Society as a whole is a pressure pot of expectations, and when your personal norm lies at its outskirts it really is hard to express yourself without feeling like there could be something wrong with you. Essentially, this is Yuriko in I Want to Be a Wall. She's never experienced romantic feelings towards another person yet everyone around her keeps insisting she, "just hasn't met the right person yet," and that someday she'll fall head over heels in love. However, Yurioko knows better. She's already got herself figured out and identifies as asexual, which is a type of sexual orientation. She's also a newlywed and, along with her husband Gakurouta, a gay man who carries his own baggage, the marriage has provided her a means of escape from society's expectations… for now.
Okay, let's break here for one second to get a better grasp on the textbook definition of what being an asexual means because understanding how Yuriko's mind works is essential to the story. As an asexual, Yuriko does comprehend what love is and she can feel love; however, that love is not accompanied by any physical attraction towards another person. Her mindset is in contrast with how much of society understands love. Her love is platonic and as many asexuals do, Yuriko forms strong connections with trusted people via their personalities. I feel this is important to understand because Yuriko's behavior can seem very contradictory at times. Mostly because of her hobby as an avid reader of Boys' Love (BL). She's a big fangirl and since the genre's focus is heavy on the romance it could be confusing to readers if you're under the impression that asexuals can't feel love at all.
At first I found Yuriko's obsession with BL off-putting, as her mind often runs wild applying cliché BL plotlines to her now husband Gakurouta, who doesn't hide the fact he's gay from her at all. The story wavers between being a serious, societal observation and a mix of awkward, somewhat out of place, humor. It isn't until later in Volume 1 that Yuriko's fascination with BL is revealed to be what it truly is for her: a safe-space. Honestly, once this light-bulb-moment hit Yuriko's BL hobby makes a lot more sense. She reads BL because it allows her to just exist; those story plotlines she's so into don't involve women, so she's under no pressure to change who she is while enjoying her favorite pastime. This perspective really upended how I understood her character and I liked her better for it. Suddenly I no longer saw her fascination with BL as a detriment but rather as a loveable character quirk. She doesn't really use BL to navigate the world around her, but at the same time it strongly influences what she does because that's her understanding of how normal society views romance.
Shifting focus from Yuriko to Gakurouta, there are chapters told from his point of view as well, and since Gaku identifies as a gay man you'd think this would add a whole new layer of complications to their marriage. Yet it doesn't, because Gaku is also trying to escape from his own reality in a way. Gaku is still deeply in love with his childhood friend, Sousuke, but his love is unrequited. Souske is obviously straight and Gaku has learned to accept that his love will never be returned. He's most likely depressed, and is struggling to move on. Even though he's fighting through personal emotions, I really appreciated how thoughtful Gaku is towards Yuriko. He's making an effort to understand his new wife, how to be a responsible husband, and even takes an interest in her BL hobby — much to her chagrin! He wants to make their marriage work even if they aren't romantically attracted to each other and that's so sweet.
At this point in the story it hasn't been revealed how Gaku and Yuriko came to the decision to get married, but in the past Gaku had tried to distance himself from Souske so it's easy to jump to the conclusion that the marriage serves as a means of escape to Gaku to try and shut out his unaccepted feelings. Gaku's a much quieter character than Yuriko, but his backstory is just as powerful, and there's one particular moment between the newlyweds that made me reach for the tissues as my eyes teared up from such tender and raw emotions. It was in that moment, and many like it sprinkled throughout, that you know their relationship is going to grow in ways not often seen. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what becomes of them. Especially since there are bound to be new societal pressures thrown at them, as they are viewed as a "heterosexual couple" to those around them after all. So how they handle these new pressures together should prove that the support and validation they're looking for can come from anyone and anywhere.
Yuriko and Gaku's story is an essential reminder that close relationships don't always have to be romanticized. And as such I think I Want to Be a Wall deserves a place on any LGBTQ+ positive book list as its story is a good example of how societal "norms" aren't always the only way people approach life.
I Want to be a Wall Manga Volume 1
I Want to be a Wall Manga Volume 1 features story and art by Honami Shirono.
Yuriko, an asexual woman, agrees to take a husband to satisfy her parents-which is how she finds herself tying the knot with Gakurouta, a gay man in love with his childhood friend with his own family circumstances. And so begins the tale of their marriage of convenience.Add to CartLearn More