This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Until I Meet My Husband. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to homophobia, self-hatred, bullying, sexism, toxic masculinity, gender dysphoria, toxic relationships, dubious consent (dubcon), and depression, as it appears in the manga.
Based on a novel of the same name by Ryousuke Nanasaki.
This is the story of Ryousuke Nanasaki. From the time he was small, he always knew he was different. Whether it was the way he spoke, the way he walked, or the things he enjoyed, he never could mesh with what the world expected him to be as a little boy. This only became all the more apparent when he began going to school and was incessantly bullied for being a “girly-boy.” Whether it was by adults or his peers, he was always treated as an “other” until he met Tsukasa. Of course, Tsukasa was Ryousuke's best friend, but more than that, he was his unrequited first love.
This starts a journey of self-acceptance, self-love, and the journey for true love for Ryousuke Nanasaki. Ryousuke has never been what the world perceived as normal, but that would never stop him. He wants true happiness with the one he loves and wants that for everyone, no matter who you choose to love.
I read this before the novel, and I have since read both. This particular review will be exclusively for the manga version, but I do plan on reviewing the novel, as well, because these two are very different, and I think it's essential to explore what both of them explore and show in their respective mediums. With that being said, as I do with all manga, I have to talk about the art. It's absolutely adorable. Ryousuke, in particular, is so precious, especially in high school, with his long hair and hairpin. I love it. It feels a bit weird to talk about since this is a 2D depiction of a real person, but it's true. He's adorable. His husband (also named Ryousuke, funnily enough, for the sake of clarity, he will be referred to as Ryousuke-kun) is also very handsome and seems a bit more mature, which is the perfect foil for Ryousuke. I will do my best not to use too many literary terms, like “foil,” since we are talking about real people and their lives, but forgive me if I fall into that a bit.
Now, don't let the cover fool you. This is not a bubbly love story. Spoiler alert: it does have a happy ending, but much as Ryousuke had to work for it, so do we. Ryousuke goes through a ton of pain and suffering, often at the hands of people one would think he could trust, such as his teachers or parents. His middle and elementary school peers are particularly cruel, with physical assault and cruel nicknames. However, the teachers don't make things easier, making a spectacle of him by standing him in front of the class and making the students say Ryousuke isn't a “girly-boy,” which only further isolates him.
While we do see many of these moments, much of the work focuses less on the external things and more on the internal turmoil those external variables have on Ryousuke. It's an autobiography told by Ryousuke, so we get fewer narrative details than we usually would get in standard fiction. I enjoyed that as it was a very different type of manga. As a visual medium, the external is usually the most crucial part of the narrative, with some internal things peppered throughout. In this case, the art serves as more of an accessory to the internal narration we receive from Ryousuke. As a result, you can expect to read much more than you might usually have to do so in manga, which I personally enjoyed.
Finally, the last thing I want to talk about is Ryousuke's characterization of himself. I was immensely impressed by this. Since it is an autobiography, we have to assume that there will more than likely be some bias toward Ryousuke, and while he does make it clear how victimized he was, and you do feel for him, he doesn't pull punches regarding his own flaws. Sometimes, he is truly an asshole and toxic because of his own self-hatred. Most people would then find him to be detestable or a main character that's hard to root for, but it only served to humanize him and made him a much more well-rounded and genuine person. It was very satisfying to see so many sides of his personality and to be bared so honestly for us to judge. We also get a touch of information from Ryousuke-kun, which helps round out the narrative and build out Ryousuke's life and experience.
I think it goes without saying that I loved this. I highly recommend this, especially for people who may not read a lot of manga, as I feel like it reads very similar to the novel and less like a classic manga. This is a painful journey, so if you want something light and fluffy, this isn't for you. However, if you want to explore gay rights and the gay experience in Japan through the lens of a gay man who was born and raised there, this is a great read. I can't wait to tell you all about the novel.
Have you read Until I Meet My Husband? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!