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The Yakuza’s Bias [Review]

The success of The Way of the Househusband has inspired a mini-boom of comedies about tough, macho, or sometimes just improbable characters throwing themselves into feminine-coded activities. The Yakuza’s Bias starts from what may be the funniest of these premises yet: a hardened gangster becoming a K-pop stan.

Ken Kanashiro, second in command of the Washio crime family, is initiated into hardcore pop music fandom by Megumi, the boss’s daughter, who follows the five-member group MNW. Every MNW fan has a favorite member, or “bias,” and Ken pledges fealty to handsome, tousle-haired Jun, publicly begging the singer to be his aniki (“big brother,” but also a yakuza term for a superior). “Has my heart ever burned this bright before?” he wonders.

Like Way of the Househusband, The Yakuza’s Bias gets a lot of comedy mileage out of copying the visual style of old-school hardboiled manga artists like Ryoichi Ikegami. With his scarred face and dead eyes, Ken is an intimidating sight, which is why it’s funny to watch him stand in the front row of a concert with manly tears pouring down his cheeks. His new passion throws the underworld into chaos; his conversations about scoring tickets and merch are misinterpreted as being about drug deals, organ harvesting, or hostage negotiations, and soon his fellow gangsters are either won over to K-pop or left utterly confused. Meanwhile, his Instagram account takes off in MNW fandom. “I don’t know if he’s a gangster or an influencer anymore,” groans a comrade. Could Jun himself stan the yakuza who stans him?

All of this is played for pure comedy, with little gang violence or serious drama intruding to weigh down the feather-light mood. Kodansha’s localization team has enormous fun crafting the language of besotted fans (“OMG HE’S THE PRECIOUSEST I’M LITERALLY DEAD AND IN MY GRAVE SMILING SEND NO HELP”) and faithfully translating the characters’ lengthy arguments about the relative merits of each member of MNW. Without much plot or character depth, it’s not clear how long The Yakuza’s Bias can sustain its comic tone. But for now it’s extremely funny, ideal for anyone who’s ever pledged their life to a fandom. Recommended.

Publisher: Kodansha
Story and Art: Teki Yatsuda
Rating: 16+