Ai and Nao have been dating since college, and since Japan has legalized same-sex marriage and adoptions, they’ve decided to expand their family by adopting Hiro. As they raise their son, the two of them learn not just about the trials and tribulations of parenthood, but also about themselves and their worldviews as the story explores their lives from Hiro’s birth through age eight.
All About My Two Dads is translated by Rhiannon Liou and lettered by Jaedison Yui.
Ask any parent, and they’ll tell you – raising a child isn’t easy. It doesn’t matter what your gender or sexual orientation is or if it’s your first or fifth baby; every child is their own person. Roji‘s takes this truth and runs with it, following Nao and Ai as they raise their son Hiro from birth until age eight in a (hopefully) future Japan where same-sex couples are allowed to marry and adopt children legally. Both are relatively recent developments in the story’s world – Nao and Ai have been dating since college, and it’s during their time at school that same-sex marriage is legalized. The two take advantage of that and, sometime after, decide to adopt a child; Hiro is given up for adoption very soon after his birth. Together, the two men struggle with the highs and lows of raising a child in a story that, despite its title, is much more about being human than anything else.
Since Hiro spends most of the volume as an infant and toddler (the last chapter skips ahead five years to when he’s eight), most of the plot revolves around his parents. Ai is the more comfortable of the two – in middle school, he cheerfully came out to his friends and parents and has always been perfectly pleased with who he is. His major issue is when people tell him that he “doesn’t seem gay;” Ai is always quick to point out that that’s a harmful stereotype, but he largely brushes such confrontations off as ignorant people he just has to educate. On the other hand, Nao is much more sensitive to microaggressions and assumptions, resenting the Othering of himself and his husband. In one scene, the grandmother of one of Hiro’s preschool friends comments on how well Ai and Nao are raising Hiro despite being two men. While Ai just shrugs her words off, Nao is insulted by the implication that raising children is about the parent’s gender, and he also worries about how this sort of prejudice will affect Hiro as he gets older.
However, this isn’t just a social commentary, which a less involved book may have stuck with. Instead, Nao’s insecurities come not from his sexual orientation, but from his childhood – his single father raised Nao after his mother left them for unspecified reasons. (His dad comments about how she “couldn’t live a normal life,” which has a lot of interpretations, but Nao takes it to mean that she didn’t want to be his mom.) Nao, therefore, experienced both growing up with only a parent of the “wrong” gender – even my word processor tried to auto-fill “single father” as “single mother” – and the sense of abandonment that he can’t shake, even as an adult. This translates into serious insecurities about his worth as a parent, forming his throughline in the plot.
Even if you aren’t a parent or queer, Nao’s worries are incredibly relatable. At one point, he dreams of his younger self telling him, “You just got older. You didn’t become an adult,” which sums up his character very cleanly. Nao feels like an imposter in his own life, a man who doesn’t deserve to be a father or have a relationship with his mother, making him hypersensitive to the comments others make. When he eventually tells someone that he feels othered by comments about the fact that he’s one of two dads, she’s mortified that he took it that way – she intended to simply say that all parents struggle while acknowledging that he and Ai are both men. Having a child, this plotline says, doesn’t invalidate your existence, and Nao’s concerns are treated as just part of life, a major strength of the book.
Of course, parenting still forms the solid backbone of the story, and it’s very well done. From throwaway comments like, “He truly gives us everything. Including colds,” that speaks to the joys of having school-age children to the men’s attempts to make a flowchart of why Hiro might be crying (much to the amusement of Ai’s mother) to the fact that snaps on baby clothes are evil, the story touches on a lot of the little moments in parenting that become driving factors in life. The plot acknowledges that it’s not always cute and fun and that it’s okay to feel like a bad parent while still going all-in on the warm and sweet moments of being a parent. There’s a wholesomeness to the volume largely rooted in the cozy family atmosphere, and that’s a definite draw. While “wholesome” often describes Wonder Bread levels of family blandness, Roji here makes it work – there are ups and downs, but at the end of the day, what’s important is that everyone loves each other. We see this very clearly in the final chapter when eight-year-old Hiro writes an essay about his family for school: he acknowledges that people judge his family for being different, but tells them all that what matters is how much his dads love him and each other.
is simply a lovely manga. Warm and sweet, it still gives its characters time to develop while acknowledging their social and psychological issues. With pleasant art and a solid story, Roji‘s stated goal of showing that LGBTQIA+ people are just as normal as the straight ones comes through in a non-preachy way. If you’re looking for heartwarming, do not pass this one up.