Though childbirth is a beautiful experience, it comes with several complexities that can change people’s lives. Every woman who has gone through the physical agony, emotional turmoil, and career challenges of pregnancy has thought at least once, “Why don’t men have to go through this?” “He’s Expecting” is a Japanese drama on Netflix that highlights the reality of pregnancy among men and captures the psychological, societal, and existential hurricane that it brings. The series beautifully sheds the confines of gender stereotypes and describes people as people!
‘He’s Expecting’ Plot Summary: Meet Hiyama Kentaro
Hiyama Kentaro is a 37-year-old type A advertising agent in Tokyo. He is career-obsessed to the extent that he barely has a social life. Kentaro is overly planned and believes that prediction and preparation are the best life hacks. He schedules everything, including his dates on his calendar, in fear of being thrown off-guard in life. He does not believe in relationships and prefers casual flings. Kentaro sees marriage and children as inconveniences that can ruin one’s career.
He shares the apartment with his friend Aki Seto, with whom he often indulges in footloose sex. Aki is a freelance writer and a workaholic, like Kentaro, who does not intend to have a marriage or children any sooner in life. She is open-minded and free-spirited and makes decisions with logic over an emotional impulse. Kentaro’s boss Osugi makes him the creative head of a big-shot apparel company, UNIVE. While he is pumped about the project, things start to change for the worse when his health worsens. Despite being planned all his life, Kentaro is finally thrown off-guard! On getting himself checked, Kentaro meets with his worst fear as he is diagnosed to be 9-10 weeks pregnant!
Kentaro was raised by a single mother, who was a taxi driver. Due to this, he received very little parental attention, despite being close to his mother. Spending a childhood in solitude can often take its toll on a child, which is likely to be the case in Kentaro’s life. His workaholism and lack of a social life or relationship exhibit the low self-esteem that he developed in his childhood. How would someone with a mind like that of Kentaro deal with a male pregnancy? Let’s find out!
Major Spoilers Ahead
Is It Possible For Men To Get Pregnant?
Every time a news report featured a cisgender male pregnancy, Kentaro would be repulsed by it. And now, he is shocked to learn about his own pregnancy! When Kentaro checks his planner, he finds out that he had sex with Aki around 9–10 weeks back, and she is the mother of his child. While his first response is to seek an abortion, he must get Aki’s signature on the agreement form before doing so.
When Kentaro goes to work, he faces several embarrassments in the office: his nipples start leaking, he becomes ill and distracted, and his beard grows thicker. When Kentaro tells Aki that she is the mother of his child, she suggests how having the child would benefit his advertising career. She also offers to look after the child with him, as she has been having second thoughts about motherhood. However, Kentaro shuns the idea and decides to proceed with the abortion. Unfortunately, due to his off-behavior in the office, Osugi replaces him and makes (his colleague) Tanabe the creative head! Tanabe, being a sexist sleaze, makes his female employees do menial work, and now treats Kentaro in the same way. To make matters worse, he steals his marketing pitch for individual diversity and doesn’t do justice to it.
On his visit to the doctor, Kentaro gets acquainted with Miyaji, who is also a pregnant man. He visits Miyaji’s family and learns about their world, which ignites his desire to have a child. When Tanabe’s presentation disappoints the clients, Kentaro steps in and suggests they should create apparel for pregnant men. To gain momentum in his career, he announces that he is pregnant and willing to model for UNIVE!
Kentaro becomes the face of UNIVE as a pregnant dad and gains popularity across Tokyo. Aki, too, supports his decision and offers to raise the child without getting married. Having found an unforeseen identity, Kentaro and Miyaji decide to start an online community for pregnant men and help each other. The idea takes off as many men come forward to join the community. Regardless of his progressive initiatives, Kentaro faces hurtful prejudice from people. His dating life sees a dead end as women refuse to go out with a pregnant man. Even so, his career takes off, and he revives his position as the creative head.
One day, Miyaji has a miscarriage due to a cytomegalovirus infection. His wife Noriko confesses that she is slightly relieved, as her husband’s pregnancy attracted a hurtful societal response. Due to their difference of opinion over the situation, Kentaro tells Aki he doesn’t want her involvement in his family! The series not only illustrates how male pregnancy differs physiologically from female ones but also how the societal reception differs. Without any awareness about male pregnancy, people often associate it with a feminine affair and cruelly ostracize such men.
Who Is Kentaro’s Father?
After a visit to her hometown, Aki persuades Kentaro to raise the baby together, to which he agrees. When Kentaro decides to introduce Aki to his mother, he has a strange encounter with a man who calls himself his father! When his mother reaches his house, she recognizes Hiyama Eiichi, who had abandoned his family. Eiichi, too, was a pregnant father who had fled away after giving birth to Kentaro as he could not bear the societal prejudices against him. He had often been called gay or unmanly, and his own relatives were ashamed of him. Tomoko (his mother) tells Kentaro to not trust Eiichi, yet he decides to give his father a second chance.
‘He’s Expecting’ Ending Explained: How Does Kentaro Deal With His Pregnancy?
Kentaro begins to bond with his father, who takes an interest in his online community. Eiichi suggests they start a business for men’s pregnancy products and collect funds from community members. However, Kentaro finds out that his father has defrauded the investors and fled. When the press surrounds his house to inquire about his father’s scam, Miyaji rescues him. He realizes why his mother had warned him against his father and goes to confront him. To his surprise, Eiichi immediately returns the money and confesses that he has gotten used to the habit of running away after years of turmoil.
Eiichi tells Kentaro that while he loves him, he is his own person, and Kentaro should be so too. His father’s advice sticks with him. On the other hand, Aki decides to go to Singapore for two years for an exciting gig. Her decision becomes more rigid as Kentaro conveniently slams her, telling her that it is not she who is giving birth, and yet expects her to do the feminine duties of a mother. Meanwhile, Kentaro proceeds to UNIVE’s press conference to manage his reputation after his father attempted fraud. After an emotionally heated argument with a prejudiced journalist, he stumbles and falls, causing a premature delivery. Aki, after watching the press conference on TV, rushes out of the airport to the hospital.
Kentaro gives birth to their son Ko and starts taking care of him with Aki. With her newfound responsibilities as a mother, Aki suggests that she should refuse her job in Singapore. However, having remembered his father’s advice, Kentaro tells her that she shouldn’t sacrifice her individual identity for her family. He supports Aki’s career choice while taking a break from his own job. When Kentaro tells his female colleagues about how a career gap and parenthood would contribute to his overall growth, they laugh and tell him how it has always been like that for women. It takes a man to get pregnant himself to understand what a woman goes through!
Though an off-beat and mature-themed story, “He’s Expecting” is easy to watch due to its light-hearted narration style. While not delving too deeply into the physiological aspects of a cisgender male pregnancy, the series focuses on its psychological and social aspects. It shows pregnant men as regular men who do not necessarily have androgynous traits, except (of course) being pregnant! The series captures many realistic concepts of casual sexism in the workplace, societal notions of gender roles, and the lives of people who deal with it. However, it does not typecast any (seemingly antagonistic) characters as black, but emphasizes their gray shades and shows how they too can become better. Despite spreading awareness about a concept seldom heard of, the series maintains a perfect balance of entertainment and informativeness. With these plus points, the Netflix original series becomes a definite must-watch!
“He’s Expecting” is a 2022 Drama Romance Japanese Series streaming on Netflix.