Yuriko (asexual, fujoshi) and Gakurouta (gay but not out) have married, seeking friendship and companionship, but nothing more. One day, when they’re having tea with Gakurouta’s childhood friend and secret unattainable love (now their gardener) Sousuke, he asks them how they first met. Cue an extended flashback to their painfully awkward first meeting (through a matchmaker) and what happened after that…
Is it… selfish that… I kind of miss him now? Sousuke reflects as he drives away.
Although they’re now living in the same house and sharing cooking and other household chores, the couple maybe don’t yet know as much about each other as they thought. Gakurouta, described in one instance by Yuriko to herself as ‘a secretive person’ is more, I’d say, self-reliant, having led a rather secluded life; he’s still not used to sharing with another person. We’re not told about what’s become of his parents, but his grandmother is still alive though in sheltered accommodation, so he’s inherited the big, traditional Japanese house with a garden as she’s unable to look after it.
It’s not until the couple go on a ‘pilgrimage’ one weekend to Kochi where a special exhibition is being held celebrating one of Yuriko’s favourite Boys’ Love manga, that they get to learn more about each other. Gakurouta brings an impressive camera along and happily photographs everything; when Yuriko asks, she learns that he was in the photography club in high school and college. Then, when a little girl suddenly grabs hold of his sleeve, calling him ‘Daddy’, Yuriko uses her English skills (acquired when in the US as a student) to ask the distressed child about her lost father and then to reunite them while Gakurouta looks on in surprise and admiration; he had no idea she was so fluent in English.
But when Yuriko starts to regularly meet up with an ‘old friend’ at weekends, Gakurouta happens to spot them greeting each other – and, to his surprise, the ‘old friend’ is a man and Yuriko seems happy to hug him (even though she’s told him she’s not good at physical contact beyond hand-holding). Why are they meeting up so often… and why hasn’t Yuriko told him who the friend is and invited him along too?
As I hoped in my review of the first volume of I Want To Be A Wall, the story of this unusual partnership settles down in the second volume. It flows much more naturally after the two have told Sousuke (and us) how they met and what factors eventually persuaded them to get married, even though they’re not in any way romantically attracted to each other. The introduction of a new character – Yuriko’s male friend, Momo – also adds to the different viewpoints and perspectives on the main couple’s relationship. There are also hints about Gakurouta’s grandmother toward the end of the volume so that will be interesting if they come to fruition.
However, one of the most interesting conversations takes place later on between Gakurouta and Momo over lunch (once they’ve been formally introduced and various misunderstandings on Gakurouta’s part have been dispelled). “Yuriko-san doesn’t seem to feel a desire for romance or sex,” Momo says, musing about Yuriko’s enthusiasm for BL, “yet she loves reading stories about it.” He goes on to compare this to someone who doesn’t understand the concept of ‘sweetness’ but still orders dessert to enjoy the texture of fruit or the softness of sponge, and even appreciates watching other people taking pleasure as they eat sweet treats. He later uses another parallel: a friend’s young brother who has synaesthesia (in this case, specifically chromethesia, or the ability to ‘hear’ music in different colours). This episode makes for inspired and even enlightening reading, enhanced by the mangaka’s pleasant graphic style. In fact, in these later chapters, the story flows much better than in the first volume, even when she’s using alternating viewpoints, swapping between husband and wife.
A page of helpful translation notes is provided by translator Emma Schumacker, although there seems to be an ongoing trend at Yen Press for not keeping fujoshi/fudanshi but instead using BL fan girl/BL fanboy etc.; lettering is again by Alexis Eckerman. There’s also a cute bonus chapter about Momo and Christmas sweaters at the end: ‘Momo-kun’s Holiday Call’.
Because of the character development, this second volume is a much more satisfying read. We’ve had longer to get to know Yuriko and Gakurouta and understand them better as they embark together on their marriage of convenience. And Honami Shirono brings some interesting and valuable insights into what being asexual means for Yuriko. However, with a disturbing development right at the end of this volume, we’re left on a cliffhanger, wondering if everything’s going to be all right.
From recent comments by mangaka Honami Shirono online, the third volume might be the final one for this manga but as yet it hasn’t been published in Japan.