I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying: 2nd Thread Original creator: Cool-Kyo Shinja (manga published by Ichijinsha)
Directed by: Shinpei Nagai
Character Design by: Ryuichi Baba
Produced by: Seven
Voice cast: Kenichi Suzumura, Yukari Tamura, Daisuke Tonosaki, Kaori Shimizu, Rie Kugimiya, Ryoko Shintani, Sayaka Horino, Toshifumi Sakai.
Air dates: Thursdays 1:30 pm CDT on Crunchyroll
It’s not always easy being an otaku, a cosplayer, or even just a fan, especially when dealing with friends, neighbors, loved ones, and society in general. Opinions among the ani-muggles can run the gamut from “immature” to “perverted” and everything seemingly negative in between. What are two people to do when they have almost nothing – at least at first glance – in common?
That’s a question that the series I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying, or Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai ken, tackles with self-referencing gusto.
Based on the four-panel manga by Cool-kyo Shinja, the story revolves around Kaoru Tsunashi, a hard-working typical office lady, her hapless otaku husband, Hajime, and their attempts to communicate and come to some sort of understanding between them. Kaoru is the quintessential ani-muggle who has no earthly notion of why her husband is so wrapped up in this stuff, and Hajime is a walking trope himself, a NEET who is obsessed with anime and online blogging, an existence that doesn’t bode well for his ability to play the role of breadwinner. Needless to say the roles here are reversed, at least at first.
I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying is a series where the tropes and references to not just anime and manga, but otaku culture in general, come at you thick and fast. The characters themselves are tropes, of course. Kaoru is all consumed with work, smokes too much, and drinks to excess whenever she imbibes. Hajime is the stereotypical serious otaku. When they go to see an animated feature together, Kaoru asks him if he enjoyed the movie, and we’re treated to a shot of Hajime spewing the over-the-top rhetoric one tends to find in one too many anime reviews, a jab at those among us who take the genre – and ourselves – so seriously that we take all the fun out of watching it.
All sorts of characters come into play in this series, including Kaoru’s father, a professional chef who, of course, disapproves violently of the marriage. The fact that he’s rendered as a handsome lady-killer chef is itself a trope and a nod to the cooking anime and manga subgenre. But it doesn’t stop there. Hajime’s younger brother Mayotama (or as Hajime hilariously refers to him, his bro-ster) is not only an otaku as well, but he’s also a cross-dressing best-selling author of BL (boy love) doujinshi who mercilessly flirts with his older brother.
With all that going on, you’d think this couple was on the fast track to divorce court, but nothing doing. Kaoru and Hajime truly are in love with each other, and the awkwardness of their lives together just adds to the charm of their relationship. When Kaoru has her girlfriends over to visit, Hajime introduces himself wearing one of those ridiculous horse head masks and brings the house down. In the midst of all the craziness, there are tender moments where each one shows their vulnerability and the other party gently and lovingly supports. You can’t help but cheer for these two as they go through their lives together.
The pacing of this series is frantic, owing, I believe, to the story’s origin as a four-panel manga and each episode’s 3 Â½ minute format. This is literally a wonderful little show, not only for the hardcore anime and manga fan, but also for every loved one who ever sat on the sidelines and thought to themselves, “What do they see in this stuff?” I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying is a hilarious send-up of not only hardcore fan culture, itself a worthy target for its tendency to sometimes lean toward outrage and pretentiousness, but it’s also a jab at the foibles and peccadilloes that we all share. Sure, it’s just a comedy, but in the tradition of all good comedies, it’s also a testament to our ability as human beings to love one another, no matter how big our differences may seem.
The second season of I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying – its self-titled second thread – is streaming on Crunchyroll every Thursday at 1:30 p.m. CDT for you to get your geek on.