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.