That single word translates to “The Way of the Househusband.” And that title pretty much tells you everything you need to know about this short series.

Netflix licensed this five episode ONA early in 2021. Netflix and anime have had their brushes over the years, sometimes for good, sometimes not. We’ve all seen the memes showing the progression from manga to anime to Netflix! Yeah yeah that usually pokes fun at live-action adaptations, but nevertheless, people cringe in uncertainty when they hear “Netflix” and “anime” in the same sentence, and rightly so. This very short series does very little for me. I get the idea, but the idea doesn’t come across very well in the anime. If you’re looking for something really short that’s just a little funny, go right ahead. But to me, Netflix put its name on another miss here. I’ll make this quick.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 2

Basically there’s Tatsu, his cute wife Miku, his foil Masa, and then a bunch of normies and yakuza who appear and disappear in quick succession.

Tatsu is the yakuza-turned-househusband (our friend Roku from Sentouin would be jealous). The only thing I like about this character is Kenjiro Tsuda, the VA for Tatsu. This prolific and well known seiyuu has been going at it since 1995, but will be most familiar to modern audiences for playing supporting characters in popular titles such as My Hero Academia (Overhaul), Jujutsu Kaisen (Kento), and To Your Eternity (The Beholder; the narrator guy). His smooth and sinister voice is instantly recognizable. He always brings a certain level of interest factor to his characters just because of his voice. But other than that, this character is very blah. I get it, it’s supposed to be funny. The infamous yakuza turns into a housekeeping, stay-at-home husband while his otaku wife works for a living. But it isn’t really that funny. Tatsu’s yakuza mannerisms applied to housework and ordinary slice-of-life circumstances become boring after about five minutes. There really isn’t much more to him than that.

Miku, his wife, is pretty and sweet. She has figurines from her favorite anime shows which Tatsu protects ferociously. We love our otaku characters! I like her, but there isn’t much to her character other than being a sweet, hard-working, mature, and otaku wife. Maybe the manga explains it, but the anime doesn’t give us any idea of how she became Tatsu’s wife or how this situation evolved in the first place. So she’s just kind of there as the working wife and not much more.

Nor is this brilliant (not) bit of dialogue.

Masa is just a foil for Tatsu. He worships the former crime boss, but more or less just conveniently ends up getting involved with the contrived scenarios Tatsu finds himself in. I can’t even think of anything to say about this character. The series is so brief and character development isn’t even a factor, so there’s not much to discuss about any of the characters, least of all primary supporting characters and below.

Everybody else is an ordinary person or yakuza. The yakuza characters try to stir up trouble with Masa or whoever, but when Tatsu arrives, his reputation and the mannerisms he maintains despite his new status in life usually put an end to these encounters. Many of the yakuza we see now occupy similarly bland-by-contrast stations in life just like Tatsu. This is a big problem I have with this series. Tatsu’s station is supposed to be comically ironic, but when half of the other characters have the same thing going on, it makes Tatsu’s situation even less remarkable on any level. So if Tatsu’s situation wasn’t really that funny to begin with, it becomes even less entertaining after we meet Torajirou and his crepe stand and Hibari Torii working at a supermarket, etc. 

Five episodes is hardly enough time to build up a good cast. But that said, we’ve all seen characters who are great the moment you lay eyes on them. In that sense, five episodes seems like more than enough! But for Gokushufudou, I doubt 100 episodes would help. Doubtless the brief nature of the show is part of the reason the authors don’t try to develop the characters or make them any more sophisticated initially, but that also could just be an excuse for not trying to create better characters. Either way, I didn’t find any character particularly interesting in any way. I remember the cats and dogs talking in one of those episodes better than anything else!

Artwork

Rating: 5

The artwork definitely is trying to support the premise of this story. We get lots of camera angles meant to enhance the sinister looks of Tatsu and the other yakuza we encounter. And usually this coincides with catching a roach, cooking a particular dish, or getting a good deal at the supermarket. Yeah, it is what it is and not much more.

If you say “Netflix” and “anime” in the same sentence, yes you might cringe. But if you say “Netflix” and “anime” and “artwork,” you might think Violet Evergarden. The artwork there is of the highest quality; to this day (June 2021) I still maintain it has the most beautiful drawings I’ve ever seen in anime. So if nothing else, once I see Netflix’s name on an anime, I have decently high expectations for its artwork. And while I can see the quality in Gokushufudou’s drawings, there’s nothing exceptional about it. The characters themselves look a little unusual, a little undetailed, almost to the point of looking too plain. Almost like the anime artists missed in their attempts to channel the style of the manga. It’s a bit hard to describe, but it isn’t very attractive somehow.

Usually I like when an anime uses the panelling that we see in manga in an anime adaptation. Often part of the effect of a manga story comes from this panelling and its careful usage, and sometimes this can be positively channeled into the anime version. And while I’d say that’s somewhat the case with this series, it’s almost like they overdo it. There’s so much effort to impose this panelling onto the anime frames that often there’s too little motion. It’s almost like we’re being shown the manga via animation. As in, being shown panels of the manga is succession without any movement between. Example: Tatsu gets up and walks out from a room to a hallway. We’ll see him rise up, then the next frame shows him frozen in a step about halfway between where he was sitting and the doorway, and then the next frame shows him at the door, then quickly shifting to him looking out the doorway from a different angle. All of that instead of him visibly getting up and walking using animation. It feels overdone, like too much effort was put into imposing this panelling effect on the anime.

So it feels a little weird overall. It’s not really remarkable enough in any way to comment on too much. The panelling thing jumped out at me right away and felt awkward, and therefore colored my opinion a little negatively throughout the five episodes, despite how I usually feel positively about such effects. So if I had to sum up this artwork in one sentence, I’d say they tried too hard to make it resemble the manga.

Story

Rating: 3

So this whole thing is about an infamously formidable yakuza who suddenly settled down into married life. Not only that, but married life where he was the stay-at-home parent (there’s a child somewhere in this mix, not sure if it was manga or the live-action version). Of the two it takes to make a couple, he’s the one keeping house.

Apparently this idea is as mildly taboo in Japan as anywhere else, regardless of how you feel about such roles, etc. The authors here certainly want the audience to see this situation as completely backwards, a yakuza becoming a househusband. Modern real-world sentiments aside, one can see how this ironic situation could be funny. But that’s as far as the funny goes. Seeing Tatsu threaten vegetables isn’t really funny. The white powder joke appears maybe seven or eight times, which is five or six too many. Tatsu taking pictures of food for the fifth time induces the blank stare of boredom. Tatsu mixing with stereotypical Japanese housewives in activities such as yoga and volleyball is just dumb. It’s all extremely contrived. And how could it not be? The premise itself is contrived. How could a yakuza switch over to such a role while maintaining all his yakuza mannerisms but none of his yakuza ways or pursuits? It would be like turning Dr. Tenma from Monster into a mahou shoujo protagonist. Sure it’s weird, but so what?

So this story begins and ends with its premise, and nothing much comes of it. It’s presented in short vignettes within each episode, just trying to show how Tatsu deals with all these various encounters with normal people and yakuza in his new role in life. That’s really the only way you could do this, but even here, the vignettes are almost too short. There’s five or six of these in each episode, and each episode is only 15 minutes. You do the math: 2-3 minutes per scene. Nothing much happens, then we move on. The scenes are meant to emphasize the irony, but they, like everything else in this brief series, feel too contrived, too short, and not very interesting.

Overall: 3

Netflix dropped the ball with this one. And while I understand that Netflix is simply licensing these productions from actual anime production studios, they make sure you see their name on them, and certainly they play a role in the production and marketing of these series. So I will continue to point the finger at them for both praise and criticism for the shows they involve themselves with. And this one was most underwhelming. 

This is probably one of those rare instances where manga is a better medium for this kind of a story than anime. Perhaps this is why the producers felt they had to impose the manga panelling feel on the story, sensing the same thing I did. The manga continues to be popular even as I write this (2021), and when I see brief snippets from it, I can see why. The still reactions and the viewing angles and the shadowing seem fairly entertaining, especially given the irony of the underlying premise in the story. So while perhaps Netflix wanted to capitalize on the manga’s popularity, perhaps this wasn’t the best choice for the anime medium. 

Apparently the word on the street is that more of this series in production however, as of June 2021. I don’t know how much more they can even do with this. How many more recipes can Tatsu come up with? Seriously, what other content can they cram into these vignettes? Slice-of-life is tricky in the first place, because it approaches the boundary between the real world and the anime world. But here, we impress the ridiculous onto the ordinary, and I can’t imagine there’s much ordinary left to impose Tatsu’s shadowy brow onto. Not that would be of any interest to anyone. Tatsu and Miku even buy a car in this first season. They’re already running out of ideas.

So I doubt my opinion will change much no matter how many of these episodes we get. My experience was bland. A good VA and a weird scene with cats and dogs talking. Is that really where Netflix is at this point?

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