My Husband Won’t Fit is a title that is designed to grab you. Especially when you learn that the original source material had an even more eyebrow-raising moniker of ‘My Husband’s Penis Won’t Fit’. Despite the immediate thoughts of risqué content, what this Japanese drama actually delivers is a sensitive and thoughtful exploration of what happens to a loving relationship that just can’t be consummated.
Kumiko, played by Natsumi Ishibashi, is a shy and nervous college freshman. She moves into run-down student accommodation having shaking off the constant browbeating from her overbearing mother. There she quickly meets sophomore student Kenichi when he strolls into her room and makes himself at home. They go on a date of sorts, and when it comes to clothes off time they find that, physically at least, they aren’t connecting. It’s not for lack of trying, but it just won’t go in…
What follows over 10 episodes is the emotional impact that a lack of sexual compatibility has on an otherwise well-suited relationship. And unlike the gung-ho take that a western show would likely have on such a subject, the realistically reserved and repressed Japanese sensibilities means My Husband Won’t Fit is much about what isn’t said and isn’t addressed.
The very thing that works in My Husband Won’t Fit’s favour – the lack of sensationalism in what is undoubtedly a real problem for many – is also hampered by that stubborn Japanese trait of doing anything to avoid discussing a potentially upsetting subject. Yes, it is realistic that both Kumiko and Kenichi care so much about each other’s happiness that they take the guilt upon themselves.
But Kumiko, in particular, is such a stereotype of a submissive and uncommunicative Japanese woman that the long conversations of ‘ums’, ‘ahs’ and eventual ‘neverminds’ can get rather tiresome. Don’t expect any fiery arguments here!
My Husband Won’t Fit is at its best when showing the coping mechanisms of a married couple. Although Kenichi always puts Kumiko first and tries to make her feel better about her body shutting him out, her discovery that his needs are being met elsewhere is met with sad immediate repression. Even if how she finds out is unintentionally hilarious (you won’t look at a coffee shop stamp card the same way!)
On the flip side, Kumiko is such a doormat that the middle episodes suffer from a weird tone. She somewhat accidentally discovers that her problem is with her husband only. But in a scene where her naivety has her pulled protesting to bed by a stranger in a love hotel, the comedy-ish music hides the fact that she is, in fact, being raped (eventual submission notwithstanding). Her later forays with other men are deliberate but the show doesn’t return to the emotional effects of the earlier assault. Indeed, the show doesn’t even treat it as such.
For a show focussed on and containing plenty of sex, My Husband Won’t Fit is distinctly unsexy, but deliberately so. The exploration of whether love needs sex is played out by two characters who love each other strongly but both being compelled to seek sexual gratification elsewhere, even if it isn’t particularly gratifying. While the show has a lot to recommend about it, the slow pace bogs things down.
A strong start and strong end just about make up for the baggy midsection. But those desiring a passionate drama may end up being deafened by the volume of unaddressed celibacy.
Words by Michael Record