The Way of the Househusband: How Tatsu Serves Healthy Masculinity

Netflix's slice of life, comedy anime, The Way of the Househusband is untraditional in numerous aspects. The series follows an ex-yakuza, or ex-gangster, named Tatsu who gives up his life of crime to become a househusband. The show's strangeness has, at times, met criticism, such as with its 'non-moving' animation style. However, it continues to remain popular on Netflix, even winning a second season.

One of its most unique features is the design of its main character. While the “Immortal Dragon” Tatsu has retired from his fighting days, he continues battling stereotypical conceptions of gender roles. In the first season alone, he naturally and comedically redefines masculinity -- and what it means to be a husband.

One of the strictest chapters in the old masculinity rulebook regards attire. Men should wear pants. Men should not wear makeup. And men should, certainly, never don an apron. Yet, Tatsu’s most recognizable item of clothing is his apron. It dominates the other notable features of his character design, including his traditionally manly yakuza tattoos, as it is worn over all of his other articles of clothing.

Whether Tatsu must dress or dance in an unconventional manner, he is never bogged down by his sense of shame. Pride is a component of traditional masculinity that is often confused with confidence, but the two are very different concepts. Pride might stand in the way of Tatsu dancing alongside older women, but confidence is the reason he is able to overcome his pride and fulfill his duties.

Tatsu prepares a bento box for his wife in The Way of the Househusband

A daily duty, which he takes extremely seriously, is cooking. Unlike characters such as One Piece's pirate cook Sanjihe isn't a chef by profession. His bento meals and baked goodies don’t earn him monetary gain or accolades. Still, he persists in his efforts. He both cooks and cleans, regularly, because his purpose is not to do his wife a favor or to give her a break. He is not a guest in his kitchen; he has mastered it to support his partner’s career.

Tatsu is supportive in a variety of ways and because his actions originate from a place of compassion, he has won the hearts of many viewers. Whether he's caring for cats, flashing Shiba Inu pride on his apron, or running after his wife when she forgets her lunch, his attitude towards others is endearingly aggressive. He acts upon his more empathetic and caring nature and the result is not weak vulnerability, but empowered strength.

What is ultimately the most groundbreaking aspect of Tatsu’s character is his respect towards others, particularly his wife. Miku is the financially successful half of their partnership. She supports their household by working full-time as a professional designer. Her decisions to leave the housework to Tatsu and continue working after getting married are never questioned by her husband. Instead, Tatsu responds by feeling even more motivated to support his wife by doing his best to care for their home. As a result of their mutual respect, they're portrayed as an enviable and powerful couple.

Tatsu’s traditionally feminine characteristics, from showing compassion to cooking, are often depicted as gags on screen, accompanied by funky soundtracks and surreal visuals. It could be argued that the show implicitly propagates gender conformity by ridiculing itself and its message. However, by turning the seriousness of its content into comedic and strange scenes, the series actually rejects the underlying reason for toxic masculinity. By making its gags explicit and self-reflective, the anime overcomes its pride much like Tatsu himself does. Ultimately, The Way of the Househusband redefines tradition and masculinity as it humbly, hilariously, and confidently portrays the man in the apron -- soon to be seen in live-action too.

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