Behind the over-the-top battles and “let’s do our best!” heroes in Japanese manga and anime, there is often a person quietly doing the simple things that keep ordinary chaos at bay. These are things that need to be done, like airing the futons, vacuuming the tatami mats and, most importantly, cooking tasty and healthy meals. The heroes that have such a housekeeper often receive magnificent bento box lunches that make their peers jealous, because everyone acknowledges them as a sign of love and care. While some of these loyal support-heroes are traditional mothers, many, happily, are not.

In The Way of the Househusband by Kousuke Oono, an ex-Yakuza assassin cares for his absent-minded wife while she works at an ordinary office. He takes his duties hilariously seriously, and is particularly scary during flash sales at the local grocery store or chopping vegetables with an enormous knife. In the new series, Penguin and House by Akiho Ieda, an odd, penguin-like creature grumbles as he does the housework in the low-rent apartment of a slacker and his friends. Then there’s The Masterful Cat is Depressed Again Today by Hitsuzi Yamada, where an enormous black cat takes over the housework for an unmotivated, messy female office worker. Neither Pen the Penguin nor the Masterful Cat talk, but their exasperation and concern for their careless charges are sweetly evident.

But my favorite current manga housekeeper is Seere from Mama Akuma by Kuzushiro. “Akuma” is the Japanese word for a type of malevolent spirt, and Seere is in fact an immortal demon from something like Hell. He is summoned by fourth-grader Sakura who makes a contract with him to be her Mama. But she does not ask to have her dead mother back, or to have a likeness of her mother around—Sakura wants Seere to actually perform as a mother for her family. Fortunately, housekeeping isn’t too hard with a bit of magic, and Seere has become quite a good cook in the centuries he has spent terrorizing the world for his previous summoners. However, nothing has quite prepared him for parenting Sakura and her older brother, not to mention getting along with her somewhat bemused father.


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