Yuri Manga: GUNJO (羣青), continued

October 24th, 2011

It’s been a while since I talked about GUNJO (羣青), hasn’t it? The first volume was brutal and awful and wonderful and the second volume was, as I keep saying, like eating the most delicious razor blades ever.

And now, as the story approaches an end, I want to talk about it once more. Now, while it’s still in that Schroedinger’s Cat phase of not being over, but already ended. (It has to be ended, or nearly so, just because of the publishing schedule of magazines.)

As I read each new chapter, I find myself scanning the faces of the woman who was abused and despised by everyone ever who was supposed to have loved and cared for her and the only person who ever actually did,  wondering how this series could end without them both dead, wondering if they will ever be free, wondering if they will ever smile again, wondering if I’m as or more pathetic than they to even think that they might.

Look at the scan above. (I left in all the ghost images from the pages in front and behind this tableau, because this is what the pages look like when I read the chapters in the magazine.)

“Hey!” says the brunette, who Japanese fans call Megane-san because she wore glasses.

“…Mm?” says the blonde, called “Sensei” by Japanese fans because she was a vet, before she became a criminal.

There they are, facing each other down, having survived so much together and yet not together at all. The brunette gets angriest when the blonde shows her any kindness, the blonde gets angriest when the brunette becomes self-deprecating. Neither can let each other go….neither wants to be left alone….neither wants to be with the other. They are suspended in a relationship so intimate that they loathe each other for it, but when they think about it a little, they don’t dislike each other at all.

Where can this series go? I have absolutely no idea. I sit around sometimes and try to predict the end. Will Megane-san give herself up, and let Sensei return to what’s left of her life? Or maybe they will die in a freak accident, solving the entire problem? Or maybe they will be free, after all, the police haven’t caught up to them yet….maybe they can escape…and then I slap myself for being a fool.

You don’t know what the brunette says next. I don’t know what will happen next. Like every chapter of GUNJO, this one keeps us suspended on a knife bridge, spikes on one side, swords on the other. This moment is not a breath of fresh air – it’s the moment before the breath is punched out of us.

GUNJO has been the hardest thing I have ever read in my life. I love it to the point of incoherence.  It’s long moved past being about a lesbian, and I don’t even know what it’s about anymore…other than life and death.

However it ends, no matter how much it hurts (and it will, of that I have no doubt,) I’ll still consider this one of the greatest stories I have ever read in any language. Thank you Nakamura-sensei. Thank you for GUNJO.

要約:これまで読んできたあらゆる言語の作品の中で、最も優れた物語のひとつ (要約/翻訳 |小松さん)

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3 Responses

  1. Mara says:

    I certainly hope it does not end with them being caught by the police I guess given the tone it cannot be spectacular but if something is not settled Gunjo will have the shape of a downward spiral that is too simplistic for something so good.

    Although what is with the media in Gunjo? Is it a shared hallucination between the two characters that the media is always talking about the murder? Because since when was murder of an ordinary person newsworthy?

    If the murder of one jerk can get this much attention shouldn’t the systematic abuse of one woman over her entire life by everyone she meets raise an revolution by comparison?

  2. @Mara – While we know little about the man murdered, we do know he was relatively well-off. Given that wealth and power are typically connected, we can surmise that he was somebody, if not not somebody significant.

    So initially, his murder got attention. It was a pretty brutal murder, and had sexual overtones (again, easily extrapolated from what we do know.) His wife has disappeared, as well. All that is enough to guess that it’s newsworthy.

    How long have they actually been on the run?

    We’ve been following them for years, but I would bet that it’s been less than a month, and probably no more than two weeks total.

    So, the media might still be interested, if nothing new and more shocking had appeared. Even so, news related to them is shifting back in the newspaper, as it would.

    And…this is a critical…we are seeing everything from their perspective. They only notice the news when it has to do with them. The media is otherwise blinded and shuttered to them. So, it appears *from their perspective* that the media is covering this endlessly.

  3. Surrender Artist says:

    “eating the most delicious razor blades you’ve ever had,” sounds like something from a Tom Waits son, or possibly part of his daily breakfast.

    I first heard you mention Gunjō on ANNCast while I was catching up on what had happened in my six-year absence from regular attention to anime and manga, but I only just read entries about it here today. Suffice it to say that you’ve made me very interested in it. I’m very drawn to stories about broken, worn-through souls, to stories with a tight, intimate focus on a very few characters over a limited span of time, and to things that keep one’s emotions engaged, if not outright challenged, so it seems like something that I’d appreciate.

    Hence it’s also frustrating as *achem* Watashi wa Nihongo o yomemasen yo (the great thing is even if that’s as wrong as I think it is, it just makes the point all the better) and the prospects for it being licensed for English release seem remote. There are ‘means’ of course, but I’m not keen on them and reading from a computer screen is a bother anyway.

    Oh well, I suppose I could always buy the Japanese editions, then try to pick up where I left off learning in college.

    You’re very good at enthusiastic reviews. Buying into them certainly paid off with Hayate X Blade… which was also frustrating since after gleefully tearing through both omnibuses it was a damned hard stop to read Adam Arnold say that future volumes are, “not in the cards for right now”.

    What an incongruous pair of titles to mention in the same virtual breath.

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