Yuri Manga: GUNJO, Volume 2

April 11th, 2011

There will be massive spoilers in this review. I cannot discuss how powerful the story is or the reactions I had without them. If you object, skip to the ratings.

Today, we speak of desperation.

In my interview with Nakamura-sensei, she called GUNJO (羣青 ) a story about the “profound loneliness of a lonely person.”

In Volume 1 (上), we learned why the brunette would be driven to desperate acts, as a way to escape a life of despair and pain. She had nothing to lose. And we can understand that, we can forgive that. Abused women fighting back makes sense to us.

In Volume 2 (中), we are forced to deal with the other half of that act…executed by a woman who had everything to lose.

The beginning of Volume 2 starts with the chapter that made it impossible for me to continue to write chapter-by-chapter reviews of this story. This is when I began thinking of reading GUNJO in terms of “eating the most delicious razor blades you’ve ever had.” Each chapter hurts so magnificently, it has become my equivalent of cutting. I read a chapter to see how low into despair I can sink, how intensely I can feel their loneliness, how miserable they can make me feel. I read this every month to see if I can still summon hope.

In Volume 2, we do the most absolutely emotionally draining thing possible, we stop watching the main couple, with their dysfunctional relationship and dangerous dynamic, and take a step aside to really understand everything the blonde has thrown away. I don’t believe I’ve ever shed so many tears over a book as I did in these chapters. Watching the blonde’s ex re-create her life, find out how close they were to making it permanent (or, as permanent as possible for two gay women in Japan in the present), watching as the loss of her lover forces the ex to come out to her parents, and express how she *would* have spent the rest of her life with that woman. And then, when it all seems like she’s put it behind her and is ready to move on, we watch her give up completely…and kill herself. The blonde, who has everything to lose, has lost everything.

Then, when we think that we can put that behind us and we can move on, the ring her lover had bought her….the ring with which she was intending to propose…is given to the blonde, along with the story of her lover’s death. Now she has to deal with new loss on top of old.

But the book doesn’t end there. Profound loneliness has no cure. It wants no cure. The brunette, a woman who has run until she has been cornered by life, has new ammunition to make the one person who cares about her hurt. So she does. She batters the blonde with emotional torment until the blonde throws away the very last relics she has of her former life, 550 yen….and the wedding ring.


Art – 10
Story – 10
Characters – 10
Lesbian – 10
Sevice – 1

Overall – 10

There is no respite here. There is no moment when we can breathe a sigh of relief.

All we can do is feel the desperation and the loneliness of despair. And wait. For Volume 3.

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6 Responses

  1. Mara says:

    “…and kill herself.”

    I had actually been hoping that my understanding of Japanese was too infantile and that I had missed somewhere something that stated that Sensei’s ex was not dead (in other words that the suicide attempt had failed).

    It is good that Gunjo is so interesting and engaging otherwise it would just be too damn exhausting to read. As is right now I needed a sorbet after volume two.

  2. @Mara – I am right there with you. I read each chapter obsessively, hoping that I was missing something, but, no. And after those chapters with her mother….

    This is still the most breathtaking story I’ve ever read, but by the gods, it is not easy.

  3. Ichigo69 says:

    I don’t suppose there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that we’re ever gonna see this licensed in English, are we? And it’s prolly my luck that there’s no furigana and will be very difficult for me to read….


  4. Mara says:

    Just went to check… sorry but no. Furigana is only used for unusual stuff and considering the target market for Gunjo that does make sense.

    I don’t hold out much hope for an English country licence but a French or German one I could understand. I should stress I know nothing about how licensing happens and base this purely on personal prejudice.

    Also would also say that Gunjo is very marketable as a crime story as it holds so many of the tropes that make a good crime story and twists them from ‘crimes against the state’ that make up a majority of crime stories into ‘crimes against people’. This makes every little event and act of aggression a much bigger deal and every bit of calm all that more necessary. Although to me those pieces of calm are much more menacing given that something horrible is then expected to break the mood.

  5. Ashrie says:

    How I hope this gets an official English release. It sounds really good, even if I’d probably have to watch or read something incredibly cutesy and happy to rid myself of the desperation such a story would instill in me…lol

    Oh, and that cover? Really scary… o_O

  6. Alien8 says:

    I say nominate this for a Nobel or
    some such prize in literature – which is certainly what it is – graphic literature.

    That might make potential English licensors sit up and bark ;)

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