I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying is a fine specimen of distinctly Japanese humor, but it will likely leave the majority of the Western audience scratching its collective head. The episodes are only around three minutes long and run by at lightning speed to avoid wasting any time. The show dumps directly into its first skit with no intro or preparation. Forget runway time, you join Husband mid skydive.
Episodes of Husband have an overarching theme, but are comprised of several skits which can range from a few frames to thirty seconds long. This fast pace and rapid transition can be hard to follow, but it makes sense when you consider the anime is based on a traditional four-panel comic style. In the pilot episode, wife Kaoru is dragging her husband, Hajime, to her former high school and various eateries as she attempts to find an old ramen shop she used to enjoy. We had to watch this episode twice to figure out it had a plot at all and a third time to confirm what that plot was. That’s not a mark against the series, but if you aren’t incredibly immersed in Japanese culture and tropes, this show will be difficult to keep up with.
The humor style of the anime is based on a type of Japanese comedy called manzai, which generally features a funny-man and a straight-man. Hajime fills the role of the straight-man. His otaku nature makes him oblivious to the subtleties of his environment (and of course, his wife), while his glossy glasses prevent him from making many expressive faces. Kaoru, a bubbly office worker, plays the funny-man foil by offering very emotive outbursts and a range of expressions. Typical of manzai comedy, many of the jokes are rooted in verbal humor which will be lost in translation. This is really a shame because some of the humor seems very delicately brilliant, but there’s so much going on that you’ll have to watch a couple times to really catch it all.
Husband pays homage to other popular animations as well. In keeping with the lighthearted spirit of the show, there are a couple faux commercial break slides. One of these features Hajime drawn as the title character of Hajime no Ippo, which is pretty hilarious if your brain can process the references and context of that single frame before the next skit is underway. There are so many culture-specific tidbits of knowledge you need in order to truly enjoy the humor that it’s going to be a pointless endeavor for most Westerners. It says so much about the characters that Hajime thinks of his wife as Kaoru-tan instead of Kaoru-chan! Right? …Right?
If you’ve got hikikomori-tier understanding of everything Japan, Husband is a brilliant three-minute bullet train of comedy. If you’re asking yourself what hikikomori means, this anime is an easy pass. The few references the average Western audience will get just don’t make it worth the trouble of seeking out a show that takes longer to understand than it does to watch. Brace for impact as anime hipsters jump all over this series to demonstrate their elite cultural understandings to the zero people who have a shit to give.
Recommendation: Skip it.
Title: I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying (Danna ga Nani o Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken)
Original Source: Manga
Source Writer: Cool-kyo Shinja
Source Publisher: Ichijinsha
Director: Shinpei Nagai
Producer: Dream Creation
Writer: Shinpei Nagai
Run Start: 04/2015
Review Date: 04/2015
Episodes Reviewed: 01