Netflix’s latest Japanese drama He’s Expecting released on April 21, 2022. The drama features Takumi Saitoh and Ueno Juri in lead roles. It is loosely based on the manga named Hiyama Kentaro’s First Pregnancy and the drama tells the story of Hiyama Kentaro (played by Takumi Saitoh) and his journey as a cisgender pregnant man.
All eight episodes of He’s Expecting were released together and each clocks in at just over 25 minutes. With a 4-hour runtime, the drama handles and executes a fair storytelling of a rare phenomenon pretty well.
The story certainly doesn’t drag and brings the audience straight to the main theme. We are introduced to the main characters – Hiyama Kentaro and Seto Aki (played by Ueno Juri). Hiyama Kentaro is a 37-year old man working in an advertising firm. He is popular amongst his colleagues for his ideas and standout performance. He is tall and lanky – and admired by women.
In the first episode itself we see that the news channels are reporting a rare medical occurrence – men getting pregnant. The doctors claim to have at least one such case every month. The society which is long accustomed to only women giving birth, look at this occurrence with a critical and silly view. The men who get pregnant are shunned by society, called names and often harassed. In the drama, it is also shown how these group of men come together and create a safe space for themselves.
Hiyama Kentaro is a successful man living in Tokyo. He is 37, but does not have marriage in mind. He is happy with the way his life is at the moment. He soon learns that he is pregnant and predictably, his life turns upside down. He puts on a brave face and goes on to remove taboo about cis gender male pregnancies.
Joining him in this drama is Seto Aki, a 35-year-old writer who writes content and prepares social media campaigns on a freelance basis. She is a very career oriented and head strong. The equation with her father is not very amicable, but she has learnt to live with it.
The employees at Hiyama’s workplace are friendly and professional. Tanabe, Hiyama’s work rival, is quite competitive but his ideas lack the charm to be selected for a promotion. His language is a bit blunt, and his commentary on women and their bodies is quite uncomfortable to watch. This was reflected on his co-worker Koga-san’s face, and Hiyama was quick to pick it up.
The chemistry between the leads is certainly good to watch. It is comfortable without feeling burdensome. The classic role reversal in the case of a child born out of a wedlock might incite a giggle or two when these two discuss their future as parents of the child.
Rest of the supporting cast of He’s Expecting carry out their roles beautifully. The role, be it big or small makes for a significant space in the drama’s story. The strained relationship with parents, estrangement from one’s parent, to even discussing marriage and children, each of these aspects are executed without any addition of fluff.
The plot and storyline
What is interesting in He’s Expecting is that the drama takes something which is taboo and presents an amicable picture in front of the audience. Cis male pregnancy is something unheard of, although there are cases reported in the UK and the US where transmen and people who claim to identify as ‘men’ had been pregnant
He’s Expecting takes something from that reality and adds a bit of fantasy to it. As said in the drama itself, pregnancy is nothing less than a miracle.
The makers of He’s Expecting also attempt to empathise and sympathise with men who have been pregnant. There’s a scene which shows miscarriage of Mr. Miyaji’s baby, then a few scenes where the pregnant men come together and start a maternity product line that can work for pregnant men as well. The prejudice and naysaying that would ensue with such a rare and non-conforming occurrence is also present, and such incidents are resolved with a satisfying answer.
He’s Expecting works to add a positive message in society. It still does not answer how cisgender men can get pregnant though, beyond the opening scenes of doctors in interviews speaking about it. Despite that, there’s no proof or even an attempt to show that such pregnancies are possible. There are some comic scenes, and some heartfelt ones too.
If you go into this one expecting a sci-fi/fantasy drama then it’d worth giving a shot. If you want to watch a hetero couple’s roles reversed in pregnancy, and are okay with watching some hospital shots, then He’s Expecting should offer enough for you, although it’s certainly not as good as it could have been.
Verdict - 5/10