He’s Expecting (Hiyama Kentarou no Ninshin) is loosely based on Eri Sakai’s popular manga series, and the show, one that fits well and truly into the feminist tradition, makes a strong case for subsequent seasons. It explores a world in which a minuscule percentage of cisgender men are able to get pregnant. In a traditional-meets-modern Japanese society, the general consensus is that such an occurrence is “gross” and “unmanly”. A majority of men who end up conceiving wish to terminate the pregnancy.
Those who decide to keep the child are often subjected to derisive jokes about their masculinity and are socially ostracised. He’s Expecting is a progressive series because of the powerful ways in which it tackles the subject of traditional gender roles, and the unfair expectations placed on women and men to fit into pre-defined, restrictive, and toxic boxes. Despite its serious nature, there is a certain lightness to each episode. It makes you confront prejudice relating to child-bearing, and gender sensitivity without ever forcing opinions on the audience.
Through its pregnant straight male protagonist, the series does a stellar job in showcasing subtly the unequal treatment of women through the ages, and the ridiculous expectations placed on them from the very beginning. Amongst Kentaro’s (Takumi Saitoh) casual romantic relationships, genuine attachment is exhibited only towards his on-again-off-again girlfriend Aki (Juri Ueno). After spending a night at Aki’s, he starts showing signs of an illness. Much to his surprise, he is informed by the doctor about his pregnancy. At work, Kentaro begins slipping, with his hormonal changes causing havoc.
The show’s strength is its fair and honest approach to a complex set of subjects. The fine exploration of gender sensitivity comes to the fore through the same approach. What is great about the incredibly engaging show is that it tells you (without really telling you) about the pressures women face on a daily basis, and the sheer scale of expectation placed on their shoulders by the unfair society. Aki’s individual journey (as a woman, and a writer with ambition) is as important to the narrative.
Long after Kentaro has become a symbol for the community, a small scene reiterates the show’s central message––equality. Tanabe, an office rival, comments on one of Ken’s trending gender-based posts online, “Something so basic, and yet, it gets so much attention”. “They’ll listen because it’s being said by a man. If a woman says it, nobody listens,” Ken responds, ironically. Another ode to its wide-ranging message of anti-discrimination! Even the language used is crafted carefully to portray how key such an entity is on the road to justice. This is a show with depth and clarity and there are so few of this kind.
Directors: Yuko Hakota, Takeo Kikuchi