torachan: a happy cartoon guy with the text "it's like a blast of happy up my ass" (blast of happy in my ass)
I have been translating Nakamura Ching's Gunjo for the scanlation group Kotonoha for a while now and just last week finished the final chapter of the first volume (the series is still running, but it will be three vols. total, and the first vol. is more than double the length of a regular manga, so it's longer than it seems) and while the scanlations are only up through chapter five (plus a special unnumbered backstory chapter), I really, really recommend it.

When I first heard the summary, that it was about a lesbian who kills the husband of the woman she loves (who doesn't love her back, and in fact treats her like shit), and the two go on the run together, I was dubious. It sounded like it could be really skeevy, but omg it is so, so good.

When I say this woman is a lesbian, she really is. This is no "gay for you" story. She has been a lesbian since high school, dates other women besides the woman whose husband she kills, and there are other lesbian characters as well. And as the story goes on, you find out that things are a lot more complicated than they seem. This is not a story about evil lesbians. It is not a story about evil women of any sexual orientation. There is a reason for everything, and you will sympathise with both main characters (as well as the many minor characters who get their turn (all women, all of whom are more complicated than they seem on the surface)). It's a manga that really critiques society.

And while I can't see a very happy ending for two women on the run from the law, if they do end up dead at the end or something, it won't feel like a Dead Lesbian story because they are not the only queer people in it. They are dysfunctional, but there are other queer people living their lives and being happy (I won't give spoilers, but the final chapter of vol. 1 focuses on one of the minor characters and is awesome in that regard).

I really can't say enough good about it, and I don't want to get into particulars too much because I think it's really best read without spoilers (though it is definitely not a pleasant story and there is domestic abuse as well as sexual assault). It's also really well drawn. The art has this visceral, raw quality that is just perfect for the story it's telling.

Also, I wondered due to the content of the story if the author was queer herself, and according to this interview (in English), she is indeed:
Q5: What were your motivations for creating Gunjo?

I wanted to draw the keen loneliness of a lonely person. I wanted to turn our kindness and cruelty (the kinds of emotions that we can't control with our own wills) into a manga. And also, because I am gay. Living a life of hiding I was gay was unpleasant, so I wanted to give myself the chance to admit I was gay.

Openly queer manga creators are pretty rare (while there is a lot of manga with same-sex couples (both f/f and m/m), most of it is of the fantasy "gay for you" variety written by and for straight people), so this is definitely a woman I want to support and spread the word about.

I would recommend it even to people who are not that into manga, because it is just an awesome story and a smart story. You can read in English online or download the first six chapters on Kotonoha's website.

You can also buy volume one and volume two (just released last month) off Amazon Japan.


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