Archive for the Gunjo Category

Yuri Manga: GUNJO, Volume 3 (羣青下)

June 20th, 2012

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.

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The End of GUNJO (羣青)

March 4th, 2012

I finally had a chance to read the final chapter of GUNJO, in the March issue of IKKI magazine.

I do not know what to say about it, really. It left me quite literally gasping for air. I sat there and panted for about two minutes, as I stared at the last page.

The ending was not what I feared it might be, it was not what I hoped it might be. It was infinitely better than I imagined, both happier and sadder that I expected. It contained something I wished desperately for and never truly believed could happen.

If you too have read it, please feel free to tell me your impressions in the comments. No spoilers, please. I do not wish to ruin anyone’s experience of the ending.

The third and final volume of Gunjo will be slightly delayed. According to her Twitter feed, Nakamura-sensei entered the hospital recently and, while she is back home recovering, her work will be slowed or suspended for some time until she is feeling better. I know I am not alone in wishing her a speedy recovery.

「羣青」ありがとうございます。Thank you, Sensei, for GUNJO.

It’s been a hell of a ride.

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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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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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Second Volume of Gunjo on Sale

January 28th, 2011

Since we’re on the topic of squee-making manga news, today the second Volume of GUNJO is on sale.

Let’s show Nakamura-sensei as much support as we can!

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