“I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying” – or can I?

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Kaoru x Hajime

A 25-year-old hardworking salary-lady gets married to an otaku two years younger. Right at the start, both are already questioning whether their marriage would work, since they’re not able to guarantee each other’s happiness.

But it all works out somehow. Despite the husband scrapping by as a blogger and his chain-smoking, beer-guzzling wife being unfamiliar (or should the word be “unimpressed”?) with the world of otaku (not to mention having a brother-in-law like hers…), they live as a married couple one day at a time.

The plot for I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying (「旦那が何を言っているかわからない件」Danna ga nani o itteiru ka wakaranai ken) is already unique on its own. Originally a four-panel manga series created by Cool-kyō Shinja, it somehow made its way into a 13-episode series, with each episode lasting barely three minutes.

That’s right. Three minutes. Including a 30-second ending theme. I sat through the entire series in less than 45 minutes. And I thought My Neighbor Seki was short.  Was this even worth the airtime for the production crew? I actually suspected this to be some propaganda from the government to encourage the locals to get married and help their nation with its rapidly aging population.

And despite its brief screen time, this show is not your typical slapstick comedy. It’s very clear that this show is intended for a pretty mature audience. It expects you to get the in-jokes about marriage, the nuances of otaku culture, and sexual references.

The fact that I also chanced upon this show yesterday – Valentine’s Day – makes the coincidence all the more amusing for me.

Yet despite its quirkiness, watching the principle characters Kaoru and Hajime progress as a young married couple reveal a few themes which I wouldn’t expect:

Marriage means communicating and showing kindness to each other. The title speaks for itself: “I can’t understand what my husband is saying.” Their worlds are vastly different: Hajime doesn’t fit in as an otaku transiting into his responsibilities as a socially acceptable adult, and Kaoru has to put up with her husband’s peculiar (and slightly perverted) tastes. But when the rubber hits the road, they are talking. They go out for meals. They call on each other’s problems. They voice their insecurities. And they make known how thankful they are.

The show’s highlight for me was in Episode 11. It’s one thing to hear your wife say, “Anata ga daisuki.” But it’s a whole other level when your husband responds with, “Ore mo da. Aishiteru.”

Apparently it matters what the “neighborhood housewives” say about you. I live in Asia. I’ve grown up with an Asian community. And there are certain mindsets that irk me. Caring about what the “neighborhood housewives” say about me and my family is one of them. I’m sure gossip tendencies can be found in any society (Desperate Housewives, anyone?), but nowhere else is this more blatantly done than in Asia. I love my neighbors, but their prying ways just drive me up the wall. It’s  best to leave them be, and move on with life. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your lifestyle, married or not.

You don’t have to “arrive” in life when you marry. When you think about it, you never really “arrive” at any place in life. We have goals, dreams, ambitions, and targets to prove to ourselves that we can achieve what we want when we put our mind and hearts to it. But life never works out that way, does it? When someone comes your way and the realization hits that you want to spend the rest of your life with this person, the next step you take could either lead you back to your original plan (as a single), or create a new fork in the road and bring you down a different path. It may not be what you imagined or preferred, but it’s a journey that two people will share as a team. And that just makes the ride more pleasant (or hilarious, or hair-pulling, however you wish to make it to be).

The ending song just sums everything up. If there was only one theme to choose, this could not put it more succinctly:

[Kaoru] I want to tell you to pull yourself together

[Hajime] But when I’m with you, it’s kind of fun.

[Kaoru] With the two of us, I’m really happy.

[Both] Somehow, right now, I’m blessed.

Season two is expected to air in April 2015.

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