Using manga to frame the normalization of gayness

My Brother’s Husband

Gengoroh Tagame and Anne Ishii

Graphic Novel


This sequel and conclusion to the story started in volume one adeptly offers a series of adventures and events to effectively convey how being LGBTQ is harmless and widely being accepted. It’s quite an edge-pushing book for conservative Japan and the relatively non-accepting social climate that prevails there. Openly gay author Gengorah Tagame takes a stance and a chance with these works challenging the status quo.

Manga is a comic style that is popular the world over, but the Japanese get credit for originating and mastering it. This book is strictly black and white and many of the pages have no dialogue. But to illustrate interactions and emotions requires an adept hand, and Tagame and Ishii accomplish it admirably.

The trick for us Westerners is, of course, the way books are laid out in Japan. You have to get used to flipping the pages from the back towards the front and reading the panels on each page right to left, but still top to bottom. It takes some getting used to.

Broadly, the story revolves around Yaichi, his daughter Kana and how their lives gradually change and incorporate Mike Flanagan, Yaichi’s gay brother-in-law. There are several moments of revelation and learning in the book through the slow process of realizing that Mike is really just an ordinary guy — something most Japanese might consider a radical idea.

A favorite moment for me is when they go for ice cream. I love the idea of wasabi ice cream and I find it a great analogy for how every one of us is unique within our loves, our tastes and our preferences. But there are other equally compelling chapters as well. It’s also fascinating to find Japanese characters occasionally embedded within the art, to bring us back to the sense of place.

This is a great book for children and young adults alike — and an interesting and entertaining read even for this middle-aged gay guy. 


Gengoroh Tagame and Anne Ishii will be at the Philly AIDS Thrift @ Giovanni’s Room table for greeting and book signing beginning at 2 p.m. at Sunday’s OutFest.


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*(B) Bisexual (F) Feminist (G) Gay (L) Lesbian (T) Trans


Philly AIDS Thrift @ Giovanni’s Room is at the corner of 12th and Pine streets. All proceeds from purchase there or online at benefit AIDS agencies.