It was a casting decision made in heaven. Kenjiro Tsuda voices the former-Yakuza-turned-perfect-husband in Netflix‘s adaptation of the cult hit manga. The excitement for the series began to wither as it became more obvious that the anime isn’t really…”animated.”
This series is streaming on Netflix
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Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Nick, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been blown away by the overall quality of the new premieres this season. Episode after episode, show after show, my arms can barely hold all of the quirky, interesting, and bold new anime titles that aspire to push this quasi-medium of ours forward. I can’t wait to talk about them! Too bad we can’t yet! We gotta pay the Netflix tax first, so let’s break down just what the heck happened here.
Ah yes, the highly anticipated adaptation of a cult-favorite manga that was easily the most talked-about thing announced back during that overlong Netflix Anime Announcement TV special last year. Surely nothing could go wrong he-
Man this sure was a weird way to release a second season of Back Street Girls: Gokudols.
And if we do get a Back Street Girls season 2, ANN better be ready to break out the hazard pay.
But there’s also plenty of wrong ways to do it and uh, this is one of em:
And I believe the story is that this style was a request/demand by one of the bigwig producers, so I’m not laying any blame on anyone actually involved with the hard work of making this style work as much as possible. It’s a shitty situation. And it certainly doesn’t help that this has been applied to the genre that probably requires the most fine-tuning out of all of them when it comes to stuff like presentation and pacing: comedy.
Let’s be up front. Househusband is a dirt simple premise. But that’s exactly why proper delivery – setup, anticipation, punchline – is so important to make it work. The manga is 1 joke over and over again, and the only way to keep that fresh is to nail the timing. If you don’t do that, you wind up with a repetitive slog.
Like, we don’t have to talk shop too deeply—mostly because I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about—but manga and anime two fundamentally different mediums. The way you process information by reading a still picture with printed words is completely different from how you process information from moving pictures and spoken words. Translation from one medium to the other involves just that: translation. You have to make educated decisions and changes in order to take a joke that worked in a manga and make it work in an anime.
Honestly, in spite of my complaints (which I haven’t exhausted yet), the intrinsic charm of the material still ensured I had a pretty darn good time watching it. Tatsu is a fun character, and anime does at least one thing right by casting the single most perfect voice actor for him: the inimitable Kenjiro Tsuda.
Just imagine TsudaKen doing a Borat voice.
I genuinely believe a lot of Househusband’s success stems from people who just wanna see a happy couple who love each other very much. It’s a beautiful and uncomplicated thing to behold.
It also helps that Tatsu is the platonic ideal of the Venn diagram intersection between Wife Guy and Malewife.
See what I’m saying? This should be an easy pitch! You have to actively try to screw this up when the entire internet has already turned multiple chapters of the manga into inescapable memes. Yet somehow they did it.
Lest I complain too much about the adaptation choices, however, I do have a Netflix-centric complaint: they don’t translate one of the best Tatsu & Miku moments! He only wins his Instagram contest because Miku gives him his sole like.
Now that’s true love.
I mean if we’re talking Netflix problems I could also mention the bingewatch model is terrible for this show in particular. This release is five 15-minute episodes, each divided in about 6 short segments, all with the same basic structure and pacing. Even if the animation doesn’t put you off, watching all of this in one sitting is a great way to make a breezy comedy feel interminable.
Yeah I imagine one of the fun things about adapting a comedy to animation is how it opens the door to enhancing the material with new jokes you can only do in animation. Just spitballing, but consider if you took all the effort spent redrawing the manga panels exactly, and instead directed it towards some absurd sakuga localized entirely in that scene. Boom, you have a novel visual component that complements the deadpan over-the-top humor of the source material.
It makes sense! Animators new and old are gonna be more familiar with the usual workflow. And if you’re gonna rock that boat you better have a good reason for doing it.
Oh yeah, and sometimes the negative space is filled in with random colors, because why the hell not?
Personally I love it when anime looks like a Youtube Let’s Play video of a game made before widescreen.
Ha, I knew I’d find a way to slide the mahjong scene in here.