If you read my last editorial following this series, you’ll remember that I was highly skeptical of the ending in Volume 5. Punpun was reunited with the innocent childhood love of his life, Aiko. It turns out Aiko went through some really screwed up shit that destroyed career opportunities, independence, and happiness. To put it briefly, her mom is insane. In this volume, as I suspected, this temporary euphoria with Aiko is the catalysis to a nightmare come true. Just when sanity and a normal life seemed possible for Punpun, that all slips away when the couple decides to see Aiko’s mom one last time before running away.
The visit to Aiko’s is much like stepping into a den of schizophrenia. Their home is filthy like that of a hoarder, which is characteristic of older, depressed schizophrenics. Her mom appears to be physically handicapped, without the ability to walk since she literally drags herself around, insisting she needs Aiko’s help to carry out basic daily tasks. She’s also clad in Aiko’s school uniform, which is certainly another level of strange. This scene is special because of how it plays out. Aiko declares she’s leaving to live with Punpun. Her mom drags herself to the kitchen and makes them all some tea. She then proceeds to attack Aiko verbally, insisting that she is useless and should stay home with her mouth shut – doing only as her mother says, of course. That definitely sounds like a mentally ill parent to me. Eventually the mother gets violent, gets to her feet, and stabs Aiko in the abdomen. Punpun then jumps to her defense and wrestles with the mother. She is then killed. This whole scene is very intense and visual. It’s horrifying but you can’t look away, and as screwed up as Goodnight Punpun is, I never expected anyone to become a murderer – especially in such a gory, primal fashion. I imagine this will haunt both Aiko and Punpun in more ways than one, since her mother was connected to the cult we’ve been following on the sidelines for several volumes.
Aiko and Punpun flee and begin a new life as criminals on the run. From here on out, we’re in a True Crime story, since all of Punpun’s decisions line up with that of a murderer. Instead of simply being trustful and going to the police to report the incident and taking Aiko for much needed medical attention, they attempt to live day to day hoping to get far away from the scene and anyone who may suspect them. Punpun, who is now depicted with a human body and a horned head, stitches Aiko up with a rudimentary sewing kit and drags her along even if she’s prone to infection or death. I suspected from this point onward that Punpun was going to abuse Aiko, and I wasn’t too far off. He becomes abusive and has unreasonable thoughts that are not in line with how people perceive. It’s as if Punpun has been harboring all of his anger towards his family and those who abused him or abandoned him and sends it all into Aiko. At this point, I don’t even know if Punpun has feelings for Aiko or anyone for that matter. He just seems to use her for sex and then abuses her when he’s frustrated.
When Punpun punches Aiko and she loses a tooth, he remembers how she looked in elementary school when she had a gap in that very space as she waited for her adult tooth to grow in. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to visualize because the conditions are so contrasting. When we first see Aiko without her front tooth, she appears cute, happy, and innocent – the way we should see a young child. Adult Aiko without her front tooth is a different visual entirely. She is miserable, physically beaten, and mentally trampled. It’s as if her smile represented hope. We see this when she attempted to be a model. Her smile was very important to her poses, and because she was unhappy, she noted that it was hard to maintain the phony smile and continue modeling. Now, her smile has been shattered entirely and she’s trapped with a violent, irrational, and demonic Punpun. At the end, Aiko reveals that she actually killed her mother after Punpun strangled her, but to be honest, I’m not so sure that clears Punpun’s name. He still seems just as guilty as before and his actions show the guilt he is carrying. And there is no real way to know if Aiko is telling the truth, since we haven’t been provided with any evidence aside from Aiko’s confession. There’s a lot more to this, but I’d like to switch gears and look at Sachi, who is actively searching for Punpun while he’s hopping from town to town with Aiko.
Sachi’s fruitless search for Punpun is a fantastic contrast between how people perceived Punpun, his unlocked potential, and how he’s now at the point of no return. Again, we’re in a crime tv show or a news segment covering a murderer. Sachi investigates Punpun’s life inside and out, learning about his childhood, his job, his friends (or lackthereof), and his potential since he was testing for his real estate license. The one consensus from everyone is that Punpun drifts about and will return. They’re not sure what he’s doing, but it’s obvious that they don’t suspect he is on the run as a suicidal criminal. Knowing how close we are to the final chapter of Goodnight Punpun, I’m absolutely on the edge of my seat to know what Inio Asano is going to throw at us next. Is Punpun going to be redeemed by Sachi? Is he going to kill Aiko? Will Aiko turn herself in to clear Punpun’s name? There are so many questions that will hopefully be answered in the concluding volume of Goodnight Punpun
*This title was provided by the publisher.