Tuesday, July 12, 2022

REVIEW: I Want to Be a Wall (manga, vol. 1) by Honami Shirono

I Want to Be a Wall is, so far, a slice-of-life manga dealing with LGBT+ issues. I bought my copy brand new.


Yuriko and Gakurouta have just gotten married when this manga begins.

Yuriko is an asexual woman who loves reading about fictional characters' romances, particularly in "boys' love" (BL, m/m) manga and novels, but who has spent a large portion of her life feeling like she doesn't really fit in because she's never been in love and doesn't even really want it to happen to her. 

Gakurouta is a gay man who has always been extremely close to his childhood friend, Sousuke. Ten years ago, he realized that he'd fallen in love with his friend...who was very popular with the ladies and gave no indication of any interest in men. He's since tried to fall out of love with Sousuke, but it didn't work, and he has now resigned himself to forever nursing a one-sided love.

Yuriko and Gakurouta know the sides of each other that won't allow them to fit in with regular society, but otherwise they know very little about each other. This first volume shows them gradually adjusting to their new married life and figuring out what that relationship means for them.

This manga left me feeling torn. On the one hand, Yuriko and Gakurouta were a sweet pair, and I enjoyed watching them try their hardest to make their marriage work despite not having a clue what a marriage that doesn't include sex or romance should look like. On the other hand, I felt like the manga started at the wrong point, leaving me with all kinds of questions. Also, I wasn't entirely comfortable with how Yuriko's interest in Gakurouta's one-sided love for Sousuke was written.

I spent the entire volume wondering how Yuriko and Gakurouta had met, learned each other's secrets, and decided to get married. They clearly liked and wanted to support each other, but they also barely knew anything about each other - it read like an arranged marriage that had somehow worked out. Did they meet via some kind of LGBT+ matchmaking service?

Initially, I assumed they'd gotten married in order to get friends and family who'd been pressuring them into relationships off their back. But Yuriko's mom seemed to have been resigned to her daughter never getting married, and Sousuke didn't seem particularly concerned about hiding his sexuality, just his feelings for Sousuke. He was fascinated by Yuriko's BL interests and even went into a store on his own to buy some BL books without a hint of concern about what the store employees might have been thinking. That didn't read at all like the closeted gay guy I'd initially understood him to be.

I felt like there was more depth and sensitivity to the way Yuriko was written than the way Gakurouta was written, and I wasn't entirely comfortable with the way Yuriko hovered around Sousuke and Gakurouta like she was witness to some kind of lovely BL tragedy. She genuinely felt for Gakurouta's sadness over his love being one-sided, but still...Gakurouta wasn't some fictional character in a story, he was a person, and it didn't always feel like Yuriko really understood that.

So far, despite my issues with this, it had some really sweet moments. I loved overly earnest Gakurouta, and the flashback to Yuriko's younger years was excellent, as was her examination of why she tends to prefer BL stories. I'm willing to hang around for a bit and see where this goes. 


Two pages of translator's notes. Also, a bonus chapter in which Gakurouta reads a tragic BL novel that Yuriko accidentally leaves lying around - this made me wish Yuriko would just give in and provide Gakurouta with a curated pile of BL novels with happy endings.

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