatsu’s wife and Kazuyuki Okitsu as Tatsu’s yakuza sidekick, all give brilliant performances with comedic and nuanced line readings that give the anime a lively dynamism.
Once you get used to the motionless style, it’s a fun series to watch, the over-the-top close-ups of the characters’ expressions, plus how editing and sound effects are used, convey a sense of motion are in an ingenious way. These are the elements that are often underappreciated in a regular anime, so the way they are emphasized in this series should be commended.
If fans of the manga want to see Tatsu move, there is also a live-action trailer starring Tsuda Kenjiro, which is arguably the most accurate moving portrayal of the manga out there, even better than the live-action J-drama that aired in 2020.