My Brother the Shut-In Volume 1
I haven’t had much chance to explore Kodansha’s digital-only manga releases, and I’m not sure why I decided to start with this one, other than that it dealt with a situation we don’t often see here. But I enjoyed the story, in part because it’s unusual, and I’d like to see more.
My Brother the Shut-In is about high school student Shino, who enjoys her time with friends and her after-school job. She tells everyone she’s an only child because she’s embarrassed by her brother, who went into his room four years ago and didn’t come out. He had issues with middle school and never went to high school, which may be a factor in their parents splitting up.
Instead of her home being a sanctuary, it’s a place (with plenty of tasks) she tolerates, while she gets recharged by the things she does elsewhere. She resents him being allowed to take advantage of her hard work.
Now, he’s emerging. She’s harsh to him, not wanting things to change now that she’s adapted to this unusual existence, and she’s afraid her lie will be found out. Eventually, she’ll warm somewhat to his attempts to reach out to his family, but I was surprised at how sympathetic her situation was throughout. She’d been ostracized before due to his choices, so expecting that to happen again makes a certain amount of sense. And she’s made her own choices in contrast with his, working hard and leaving home as much as possible.
There’s a surprising amount of attention paid to psychology and motivations here, along with several dream sequences that reveal more of the character’s fears and challenges. Given the work Shino’s expected to do — housekeeping and making meals — I appreciated the way author Kinoko Higurashi captured the details of the home, outfits, hairstyles, and so on.
There’s one section where Higurashi draws the backstory of the siblings, portraying them as puppets, which makes them both childlike and suggests being controlled by forces outside their choice. It’s odd but effective. I also liked the details of the box lunch in a chapter about making food for others and demonstrating knowledge of their likes and dislikes.
I really liked how the notes were handled, too. On a page with a culture-specific reference, there’s an asterisk and a brief explanation, but the back of the book goes into more detail. So the reading isn’t interrupted as the reader moves through the story, but they can find out more afterwards.
The publisher’s website has the first chapter available to sample.