Story & Art: Monaka Suzuki
Translation: Nova Skipper
Adaptation: Jay Trust
Lettering & Retouch: Laura Heo
Ask someone what they think of when they hear the word “family,” and you will likely get very different answers. While the most obvious first image is likely a mother, father, two and a half children, and a dog, it is more and more common to see families with two mothers or two fathers, or no children and just a dog (or cat!). And for some, “family” moves beyond the nuclear and includes grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins — or found families full of friends.
Regardless, no one is going to say “a family is a mom, her son, and her unicorn husband.” And yet that’s the entire premise of Monaka Suzuki’s My Father Is a Unicorn, a sweet and silly comedy centered around a most preposterous “what-if” scenario. High school student Issei lives with his extremely youthful-looking mother in a standard apartment complex. One day he is awoken by Masaru, his mother’s new husband, only to discover that his mother has suddenly been whisked away on a work-related trip. Now he must learn to live with his new step-father about whom he knows nothing — and to top it off, Masaru is not entirely human!
Masaru, who proclaims himself a unicorn, has both humanoid and equine transformations. He occasionally slips up so that he appears human with a unicorn’s head, or with hooves instead of hands, or various other unsettling combinations. Taking on the role of househusband while his wife is away, Masaru finds has much to learn about caring for a human household and a human teenager. (He initially serves Issei a salad made chiefly of hay for breakfast!) Issei is constantly on Masaru’s case, trying to prevent him from being discovered by nosy neighbors and friends at school.
Being a unicorn, Masaru is of course naturally attracted to young maidens — a fact which Issei discovers when Masaru shows up at his school to bring Issei some food. Masaru’s striking and exotic looks garner the attention of Issei’s female classmates, and Masaru loses himself to his base unicorn instincts, showering the girls with compliments and passionate gazes. This whole ordeal is harrowing for Issei, but also confusing — his mother obviously isn’t a maiden! Masaru’s attraction to her remains somewhat of a mystery throughout the volume.
Other wacky adventures include: Issei and Masaru attempting to partake of the infamous grocery sales that housewives fight over; Masaru discovering that purifying water with his horn has caused all the middle-aged women in the apartment complex to regain their youth; and Issei’s classmate and neighbor losing herself in the fantasy of being whisked away by the princely Masaru. (Someone’s been reading too much shojo manga!) The gags are plentiful, strung together with the typical harried protagonist wondering how he ended up in this mess in the first place.
Having a new step-parent is always challenging, and Issei is thrown a huge curveball with Masaru’s unique qualities. Issei gets frustrated with Masaru’s struggling to adapt to human life — perhaps unfair, but also understandable in the strange circumstances. The two get into a fight that causes Masaru to run away, prompting Issei to recognize that, even with all his flaws, Masaru has been trying really hard to be a good father. Sometimes, it’s hard to appreciate what your parents do for you until they’re gone, after all! Masaru eventually finds his place in the neighborhood and in the home, though one wonders how long it’ll take before someone discovers his secret.
If My Father Is a Unicorn was any longer than one volume, it might wear out its readership with repetitive gags revolving around Masaru’s horsey-ness. As it is, this single-volume manga is a delightful bit of silliness that gives the reader a good chuckle. There is no deep story here, nothing beyond a ridiculous and somewhat sappy family story, which it pulls off well. Suzuki’s artwork is clean and cute, and Masaru’s half-and-half transformations are appropriately weird, allowing the reader to really empathize with Issei. After all, it’d be pretty shocking to see a person with a horse’s head standing in your kitchen!
For the horse girls, unicorn lovers, and comedy manga aficionados out there, this single volume is available through Seven Seas Entertainment.