The third and final volume of GUNJO (羣青 下) is no easier to read than the previous two volumes. In fact, there are several moments that still manage to shock and appall, even with all we’ve been through.
“What would you kill for?” The brunette, Megane-san, asks the blonde’s, Sensei’s, sister-in-law, and she in turn asks her husband. It is a question that is buried deep in the heart of this volume.
Things we thought we knew, turn out to be not true, and the depth of the despair of Megane-san’s life only becomes truly apparent when she’s all but shed her last layer of emotional armor. Still, it is in moments where kindness manages to be felt for a mere moment, that brutality is the most harsh, and in the middle of the most intense violence when gentleness can be felt most clearly.
One of the questions asked back when I reviewed the first or second volume was – how much time has passed? I can answer that now – it’s been about a week, going on two.
As I read this story, probably about halfway through what would become the second volume, I conceived a wish – a hope. It was an insane hope, because there was nothing at all in the story that lead me to think it could ever come true. I desired, most of all, to see the two characters – the beaten, abused, unloved woman, and the woman who killed for her – smile. It was a ridiculous wish that could never happen.
The final half of this final book is the literary equivalent of lancing an infected wound to get the infection out. There’s really no other way to describe it. Page after page of confession, admission, digression, discussion finally brings the two characters through the last of their despair to the inevitable end of their story.
GUNJO is over and I have nothing left to say about it. It’s been wonderful, it’s been painful, it’s been sublime.
In the end, there’s only one question left for you to ask – Did they ever smile? You’ll have to read it and find out.
Overall – 10
Once again, I want to thank Nakamura Ching-sensei for creating this extraordinary story.
Without question, GUNJO is the best manga I have ever read, and it encroaches deeply on the “best book I have ever read” list.