Asexuality in Manga: Mine-kun is Asexual, I Want to be a Wall, & Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon

Today we’ve got an Ace rep 3-for-1! Royce walks us through the Asexual representation in Mine-kun is Asexual, I Want to be a Wall, & Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon.


Royce: Hello everyone, and welcome back to the podcast. My name is Royce. I’m here with my spouse, Courtney, and together we are The Ace Couple. And today I am doing the thing.

Courtney: Aah– I am so proud of you! Listeners, can we just take a moment to appreciate this momentous occasion in history? Have you ever introduced anything ever?

Royce: You know I don’t like all the attention [Courtney laughs] and also that I could edit this out.

Courtney: Don’t! Don’t edit it out. [laughs] Well, even when we do like live events, like speaking at a conference together, you’re like, “I’m not gonna introduce myself, you do it.”

Royce: Well, that’s a little different. I think introductions are often kind of socially awkward and unnecessary.

Courtney: That’s true.

Royce: Like why can’t we just skip them and have a conversation?

Courtney: That’s true. Well, that’s actually part of the reason, because before we started our podcast, I had been interviewed on a variety of other podcasts for history and hair related things, and almost every time the host would ask for, like, a bio from me. And I hate writing bios and I hate giving people bios. But then I would sit there while they read my bio for the listeners and that always made me very, very uncomfortable. So when we started interviewing people here, I was like I’m just gonna let them introduce themselves and say as much, as little as they want right off the bat. Because I don’t want to subject them to me reading their professional bio that I asked them for in advance. So I get it.

Royce: So normally when we talk about asexual representation in media, it is a show that we watched together or some books that you read, but recently I was combing through all of the notes and suggestions that we’ve been given from people and found a few manga to talk about.

Courtney: Yay! Some of these have been on our list for a while.

Royce: They have. Long enough that I don’t remember where the suggestions came from.

Courtney: But if you’re one of those who sent the suggestions, some of these we’ve gotten multiple times from multiple people, so thank you to everyone who sends us recommendations. We usually get to them eventually.

Royce: So I have three publications I wanted to go over today and I think I’ll do them in order of length. The first one is Mine-kun is Asexual and it is a one-shot. So it’s a single chapter, a single publication, that’s around 40 pages. But it is an example where you have the word asexual on the page and even in the title.

Courtney: On the cover, the very first page. Yeah, there’s no gray area there.

Royce: And the story that takes place inside– I mean, due to it being a one-shot has to be pretty brief. It does hit some Ace 101 sort of areas, just again, I think, because of the length of the material. But it depicts an ace-allo relationship, or at least an attempt at an ace-allo relationship, and the complications that may arise from that. But it’s told from the perspective of a girl who has a huge crush on her friend, Mine-kun. The story starts out with an immediate confession over dinner, after drinks, from the story’s protagonist, whose name is Murai, and she asks him out. She confesses that she’s in love with him and he responds basically saying that doesn’t know if that’s really a good idea and, as she persists, goes on to explain that he is biromantic asexual. He doesn’t specifically use the word biromantic, but he explains it in that way, saying that, “I’m attracted to both men and women, like a bisexual person is, but at the same time I have no interest in sexual intimacy because I’m asexual.” So it’s unambiguous. He also mentions that he is on the sex repulsed side of things and eventually does say that he’ll agree to go out with her as long as she’s okay with no physical intimacy, and that includes sex, kissing– those are the two things that are explicitly mentioned.

Royce: And she in the moment– Well one, she is a very excitable character and is also noticeably drunk at this point in time. Is just, like, super excited to get a yes. [Courtney laughs] And she agrees in the moment, and wakes up the next morning and is like trying to piece some of it together. And so that segment with Mine-kun explaining things, it doesn’t feel out of place, but this is the case of someone who is ace trying to explain asexuality to someone who has never heard of it. And so there are some very common explanations done in there that most of us have probably heard before. And the next morning she is at work trying to explain this to a friend of hers, and this is where you get a little bit more of common depictions of asexuality, because this friend is having like none of it. And so throughout that segment you see a lot of the common, just ignorant reactions that, again, we’ve all heard before.

Courtney: The things we all put on our bingo cards because we know they’re inevitable.

Royce: Yes, if you want to make a bingo card before the first, like, quarter of this manga, you could see if you could fill it out. [Courtney laughs] But the bulk of the chapter is about the two of them dating and for the most part they have a lot of fun together. They generally– Murai is a little thrown off because she isn’t really sure what to do in this relationship, because she’s immediately, I think, I guess, falling into wishes or habits and is constantly having to check that like, “Oh yeah, no physical intimacy, this isn’t going to happen,” kind of a thing.

Courtney: Yeah, well, aside from potentially desiring, as an allo, the sexual contact there’s also just– allos get really, really outside of their comfort zone when they can’t fall back on like pre-established sexual scripts that society tells you you should follow in a particular order.

Royce: Yeah, but they do have quite a bit of fun watching shows, talking about things, just generally spending time together. But the conflict in the story is from her going back and forth, from feeling lonely at times, having difficulty particularly when she’s not around him specifically, is definitely feeling lonely from lack of physical contact or physical affection, but then will be with him in the moment and there’ll just be like this heartthrob sort of scene where she sees him in a particular light or they have a conversation that is particularly meaningful and is right back in it. And so she’s back and forth this whole time.

Courtney: Aw.

Royce: As I mentioned, the story is pretty short. After that goes on for a little while they do have a difficult conversation about the nature of their relationship, and well, sure enough, I’ll leave the ending to anyone who wants to read it.

Courtney: Ooh, no spoilers. Did you like the ending?

Royce: I’d say I liked the story as a whole. I think that the ending made sense. It didn’t stand out to me as a particularly good or particularly bad ending. It just felt like it fit with the story that was being told. And in the afterward, after the story completed, there’s a pretty decent passage from the author here who said that they had wanted to talk about asexuality, and mentions that their own orientation is something that they’re still trying to figure out. Asexuality is something that they’re leaning to, but the prospect of talking about it in depth publicly has been very nerve-wracking to them. So, they put it out in this form, in the manga.

Courtney: Which I think is really cool, and I think that’s something we’ve seen before, with authors of varying genres who sort of use fiction to start to understand themselves a little bit better, or start to try to convey something about themselves without taking it too personal.

Royce: Mm-hmm. They also said that part of the reason why they had decided on writing a story like this was they had been reading a lot of romance manga and kind of got burned out on, I guess, some of the story lines or the tropes in there and wanted to write something different and in that process of exploration, learned more about asexuality and was like, “Okay, this is what I want to write about.”

Courtney: Would you consider the story a romance, even if it subverts some typical components of the genre? Because I know, like, obviously we have so many aromantic members of the ace community as well and some people just don’t like so many romance focused stories. So would you consider this a romance or?

Royce: Oh yeah, I think that’s the entire plot.

Courtney: Yeah, so they got burned out on romance, but they still wrote a romance.

Royce: Yes, one that I guess functions a lot differently than most in the genre I would say.

Courtney: An asexual romance. [Royce agrees] Would you consider it to be good ace rep?

Royce: Well, asexual is in the title and it is explicitly stated all over the place without any big red flags. So I would say yes.

Courtney: Do you want to do the honors, or shall I?

Royce: I have no desire to hit the gavel.

Courtney: I am gonna hit the gavel for you then! Listeners, we have a gavel now. [laughs]

Royce: And Courtney is excited.

Courtney: I’ve only been talking about this since– Did I bring up the gavel in literally episode one of our podcast? It might have gone back as far as episode one and we’re hovering around a hundred right now.

Royce: The first mention of a gavel was in episode 6, which was the Ace Week 2021 recap.

Courtney: Ah, episode 6. So that’s still– That’s pretty early on. It’s been a long time I’ve been waiting for this gavel, so, gosh darn it, we are gonna use it. Mine-kun is Asexual is good ace rep. [hits gavel]

Royce: So this next one was what I thought was the most enjoyable read of the three, and it was also the only one that wasn’t finished. I thought everything I had here was finished, but this one is still in publication and it ended on a cliffhanger.

Courtney: Oh, no. Oh no!

Royce: It’s– I believe the manga is actually completed, but the third and final volume is not translated yet. I think it released in Japan maybe a few months ago.

Courtney: So we at least know that it’s coming.

Royce: Yes.

Courtney: And it’s not just going to be, like, cold cut off with no end.

Royce: Yes

Courtney: That’s something, that’s something.

Royce: So this one was really funny. It is called I Want to Be a Wall.

Courtney: Relatable. Question mark?

Royce: So this one starts right off the bat with a wedding. There are two very uncomfortable looking people who are getting married.

Courtney: [laughs] Good start.

Royce: One of them, Gaku, is a closeted gay man with an unrequited crush on his childhood friend. The other, Yuriko, is a woman who describes herself as a fujoshi.

Courtney: Oh, okay.

Royce: Are you familiar with that term?

Courtney: Yes, I’m familiar with that term, of course, but explain for the listeners.

Royce: Oh yeah, there’s a fujoshi character in Princess Jellyfish, isn’t there?

Courtney: Oh yeah, I mean, Princess Jellyfish was not my first anime, but I think it was my first anime that actually got me interested in exploring anime as a genre further. Because, of course, like I grew up with whatever you could actually watch on TV at the time, which like– Sailor Moon on Saturdays, Pokémon, whatever was on Adult Swim once Adult Swim got started up. But when Netflix came around, let me tell you, Princess Jellyfish opened my eyes to a whole new world. So, yes, I know what a fujoshi is.

Royce: I couldn’t remember, but fujoshi is a term that is mostly used sort of self-mockingly. It literally means rotten girl.

Courtney: Yep.

Royce: And fujoshi characters are often depicted as really being into, like, gay male shipping, regardless of the orientations of the character in media. There’s a lot of self-published works, I guess you could describe as fanfic in a lot of cases.

Courtney: Or, like boys love as a genre.

Royce: That term specifically is going to come up a lot.

Courtney: Okay.

Royce: BL. But during the wedding she says, “I can’t fall in love. My area of expertise is 2D.”

Courtney:[bursts out laughing] I just love the premise right off the bat because immediately there is so much comedy potential here. Like if it’s done right, there’s so much comedy potential.

Royce: Within the first few pages we also sort of get a title page that is not the characters in context, but it’s the two of them standing there with some descriptive text, and it explicitly lists her as asexual.

Courtney: On the page. We love to see it.

Royce: And so the story starts with the two of them moving in together. And they’re moving in together into this huge estate which we find out soon thereafter is something that Gaku has inherited. And the first hurdle, the first challenge of their marriage is moving in this massive pile of BL manga.

Courtney: [laughs] Oh no.

Royce: There are these huge piles of boxes that are labeled according to character or story trope. Like one box says ‘boss and subordinate’, another one says ‘godly books’, which I assume is just like the highest tier, like the favorite manga. One of them says, “Okay, oh, the godly books box is the only one that is marked fragile.” So that’s why I figure those are the important ones.

Courtney: Ah, special handling requirements.

Royce: Yes. But surprise, surprise, the gay man takes an immediate, like fervent, interest in the gay romance books. Grabs one off the pile just to try to see what it is, because he has never heard of this concept before.

Courtney: Oh no... [laughs]

Royce: And accidentally grabs an especially erotic one. I believe the title was Stop Senpai.

Courtney: Oh no!

Royce: I had that written down.

Courtney: Oh no! [laughs]

Royce: But he looks at this and she is immediately mortified and he’s like, “To be a good husband I must take time to understand my wife’s hobby.”

Courtney: Ah! Hilarious.

Royce: And at that point in time he produces a book that is kind of a running gag, it’s 800 Steps to Becoming a Good Husband.

Courtney: 800? That’s a lot of steps.

Royce: And so, at that moment, Yuriko is immediately embarrassed and insecure about sharing this hobby and is like moving all of her BL books away and is like, “These are not for you.”

Courtney: Oh no… [laughs] They are for him, though… [laughs]

Royce: But the energy in the room immediately drops due to a call from Yuriko’s mom. She’s on the phone and is saying all of these probably relatable sort of backhanded comments like, “I’m amazed you’re finally able to get married,”

Courtney: Ugh.

Royce: While simultaneously saying, like, “Make sure you help out around the house enough and keep things clean.” And that she already wants to see grandchildren.

Courtney: Ah, the grandchildren.

Royce: And that sucks her energy away. She has to go sit with some BL manga to recover HP. [Courtney laughs] And while she’s doing that, the doorbell rings and the person on the other side of the door is Sousuke, Gaku’s childhood friend slash unrequited love interest, who is working as the gardener of the estate.

Courtney: Oh, wow.

Royce: His, I believe, parents or grandparents worked for Gaku’s family.

Courtney: Oh, so that is how they knew each other to begin with.

Royce: Yes.

Courtney: Ah…

Royce: And Yuriko is watching this and she is thrilled because it is like a BL novel in real life.

Courtney: Oh no! [laughs]

Royce: With the only issue being that Sousuke is straight, so she can’t actually play matchmaker in this situation.

Courtney: And what a tragedy.

Royce: And so during this visit, Sousuke has come to leave them with a gift because they just got married. He brings them a box full of various aromatic things, like not specifically candles, but other scent-related things. Just a box full of them and a note that says, “Tell me what you think and by all means please use them in your bedroom.” And there’s just a panel where the two of them are looking at that line in the note like kind of aghast and there’s just in huge text like, “That room doesn’t exist.”

Courtney: Oh no. [laughs]

Royce: It’s separate bedrooms. But during the next chapter the two of them begin formulating a plan to keep up a public front. Neither of them seem to really know how relationships actually tend to work, so they’re trying to base public relationship habits based off of things that they’ve seen in TV. And during all of that, while they’re discussing it, they’re trying to figure out personal boundaries.

Royce: We get a flashback of Yuriko ending a previous relationship. Oh, just after ending that prior relationship, she’s talking with someone around the office about it and she says, “I don’t know how to like someone as anything but friends.” And the response she gets from a co-worker is, “You’re kidding, right?” And it’s at that moment, as an adult, that she realizes, “Oh, the way that I feel is not something that most people in society actually empathize with or really understand.”

Courtney: Mm-hmm. So asexual is the word that’s on the page, but do you get the impression that there could also be aromanticism here? Because the line about like, my ability to love or something, like–

Royce: They get into that deeper further on. And I should say– Let’s see, I mentioned that Mine-kun was a one-shot. I Want to Be a Wall is currently 11 chapters, which spans two volumes, with a third volume coming. But during this conversation about boundaries, she continues to say that she likes romance in fiction but doesn’t like being involved in romance herself.

Courtney: Sounds pretty aego, if you ask me.

Royce: So over the next couple of chapters we get a bit of backstory on both of them independently. Gaku’s childhood friendship with Sousuke is shown, there have just been various circumstances that have repeatedly brought them back together as friends. They grew up together. They had, you know, times as adults where they went their separate ways and came back together. It’s shown that Sousuke is very conventionally attractive and has had women all over him, like, his whole life pretty much.

Royce: And seeing him date women has been really difficult for Gaku, and so they’ve – partially because of that – they’ve sort of drifted and come back together here and there. And once this is kind of all out in the open as the two of them are discussing this, Gaku specifically asks Yuriko that when Sousuke finally gets married, if the two of them can cry about it together.

Courtney: Ow… That’s– I want to say, that’s really cute, but it’s also very sad.

Royce: On Yuriko’s side of things, we get school time interests in BL. She was a part of a school club that was devoted to it. I think there was a passage that called it the Den of Evil and at that point she mentions that one aspect of her specifically being drawn towards gay male relationships is due to the lack of women in the stories. She also likes reading heteronormative romance, but she tends to like BL more and it’s because it’s a world that has nothing to do with her whatsoever. So she doesn’t feel out of place for not wanting a relationship. It’s like a safe space.

Courtney: Mmm. That’s a very interesting take on that, because I know many people in the ace community in real life who do like romantic and or sexual content if it is fiction and if there is a degree of separation between them and what media they’re consuming. But I don’t think I’ve heard it laid out exactly in that way when it comes to, well, in this case, BL manga. But that’s very interesting.

Royce: And so the flashback continues, with her finally hearing the word asexual for the first time. And the way that this happened is her middle school high school friend, who was also very into BL– The two of them were friends for a long time but her friend got to a certain age where she got suddenly very feminine, very extroverted, where Yuriko did not. And she – through her friend – she found herself in a lot of like public parties, situations that she was maybe less comfortable in. And for a period of time the two of them went overseas and were in Seattle for a while. And there’s a scene at a party where a couple of people are not intending to be mean but are kind of making fun of her for being shy or not dating or pointing out the fact that she hasn’t been in a relationship at all. And there’s one person in particular that basically stands up in the party. He’s a British guy who basically goes through the whole, not just asexual spiel, but general, like, queer spiel, explaining that there’s a variety of different sexualities out there and that it’s not okay to, like, make fun of someone.

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Royce: And this is the first time she actually hears the word asexual and she ends up– Like this person and his group end up being a very good support system for her while she’s in America before she comes back.

Royce: After that, we get a little bit of insight into how the two of them met. It was during a matchmaking session, both of their families forced them into it.

Courtney: Of course.

Royce: They get put together in a date and the two of them are both struggling. We learned that Gaku– this is like a series of dates, his family is really trying to pair him up and it never goes well. He kind of walks into it, sort of trying to apologizing upfront and is like, “Yeah, during my last one I got slapped.”

Courtney: Oh no.

Royce: Like, “I don’t want to waste your time and I understand if you’re upset, but like this is not going to work.” But they– getting that out in the open upfront allows them to just kind of sit and chat for a while and they get to know each other and they like each other’s company. They talk for quite a long time and then they go their separate ways. And three months later they randomly meet up again. They just meet up sort of randomly on the street and decide to talk and it turns out that, you know, Gaku is still being set up in matchmaking things and they’re still not working. I think he gets slapped another time.

Courtney: Oh, no.

Royce: It’s a common occurrence. But during that time, while the two of them are hanging out, Sousuke comes up and this is the first time that Yuriko sees, like, how Gaku is immediately just like red in the face, infatuated, whenever he shows up. And he leaves and the two of them spend the evening together. They have some drinks, they go to karaoke, they commiserate over all the stuff that’s going on in their lives. And Yuriko ends up falling asleep at Gaku’s house and has to mention this to her parents. She, like, calls them in the middle of the night and is like, “I’m not going to be home.” But because of that – she was living at home at the time – they get the impression that they’re dating, because she stayed over at his house. And the two of them, rather than try to have this conversation with their parents, are just like, “Let’s just hang out and they’ll be pretend dates, and it will keep up appearances to the family.” And there’s a line here that says that instead of going from friends to lovers, as the common trope is, we went from pretend lovers to friends over time.

Courtney: Mmm, I mean, there is a real life precedent for things like that.

Royce: And it’s through that process where they finally have a pretty in-depth conversation about, you know, why don’t we just get married, you know, we enjoy each other’s company and everyone else assumes that we’re dating, so.

Courtney: Makes perfect sense to me!

Royce: A little ways after that we get, I think, what I would consider the first actual conflict between the two of them. It’s a pretty minor thing but aside from a running gag of, “Gaku is really kind and interesting and amazing, the only problem is how interested he is in my BL manga,” [Courtney laughs] there’s a big scene and quite a bit of a confusion from an old friend that shows up.

Royce: Yuriko starts spending a lot of time with him going out to lunch, spending time in the evenings, and Gaku starts to get a little jealous or a little worried, a little something, because their relationship is changing.

Royce: He’s afraid that maybe something has happened and maybe she is in love with someone else and that he’s going to be alone again, that sort of thing. But they all get introduced and this ends up being one of her old friends from her time in the US. His name is Momoya, or Momo for short, and he’s engaged to the British guy I mentioned earlier, who first said the word asexual in front of her. And so Momo is the first person outside of the two of them who’s actually told their full story in its entirety, and it’s pretty blunt and enthusiastic about the whole thing. Later he spends some time alone with Gaku. But during a conversation around lunch, Gaku starts asking some more questions about BL. He’s confused as to why Yuriko likes it, particularly when so much of the content can be so explicit sometimes, as someone who is sex-averse. And I’m just going to read this whole passage.

Courtney: Lay it on us.

Royce: So, to answer his question, Momo says, [reading] “Let’s say that someone doesn’t understand the concept of sweetness, like they can eat sugar, but it doesn’t taste like anything to them. If that person ordered a dessert to eat, then people like you and I might wonder why, right? They don’t understand sweetness, so what’s so good about a dessert? But the sweetness of sugar isn’t all there is to like about desserts, you know? Things like maple syrup and chocolate sauce, they’re really fragrant. There are appealing looking decorations, there’s the softness of a sponge cake, whipped cream that just melts in your mouth, the texture of a layer of sliced fruit. Even if you can’t taste the sweetness, there are still lots of ways to enjoy a dessert. Even– You can even take in the smiles of other people around you who are enjoying that food. And maybe if someone isn’t able to taste sweetness, not being able to taste it is why they want to understand it.” [stops reading] And so I thought launching into an explanation of, you know, being interested in a certain media by talking about desserts was a very ace thing to do.

Courtney: Yeah! [laughs] Very ace thing to do. It’s also just a really, really good example because it’s more nuanced than the very simple explanation that people will sometimes give. Like you know, some people just don’t like cake even though everyone thinks everyone likes cake. Like people will use that to explain asexuality, right? But then you have the more nuanced experiences, like someone who is asexual and doesn’t experience that attraction but might still enjoy the act of sex. That just, like, breaks allo’s minds when they hear that. But being able to have a metaphor like that, to say like there are lots of reasons why someone could still enjoy this without that attraction, is really good for both asexuality, like an ace metaphor, but also an aro one. Because there are aromantic people that still engage in romantic relationships or something that might seem or appear to be a romantic relationship, and there can still be ways to enjoy that, even if the emotion doesn’t resonate the same way.

Royce: And so continuing on. After dropping the dessert metaphor, Momo says, [resumes reading] “Straight, lesbian, gay and bi people all have different ways of dating and perceiving love and sex. Some people sleep around, others don’t have eyes for anyone but a single partner. Just like that there’s gay BL fanboys who love BL, and other gay men who hate BL and want all BL fangirls to disappear. They probably feel like the fangirls treat our pain and suffering like entertainment or they think it’s sexually exploitive, like how some lesbians hate lesbian sex work.” And he says, “Oh sorry, I got sidetracked. What I’m trying to say is that some people don’t feel romantic attraction but still have a sex drive, and others can fall in love but hate sexual contact of any kind. There’s also people who can have sex with certain people in certain conditions, even though they don’t have a sex drive. Some people who don’t get romance and sex still want to date, and others who are completely averse to the idea of romance and sex in general. There is quite a spectrum. I think Yuriko is the kind of person who experiences a strong yearning. I think she doesn’t want any romance or sexual contact for herself, but in others it’s a brilliant sight in her eyes. It’s like she sees all those bonds throughout the world as beautiful, precious things, and it’s something dear to her and something that she doesn’t experience directly. As for why she likes BL in particular, she once told me it’s because she doesn’t have to picture herself in those stories. And well, you can ask her about that part yourself. But from her perspective, it might seem like the rest of us have a sixth sense of sorts.” [stops reading]

Royce: And he goes on to compare it to synesthesia, which is the, as he puts it, the word for people who perceive sounds and scents from pictures or see colors by reading letters or numbers. And says that, from Yuriko’s perspective, that might be what allosexual people feel like to her.

Royce: He goes on to explain that he has a friend whose little brother has synesthesia. He perceives colors from sounds, like the sound of a trumpet makes him see orange and black polka dots, the oboe causes green and white stripes. And goes on to explain like this is what this kid’s perspective is, and says like, “Isn’t that really cool? Don’t you wish you could, like, actually see what that is like or experience that? But you can’t. All we can do is take things in with our eyes and our ears as they are, and we can only imagine the colors that sounds produce. And we’ll never be able to see these sort of rainbow effects that this child is seeing when they’re in front of an orchestra. That kid just perceives the world differently than we do.” And relates that to someone who cannot experience, you know, romantic or sexual attraction, seeing that in a very mystical way as well as other people are just experiencing the world around them in this invisible, imperceptible way that they can’t really relate to, they can only theorize about.

Courtney: That’s really interesting. And I like that they called attention to the variety of opinions to BL as a genre, because earlier on, when you were going over the passage where she was saying you know, “I like this because I am so far removed from it. I can’t picture myself in this at all and that is part of the appeal for me.” Because I know there are people out there who think that the entirety of the genre, regardless of how sensitively it may be done, regardless of how and why it’s being consumed, and by whom, just think that it’s problematic. They’re like if you are not gay and you are seeking out BL or you are writing BL, it is wrong, it is bad. Because they’ll use the word like, “You’re fetishizing our experience.” That’s the argument I hear in the discourse all the time. But I like being able to point out, especially from an asexual perspective, because there isn’t fetishizing here, there is just an appreciation. But in her case and in the case of some real-life people, part of the appreciation comes from the fact that it is so different from your own experience and that you are so removed from it.

Royce: And so that is basically the end of I Want to Be a Wall, as it is currently published. The, like, last remaining half chapter, the lead-in, is the end of Volume 2. And basically this conversation between Momo and Gaku is the last major point. But then we see Yuriko at home and an unfamiliar woman approaches the estate and starts shouting and banging on the door, and she manages to wrench the door open, walk inside, point at Yuriko yelling with tears in her eyes and says, “So it’s you! You’re the girl Sousuke is cheating on me with, right?” And then it ends.

Courtney: [gasps] Oh no.

Royce: And that came out of nowhere. I have no idea what they’re going to do with it in Volume 3, but that’s where the story is at this point.

Courtney: Goodness. So we have much to look forward to. [laughs] And what’s your ruling on two out of three chapters?

Royce: Given what I described to you, what is your ruling? Did that hit the boxes?

Courtney: I think it hit the bare minimum boxes and then some more, because there’s also a comedy aspect which we don’t see all the time. Sometimes in these stories that are like coming to learn about your own experience and coming to understand asexuality and trying to explain asexuality to other people, sometimes I see them as very dry. Because even though they’re technically correct and someone who has not been exposed to sexual education can still learn something from it, so I’ll still say like, yeah, as far as representing asexuality it did fine, but is it an enjoyable story? Sometimes is a second question. Sounds like good ace rap to me. So I’m going to call it. That’s my final ruling. I Want to Be a Wall– Is– was that explained who wants to be a wall, and why?

Royce: There was only one image that I saw that kind of explained this and the two of them went to– I think it was like a con, it was like a big BL thing, and Yuriko was just extremely excited the entire time. And at one point Gaku stopped to take her picture next to cardboard cutouts of two figures, and instead of standing with them or beside them, she crouched on the ground right next to them and there was just a little box that said, “Best pose for a BL fan girl: become one with the wall.”

Courtney: Okay. [laughs] All right, I Want to Be a Wall: good ace rep. I’d also say there’s an aro element to it that I quite enjoyed. So good rep. [hits gavel]

Royce: Okay, so the last one that I wanted to talk about here is Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon. It is the longest one of the three, it’s 20 chapters, it is complete, so no cliffhangers this time. It is one that I’ve seen go by a number of different titles. I believe it was recommended to us as Crescent Moon and Doughnuts. As I just pulled it up here, I see an alternate title as Waning Moon and Doughnuts. I saw a translation note that used Flawed Moon instead of Crescent Moon, which is very fitting with the theme of the story.

Courtney: So moons and donuts in some form.

Royce: Yes, the Japanese title is Kaketa Tsuki to Doughnut, which the meaning variance of a crescent moon or a waning moon. And apparently through that I learned that there isn’t a native Japanese word for donut. I did not know that before.

Courtney: Fascinating. Wasn’t it– I mean just speaking of translations and donuts, wasn’t there in the first season of Pokémon – twenty some years ago – wasn’t there a super goofy dubbing change where they’re like, “Oh, these donuts,” and they’re clearly–

Royce: Rice balls?

Courtney: Like rice balls [laughs]

Royce: There was something like that. Wasn’t there also a coin with a distinct hole in the middle of it that they called like an American currency?

Courtney: Yes. [laughs] Like, why no, that is not a penny. I always wondered what some of the original jokes around Team Rocket actually were in the original Japanese. Because obviously Jessie and James is a very American reference to those names. But in the Pokémon movie there was a joke that was like they were dressed up as Vikings and someone was like, “I didn’t know there were Vikings anymore.” And Ash goes, “Oh, they mostly live in Minnesota.” And I was like, okay, Minnesota Vikings joke, that was clearly not in the original Japanese. God bless translators.

Royce: So this story starts out with the main character, her name is Uno Hinako, saying that, “Fashion magazines are my textbooks. If I dress up, put makeup on, and find love, then someone like me, who’s subpar in every way, can be normal.”

Courtney: Ow…

Royce: The following panel, the title page, says, “I want to love someone and more than anything else, I want to love myself.”

Courtney: Ow!

Royce: So right off the bat, the underlying theme is self-doubt and the pressure of societal expectations.

Royce: The story starts out with a routine getting done up to go out on a date, with the narration basically saying if I dress up, if I look nice, everything will be fine, I’m sure I’ll be able to fall in love with this person. And they go out on a date. It’s a person that the main character’s friends set them up with and, thinking about it, she says he’s good on paper, he’s like someone from the textbooks, from the fashion magazines. He’s the type of person that everything she has read has said she is supposed to fall in love with. But when she thinks about him being in love with her she feels physically sick. Later on, after an awkward date, she runs into a few friends and co-workers, including the one who set her up, and they ask about the date and she sort of brushes it off and we get some sort of line like, “Why don’t you just try going out with them? This job doesn’t pay a lot, so the sooner you find someone, the better.” Like isn’t being alone forever scary? And it’s very evident in this, throughout this entire situation, that she doesn’t have any personal feelings or needs towards this sort of relationship.

Courtney: She’s like, “Uh, is it?”

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: That doesn’t sound right.

Royce: Immediately after that she runs into Satou Asahi, who is actually the first name we get in this story. Satou is a little bit older. She works at the same office as Hinako. She’s seen as someone who is quiet, hard-working, reliable and someone that Hinako looks up to. Partially because she doesn’t embody all of these feminine social expectations and doesn’t seem to care that she doesn’t embody those things.

Royce: But Hinako gets back to work and all of the self-doubt and the self loathing that we saw before starts to creep back in. And this bleeds into another date with the guy that she’s been seeing. He asked her to go out with him and she tries to turn him down by listing all the things she doesn’t like about herself. And when he, like, presses on, we get a little look inside her head about her insecurities, which include this little voice in her head saying that she’s defective – I believe is the word she uses. That not being able to fall in love with anyone is messed up, that there has to be something wrong with her and that this isn’t normal. The guy gets up, leaves, apologizes for bothering her, which just makes her feel worse, because she feels like now, you know, whatever is wrong with me has caused harm to another person.

Courtney: Of course.

Royce: She starts walking home, breaks down crying along the way, and Satou from work runs into her while carrying a pair of little donuts from a vending machine.

Courtney: Are they under a crescent moon?

Royce: They find a bench in a park to talk and eat at, and it is underneath a crescent moon.

Courtney: Ah! Roll credits! I found them.

Royce: And Sato says she always gets donuts after making a mistake, because donuts aren’t perfect either, they have holes in them.

Courtney: Aw! [laughs]

Royce: And this really resonates with Hinako who, while breaking down earlier, after she said that she was defective, one of the ways that she worded it was full of holes.

Courtney: Ow… Are they cake donuts though?

Royce: I don’t know if they are cake donuts or not, but some of the donuts that they get– they get later in the show have like little animal faces made into them or drawn on them. I don’t know if that is any indication of the composition.

Courtney: I’m gonna headcanon them as cake donuts. You know, some people headcanon ships, some people headcanon sexual or romantic orientations. I headcanon cake. What can I say?

Royce: So after that they both go home the next day they run into each other again at work and Hinako’s heart starts to flutter in a way that has not happened through all of these dates she’s been on. [Courtney sounds intrigued]

Royce: The story continues with the two of them slowly getting to know each other. Most of it revolves around Hinako’s frustration with her current position in life. She feels very much stuck in traditional feminine social roles and doesn’t like it, but goes along with it as a defense mechanism. Like, being what society expects, being a young, smiling, fashionable girl protects her from public scorn. And, as I mentioned a moment ago, that’s exactly why she envies Satou so much, who is very blunt and overtly does not care about those things.

Royce: And at this point we see that Hinako definitely wants to get closer to Satou, but she’s kind of awkward about it. She doesn’t really know how to do it. She starts like trying to plan when she’s leaving work so maybe they can meet up on the way home. She buys extra donuts even though she’s mentioned that she’s a little hard up for money, but it’s just like on the off chance that they can run into each other and share donuts again.

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Royce: And before the two of– their relationship really hits it off, we see a little bit from both of their sides independently. A lot of this pressure to be normal is coming from Hinako’s mother. One of the ways that Hinako thinks about this internally after, like, a phone call with her mom, is that, “It seems like the more that I try to be normal, the more I end up disliking both men and myself.”

Courtney: Ow.

Royce: On the other side of things, we see Satou in a scene with her younger sister. She’s just shopping and ends up picking up, like I said, some cutesy sort of snacks like donuts with animal faces on them, grabbing an extra one just in case Hinako might like it. And her sister gets really excited, asking if Satou’s in love, and Satou says, “Things like love don’t matter to me. What’s important is that you are happy.” Speaking to younger sister.

Courtney: Aw…

Royce: And that is a big theme around where she is currently in her life. We’ll get into that a bit later but her whole thing right now is, for a long time now, she has been prioritizing taking care of her younger sister and hasn’t felt like she really has room to do things outside of that. To the point where her younger sister is frustrated with her for not going out and trying to find something for herself. Which starts coming up very blatantly when the three of them run into each other the next day. Satou’s younger sister’s name is Subaru, and she immediately starts interfering in the relationship between the two of them, like asking very pointed questions, letting it slip that Satou’s been talking about Hinako around the house frequently, inviting Hinako over to dinner, mentioning that she should come over because Satou is worried that Hinako isn’t eating well. And just generally trying to play matchmaker and embarrass the two of them in front of each other.

Courtney: Ah, okay. I was gonna say, is this like a wing sister kind of a situation?

Royce: That’s exactly what it is.

Courtney: Okay. ’Cause it could also just be like, “I am intentionally messing with my sister right now.”

Royce: It’s kind of both.

Courtney: Okay. [laughs]

Royce: But one part of the two of them being together is they both start consciously doing things that they feel is better for them. Like eating well, cooking more, cleaning up their houses, identifying behaviors about their lives that they don’t like and actively working on them. Just as a part of this forming relationship.

Courtney: Growing together. I like it.

Royce: And as for – as you mentioned – the wing sister, at one point she, while they’re around the house together, she pressures them both to use their given names instead of their family names, which, as co-workers, they were used to speaking each other in an informal tone.

Courtney: Oh, let’s get personal.

Royce: And she finds an excuse to leave the house to go shopping at one point when Hinako is going home and just asks very explicitly, “Are the two of you in love?” And Hinako has no idea how to answer this. She’s still trying to figure this out. But Subaru says she’s rooting for her and that she thinks that she will be the one to free her sister from her. And, like, acknowledges that she thinks her older sister is stuck trying to care for her.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: One of their earlier, like, big moments together comes after Hinako sprains her ankle, misses work and Satou comes to visit her, brings some things from a– from the store, which are various things you could get for a cold, which I’m glad they explained this to me because I did not understand that a sports drink, rice porridge, and peaches were things that you might eat when you have a cold.

Courtney: Oh! I’ve heard that before.

Royce: And at this point Hinako mentions that she kind of liked getting sick as a kid because it was the only time she’d get positive attention from her mom.

Courtney: [pained] Ow…

Royce: But while they’re over there, while they’re together, Hinako convinces Satou to let her paint her nails, and the painted nails becomes a common point of their relationship throughout there. It’s something special that the two of them can share.

Courtney: Cute.

Royce: But Satou’s immediately reserved about it. But Hinako counters by saying having pretty nails increases your mood by 20%, so you can get through work faster. And Satou’s immediately, like, “Do it.” [Courtney laughs] More productive.

Courtney: So basically just tricking her into treating herself.

Royce: Yes. [Courtney laughs] So as this relationship develops, as they start getting closer, Hinako has a bit of an internal struggle because they have, like, a little bit of brief physical contact, like, just their hands touching when they’re around each other. And on one hand Hinako feels very strongly for Satou, but on the other hand she feels, like, nauseous or, like, kind of sick about the physical contact. And one thing she says, speaking to being– the idea of being on the other side of a relationship that she had previously been on, previously it had always just been someone wanting her and her being resistant to that or opposed to that, actually feeling like she wanted someone. She said, “These violent emotions were inside even me.” And was kind of disgusted by that. [Courtney’s thoughtful uhm] And when speaking to just sort of the platonic nature of the relationship, “She says I wish this were love, I wish this could be love.”

Royce: So there’s this still, this struggle with the social expectation of what is love or what is a relationship, and a struggle to resolve what she’s feeling with what she feels like she is supposed to be feeling.

Courtney: Right.

Courtney: Ryce:

Courtney: So, moving on, the bulk of the, I guess, middle of this manga is just all about the two of them slowly getting together, their relationship slowly deepening. They start to be more overt about their feelings for each other. And at one point another character shows up, a potential rival shows up, or re-enters I guess. Her name is Fuuka and she is an old friend, a close friend of Satou’s, and at one point she ends up pulling Hinako aside and just very bluntly mentioned that– mentions that she is a lesbian who has been in love with Fuuka for a very long time. And tries to suss out how Hinako feels, but in doing so says things like, “Isn’t it hard being in love with someone like Satou? She’s so thick headed and the whole idea of romance goes right by her. She doesn’t even think of herself as a target of love.” And she sort of thinks that Hinako is in the same position that she has been in for a long time, where it’s just an unrequited sort of love situation.

Courtney: But Fuuka mentions, like, the idea of kissing someone and Hinako starts to think about that. And some of the ways that she works through that in her head I thought were interesting. Because she first says, “Being in love means you have to do stuff like that, doesn’t it?” And the idea of being, you know, pressured and to do something physical like that leaves her feeling uneasy. And when she thinks about it she’s always felt like that, but she kind of pretended not to notice that any idea of physical affection felt wrong to her. But she does say, “I want her to always be a part of my life. Co-workers, friends, those sorts of things aren’t enough. If you’re in love you want to kiss and that sort of thing, right? Normally. But that sort of normal is something I can’t do.” [Courtney uhms] “It may seem normal for everyone that when you like someone touching comes next, but for me I’m not sure I ever want to.”

Courtney: Very queerplatonic feelings.

Royce: Yes, yes. This is– This entire story felt very queerplatonic.

Courtney: Yeah, like I want something more and deeper than what society would perceive as friends, but I don’t want to take it in the direction society would expect it to go.

Royce: Yes. On Satou’s side of things, we hear some things from her that are like, “There’s someone I like just being with, someone I really want to see when I’m in pain. I don’t think I want to fall in love, but I still want them to always be by my side.” And I believe this is Fuuka who says, in response to this, “If you can say I always want them to be by my side, then just say love. That’s love, isn’t it? There’s all sorts of love in the world.”

Courtney: It can be a type of love.

Royce: And I think it’s about that point that they feel comfortable in their relationship together, in it being what it needs to be right now and not feeling like they need to force it to be something more than that. Part of the, I guess, final resolution of the story is a sudden visit from Hinaiko’s mom. We get a memory from Hinako as a little girl. Her father isn’t home, her mother is noticeably sad due to the situation and is avoiding telling her daughter why, and at first I thought this was going to be a divorce, like they had just gotten divorced and hadn’t told the child yet, or something like that. But apparently that’s not quite right. They’re still together even to this day. But in present day, Hinaiko’s mom says, “I can’t stand being around that man.” So I wonder if it was like a case of suspected or known infidelity that has just been happening for a very long time and they never got divorced. But, it was definitely a– there has been an unhappy marriage for a very long time.

Courtney: Sure.

Royce: And in the flashback scene her mother, who is clearly upset, like, young child can see and understands that her mother is upset–

Courtney: Yep.

Royce: And her mom says, “You have to find someone nice and be happy. You have to. Please don’t make your mother sad.”

Courtney: [groans] Oh no! Painful!

Royce: And so that sort of– that explains what we’ve been seeing the entire story up to this point. But, in present day, her mom shows up at her apartment – and anyone who has over-critical mom problems will understand the scene – her mom walks in with instant criticism, like little side comments about like the state of the apartment–

Courtney: Oh, no.

Royce: Like leading right in– right into, like, relationship status and what’s going on in life. And just really quick succession, several little criticisms. But at one point she says something disparaging about seeing Hinaiko and Satou together, just very briefly. Something like, you know, “Who was that?” And then I forget what Hinaiko says, but if it was like just a friend or just a co-worker. She’s like, “Oh, thank God,” or something like that.

Royce: And Hinaiko instantly flares up, gets defensive, I think yells a little bit, and leaves the house to cool down. And afterwards goes back in and sits down with her mom, and they actually have a nice conversation. And Hinaiko realizes that a huge part of this burden that she’s been carrying has been associated with her mother this whole time. Because as a child, her mom was always so busy doing everything to raise her that she never actually had time to spend with her. And as a kid, all she wanted to do was help and to be acknowledged, and the only way she knew how to help was to do what her mom asked. And what her mom asked her to do was to grow up and be in an heteronormative sort of stable relationship, which is just not something that fit her. But we get a resolution about that. It actually– the conversation actually ends pretty well. Her mother understands the situation after having it explained.

Courtney: Well that’s good.

Royce: After first being yelled at.

Courtney: Oh well.

Royce: But there’s a chapter left after that. The story ends up with Hinaiko and Satou discussing boundaries for their relationship. They’re both reserved about the aspect of physical touch in a relationship, so they kind of nervously get into it and one of them says, “I’m just not able to do all the stuff lovers normally do, like kissing, affection, that sort of thing. I just can’t.” And the other one says, “I don’t really have those kinds of desires either.” And there’s a line – I think I mentioned this to you when I read it because this never happens in media – but they say, “I guess communication is always the solution.” [both laughing] “And it works out well.” They just had a conversation and–

Courtney: Wow!

Royce: –found common ground.

Courtney: What a concept.

Royce: And that is where the story ends.

Courtney: Are you once again going to refuse to give your own verdict?

Royce: You can choose whether or not to hit the gavel. I think that the word asexual is not mentioned on the page. I think that the feelings that they mentioned felt very clearly asexual and aromantic to me. I think that what was depicted felt very much like a queerplatonic relationship. And I also just liked the story throughout, which was the social pressure or social expectations being burdensome and finding a healthy way to find yourself within those.

Courtney: Mm-hmm, yeah. And there’s this weird gray area because– One of the reasons why we like hearing the words and seeing it on the page so much is because we know how heavy the erasure is in fandoms and in discourse online, that if there is any shadow of a doubt, if there is any gray area that someone can pick apart, people will. They’ll be like, “No, this isn’t asexual, this isn’t aromantic, because–” whatever decisions they make. But it sounds like there really wasn’t a lot of gray area in this. It sounds still pretty explicit, is that your impression?

Royce: I would say that too. When I was getting into the early and middle parts of the story not knowing where it was going to end up, it wasn’t until they started very explicitly discussing the nature of the relationship, when they both said like, “I’m touch averse.”

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: I didn’t know where it was going to end up, but I think that was enough for me, yeah.

Courtney: Yeah, it sounds like it to me too. And I think it would be very relatable to anyone who has been in or wanted a queerplatonic relationship. Because even the description of, like, wanting more than friends but not wanting sexual contact or romantic societal implications certainly isn’t grey to me. And I like that. I think we do need a lot more queerplatonic rep out there, so I’m comfortable saying it’s good rep. Yeah, done, confirmed. Good rep! [hits gavel] That’s three! Three in one episode. We’re on a roll. You should be the – I don’t know – primary host. You should be steering the ship more often.

Royce: I don’t know. [Courtney laughs] It was harder for me to get into speaking mindset. It took longer. To put it that way.

Courtney: That’s fair enough. Well, you know, though, you introduced the episode, so I think you also need to sign off and close this out.

Royce: Do I, though?

Courtney: I think you do. That’s my least favorite part. I never know how to end episodes.

Royce: Well, luckily, we are well established enough that everyone listening knows what they need to do, and we will talk to you all next week.

Courtney: Goodbye.