(Note to people looking for scanlations of this book. The author does not work herself to the bone and pay money out of her pocket so you can steal her work. Scans are not cool – they are theft. You want the book, click the picture and go buy it. Otherwise, you’re devaluing her time and effort and there is no justification for it, other than you are selfish.)
“Is it settled?”
With these few words begins one of the most profound, most emotionally engaging manga I’ve ever read.
Gunjo, Volume 1 (羣青 上)by Nakamura Ching is a journey from madness to madness, from profound misery to profound misery and from derision and fear into depths of despair where there is respect and even love.
It begins in the moments after a horrible crime has been committed. A woman has asked someone to kill her husband for her. She has asked someone she knows she can use – another woman, a lesbian, who has been in love with her since high school. The woman who requested the death is abusive, derisive. The woman who committed the crime is passive, almost apathetic. She flinches in the face of the other’s harsh words, but doesn’t fight back.
In between incredible, sudden violence, at moments when their existence is most tenuous, there is tenderness. No, it’s more like that there is only tenderness in the moments when they are most fragile.
We only learn later that the one woman has been serially abused by her husband, after a life with an abusive father. And we only learn later that the other woman walked away from a relationship and a life to commit this act of violence for her.
There is no real moral ambiguity here – these two women are violent and broken. They are insanely bad for one another and have together done something unspeakable. And yet, in the darkest moments, they realize they want to live and try to create something like a life out of the chaos they’ve created.
Nakamura-sensei’s art is detailed and realistic – and in those moments of terrifying violence it reaches the level of sublime. Her writing is subtle – and painful and hurtful – and breathtakingly beautiful especially when the situation is uncertain. There is a mastery of tension of just about every kind in every word and line of this story.
Moving, brutal, sublimely gorgeous and profoundly disturbing.
I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say this – Gunjo is the best manga I have read to date.
Art – 10
Story – 10
Characters – 10
Yuri – 7
Service – 1
Overall – 10
I would love to hear from those of you who bought Volume 1 of Gunjo – what did you think of it, now that you’ve had a chance to see it for yourself?