REN’AI RENSAI (恋愛連載) (The Serial of Love)
Genre: (Erotic) Romance, LGBT
Novella, novel, and short story length insights into one lesbian relationship spanning over 20 years. Stories are not released chronologically but can be read in any order. Set in Japan.
NOTE: Clicking on a header takes you to the official REN’AI RENSAI website!
“Aiko and Reina have been together for almost 20 years, yet one thing remains unsaid between them: “Daisuki”, or, “I love you”. As they approach their anniversary, their relationship comes to an impasse as Aiko the Japanese housewife begins demanding “I love you” with a side of marriage and romance.
But Reina doesn’t understand complex concepts like “love” or other heavy emotions. She’s spent years supporting her girlfriend via a soul-sucking salary job and tending to their mutual needs in the bedroom. Isn’t that sufficient? In a culture demanding Reina choose between the “feminine” and the “masculine” worlds, it’s bad enough she’s trying to find her role without Aiko adding extra pressure.
Some words need not saying, but “I love you” is about to destroy a relationship already surviving strange side-lovers and even stranger exploits.”
Reina has met plenty of girls like Aiko before: cute, naive, and ready to screw the status quo. After being burned by countless young women who go on to marry men and forget their lesbian lives, how can Reina trust yet another “good girl” following her around? Especially when she thinks she may be having those foreign feelings for her best friend instead.
Time will only tell if Hatsukoi, or “first love,” has really come to two such different people. Is their relationship genuine or just another footnote amongst flirting, lying, and sneaking around love hotels?
For over twenty years Reina has sexually celebrated the women around her with a reverence only tolerated by her wife, Aiko. But when Reina misinterprets the fluidity of their open relationship, she’s backed into a corner where her gender dysphoria reigns supreme. In order to salvage her marriage, she may have to reanalyze the way she views the world, her life, and her experiences.
Just when she thinks she’s figured her spouse out, Aiko faces an unexpected transgression. Can she forgive her? Or will love finally give way to the fatigue that accompanies being with someone like Reina? A sick mother and unsympathetic sister are not helping Aiko’s dilemma.
Even the most passionate relationships sometimes fall asunder to “seikou,” the sexual character at the core of one’s identity. Will Reina and Aiko reunite with stronger hearts, or is it finally time to go their separate ways? And if they do split up, who will help them pick up the pieces – the stoic therapist, the desperate socialite, or the young couple who initiated this mess to begin with?
The day Aiko and Reina move into their own home together is supposed to be a joyous occasion. However, with Reina working five to six days a week, Aiko the budding housewife finds solitude tough to handle. She jumps headlong into making friends at the nearest lesbian get-together but meets one person not interested: Reina’s bitter ex-girlfriend, who fills her emotional void with activism and her love for all-female musicals.
While Aiko establishes herself as the queen of domesticity, Reina is nominated for a promotion at work. She soon discovers that being a woman in the professional world is rife with injustice, and begins to resent her gender and the way society treats it. With her ex-girlfriend now hanging around, it is a cold reminder as to what happens when Reina becomes a thorn in other women’s families.
Living together will give Aiko and Reina challenges never dreamed of before, yet it gives them the chance to build a life together, other women notwithstanding. Their first trial is to navigate the first few months of coming out, disappointment, glamorous show tunes, and a dark cloud of kataomoi, or “unrequited love,” hanging over the city.
No one could be less maternal than Reina, and her wife’s conversations about adoption, sperm donors, and other matters do nothing to improve that. Reina is more concerned with the American looking to chronicle her sordid history in the name of academia.
Aiko and Reina have survived a gamut of obstacles determined to keep them apart. Yet nothing scares Reina more than losing her wife to the very things she can’t give her, and nothing torments Aiko more than the emptiness in her life. If these two can’t resolve their separate desires, then not even a heartfelt “koibumi,” or love letter, may keep them together.
One year into their relationship, Reina and Aiko embark on a journey into the world of academia. For Reina it’s about changing her situation in life, even it means returning to a world ran by a foreign religion and young women who claim to be both her best friends and worst enemies. For Aiko it’s proving to her mother, to the world, and to herself that there is more to life than husband hunting. For them both it’s late nights finding unconventional ways to study for tests as they find new reasons to love each other.
Adulthood lurks in every shadow, from coming to terms with mortality to straining against the shackles that threaten to keep their lives stagnant. Reina wants to find direction in her life; Aiko wants to control her own destiny. Together they want what will become the foundation of their relationship – love, safety, and the exploration of their burning joshoku, or the passion that leads one to women again and again. Even if one of them is an impostor herself.
“People say that we change as we get older. My biggest fear was that I would wake up one day and no longer be in love with Reina. Instead I woke up one day with urges that took me to the very kind of people she couldn’t even think about.”
Aiko almost has the perfect life. A strong marriage, a fun part-time job teaching English, and a healthy social life that keeps her stimulated in more ways than one. But she’s changing. For the first time in years, there is someone she is falling for… and it’s not someone her spouse would approve of.
How can she truly be happy if she’s repressing a part of what makes her tick?
“I haven’t changed in over twenty-five years. This includes most of my opinions. Except I don’t have popular opinions about anything. Take gender for example. I know I’m messed up, but it could be worse. I could really hate my body to the point I can’t live in it anymore. Not even my wife understands that. But somebody else does.”
Reina has come far in her therapy, but nothing can change the fact sometimes she can’t face the way the world treats her because of her body. When she searches for someone who understands her, she meets another woman dealing with gender dysphoria. A woman whose dysphoria has taken her to a place Reina is still afraid to traverse.
It’s taken twenty years for Reina and Aiko to seal their relationship. Now the years have caught up to them and they must decide what their “ikigai,” or their reason for living is. Friends come and go; lovers can be finicky; family is what they make of it.
Their final hurdle in life, love, and sexuality will determine now and forever who they will spend the rest of their lives with. And they want so badly for it to be each other.