After losing her mother to a traffic accident, five-year-old tomboy Michiru finds a "suspicious person" moving into her home: her father's younger brother Kouji, whom she quickly nicknames "Beard Gorilla." While awkward at first, it doesn't take long for them to develop a relationship that's closer to one between a brother and sister than an uncle and niece.
Dad, The Bearded Gorilla, and I is a true example of a manga that does well at what it sets out to do - a very pleasant slice of life/ comedy that works to immerse the reader into the lives of the characters at hand. Yet at the same time this manga delves upon the fundamentals of human emotion with a soft touch that I have rarely seen in anything else I have read or watched - a manga that finds the light comedy hidden within the fairly uneventful lives of the characters as a way of showcasing human relationships and emotion.
The synopsis written on
this page doesn't really get into the depths of the story. This manga is about how the death of one beloved person can have a profound affect on the lives of many characters. Souichi, one of our three main characters, becomes a widower after his wife Miyuki tragically dies in a car crash. His brother Kouji, a bearded freelance web desginer and work at home man, is brought in to help Souichi take care of his young daughter Michiru. This triggers a jovial relationship between an uncle and niece that serves to be the driving force of the manga itself - an important piece to the relationships developed throughout the series, and also a key for Souichi to move on from the tragedy. What erupts from a tragic event is a multitude of heartwarming and fun stories. Hidden within these comedic sequences are small, but seemingly everlasting moments of sadness and turmoil. The moments where Souichi's happiness is shattered by memories of his late wife really throws a wrench int my throat, as the jovial atmosphere of the manga changes abruptly and I am reminded that Souichi is truly suffering on the inside.
And this is what the manga does to you. A likeable and realistic cast paired up with fairly relatable stories really makes it hard not to put ourselves in the situations at hand. While the emotions of frustration and sadness running through each character is never described outright for the sake of keeping the atmosphere peaceful, for me it was impossible not to have a clear view of the makeup of the character's emotions due to this forged connection.
The true key within this manga is the dynamic love-hate relationship that Kouji forges with Michiru. They act as a happy point (can't think of anything on the spot to describe this) in every chapter, a way of keeping the premise story in line. The dark mood of the premise is completely washed away the moment the two met, and their comedic conversations and interactions really keep the emotions (either dark or soapy) from getting too out of hand. Furthermore, the relationship really acts as a way for Souichi to keep his personality from changing due to the affects of the tragedy. Michiru's happiness and the active household (due to the presence of the bearded Gorilla Kouji) acts as a foothold for him to move on.
*/ Small Spoilers up ahead choose to skip if you want
A really important piece of the manga that truly makes it special is the complexity of the relationship between Souichi and Hiwa (a younger coworker under Souichi) that I honestly find hard to ignore when discussing this manga. What starts as an innocent connection between the two that mirrors Souichi and his wife's first meeting develops into a complicated relationship involving several characters and plotlines. While Michiru and Kouji act as the foothold to keep Souichi's emotions in check, Souichi's interactions with Hiwa truly act as encouragement for Souichi to move forward with his life. While the fact is that both are fully fledged adults, the innocence within this relationship isn't something to be scoffed at for being unrealistic. Instead, it brings out how broken and misplaced both characters are -- Hiwa being inexperienced, not with being in a relationship as she has experience in that regard, but the feeling of liking someone earnestly. Souichi being unable to accept the death of his wife as a reality he must face. Their interactions work to overwrite their bad experiences and memories that deter them at the start of the story.
At the same time, both characters know, but realistically can't acknowledge each other's feelings due to their circumstances. Hiwa recognizes that Souichi's wife is still prevalent in his life with the presence of Michiru, and in addition to this, she feels that it was unfair for her to like Souichi when her best friend Yurika tried so hard to win Souichi's affection. Her inability to act upon these feelings sends mixed signals to Souichi, who is conflicted by Miyuki and her death. Souichi realizes that if he accepts his own feelings, he is accepting that he is moving on, or 'overwriting' his memories of his late wife. Due to how much of an impact Miyuki had on his life, he does not want to let go of the cherished memories that he had built with Miyuki. These feelings act as a final hurdle, an unavoidable and half-impossible one for Souichi to jump over. This situation not only works as a subtle way of fleshing out both characters, it also brings out the best of others involved such as coworkers Hino and Yurika, who try in their own ways to help both move on while conflicted themselves with their own relationships with the characters.
*/ //end spoilers
Sadaji Koike's art remains simplistic and almost cartoony throughout the entire manga. Only in some occurrences do are the characters drawn in detail, usually to express some emotion or action. However, the art really works to create various themes used to drive the story. What I (and also some reddit users on r/manga) seemed to have noticed is the fact that snow, and winter itself, starts off as a symbol for grief and sadness (Miyuki's death in the winter), and gradually becomes a season of fun for every character. Scenes of sadness and isolation often have empty or a very basic environment drawn, with limited or no dialogue. These scenes are placed at the beginning of chapters so that rather than seeing most of the details of what led up to a scene the reader is shown the results. Koike does this to dedicate more screen-time for us to see how Souichi reacts and grows from sadness rather than how sadness is evoked within him.
Yet this manga keeps it simple. The complexity that I described really isn't the focus of the story. I went into depth because I had a lot to say. "Chichi no Hige-Gorilla to Watashi" sets out to entertain and not really to delve too deeply into the characters. The story is sincere with this direction, and its only voluntary for you to really go deep into thinking about the plotline and characters. Sometimes heartwarming, sometimes 'feels invoking', and almost often will make you chuckle, "Chichi no Hige-Gorilla to Watashi" is a very enjoyable and fast read for anyone searching for a lighthearted and comedic story.
Big thanks to Meraki scans for translating this manga!
(its still ongoing tho and updates r slow cause translations caught up with raws Q.Q)