Makimura Asako is a former Miss Japan finalist who is an out lesbian. She is married to a woman from France and works as entertainer (a “talent.”) To answer a lot of questions she gets about being gay and about LGBTQ people, life and sex, she has written a book called Yuri no Real (百合のレアル), or, as we might say it, “Real Yuri.”
This book, as Makimura-san plainly states, is not for people who already consider themselves members of the LGBTQ community, but really for people who just have no idea at all what being gay or lesbian or bisexual or trans…or anything means. It’s for the same kind of audience that Takeuchi Sachiko’s Honey x Honey series was for.
The book begins with, and is interspersed by, a short manga. Five people from different walks of life find themselves at a “How to Be Popular” seminar, taught by Maya, a lesbian. High school student Haruka thinks she might be a lesbian, but isn’t sure, Hiromi is an straight female office worker, Sayuki is a transwoman who has had top surgery and Akira is a straight guy. The five of them will discuss common misconceptions and questions of femininity, masculinity, gender roles, straight and gay sex and they will cover a lot of LGBTQ terms, history, and life.
Breaking up the discussion sections (which are appealingly designed, with little character faces expressing emotion, above the character’s dialogue, Makimura-san discusses her own life – her attempts to be straight, questioning her own gender and sexual identity, her acceptance of herself and her coming out. (Incidentally, she also mentions Higashi Koyuki, who very publicly married her partner at Tokyo Disneyland last year, which is tangentially how I “met” Makimura-san on social media, through another friend who was present at that wedding. It’s a very, very small world.)
It’s all very approachable, with the characters in the seminar voicing concerns, myths, questions and assumptions of the sort that most LGBTQ people have faced. Makimura-san’s autobiographical segments are going to be familiar to anyone who has been down the same road.
Through the book I honestly had only one complaint. The premise was that the seminar was supposed to have been about learning to be popular. After Maya has so thoroughly covered LGBTQ history and current issues, I wondered if they ever would, in fact, talk about how to be popular. Well…they do, and a lot of it has to do with accepting one’s self. And, of course, that is true. ^_^
Art: 7 Simple, magazine-y and appealing
Characters: 7 Morishima Akiko-sensei-esque. But I felt bad for Akira, the only guy in the book
Story – It’s really a non-fiction, with some fictive elements, but as a guidebook to LGBTQ life, it was quite good.
Yuri – 10
Service – A shocking almost nothing. Even in the “explaining lesbian sex” bit, it’s pretty low on service and high on useful content.
Overall – 8
I realize that this entire review will probably get lost in a black hole of no real audience. Japanese LGBTQ community members aren’t reading this blog and English-reading Yuri readers aren’t reading this book. But that’s never stopped me before and it’s not stopping me today. ^_^ Real no Yuri was real and it is yet again another small mesh in the zipper of terminology that is Yuri and Lesbian.