Title: Goodnight Punpun Vol. 1
Author: Inio Asano
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Adult, Slice of Life
Publication Date: March 15, 2016
This volume starts off in elementary school, where Punpun Punyama, has big dreams for the future. He wants to win the Nobel Prize by discovering Planet Punpun in his telescope but he also wants to run away with he girl he loves. In this series, readers get to follow a young boy through the trials and tribulations of daily life. He has to deal with shitty parents, strange relatives, and friends who get into trouble. Punpun also is forced to face puberty and his desire to find some porn. Despite all of this – Punpun keeps his head together and is determined to grow up even when he wants to quit and cry. This is a heartfelt series that is both shocking and funny at the same time. Maybe humor is the only way one can really face the harsh reality of life?
You know the expression of “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well, this is one of those books where you’ll look at the title, then at the cover and possibly put it back because it seems you’re a bit too old to be reading something like this; however, when you open that cover and peer inside, you’ll soon realize that this is not meant for children in any way shape or form.
Punpun is described as a boy by the manga, but he’s depicted as an innocent bird. An innocent bird with friends who call themselves the Porn Hunters Alliance. He has a drunken father who beats his wife and puts her in the hospital, wrecks the house and blames it all on a burglar. He also masturbates and believes his brains have melted and squirted out of his wiener.
If you’re reading this review and are just sitting there staring blankly at your screen over what I just wrote; then welcome to Goodnight Punpun. It’s a very dark and lewd take on the slice of life genre that takes adult situations and spins them in such a way where you know the atmosphere is serious, but yet, you find yourself laughing at some of it. I don’t think I’ve muttered “Oh my God” or “WOW” so much by the time I finished the first chapter of any manga. I don’t mean that I muttered those phrases because I was impressed, but more or less because of the pure shock value I got just from reading the material.
I guess that’s to be expected when Punpun prays to God for happiness and gets rejected. He also has a friend who believes he can do a Kamehameha from Dragonball because a being with a poo snake for a head descended out of a UFO he drew and spoke to him.
This has got to be the most twisted thing I’ve seen out of Japan and this is coming from someone who has watched Pupa from beginning to end. The sad thing about all of this is while this just seems lewd, cruel, and full of shock value, it keeps you reading just to see what the author can do to top what you just read. If you choose to read it for yourself, you have been warned, but I will say that underneath it all, there is a simple story of two kids just wishing to be together and moving far away for a better life. I’m sure that kind of story will hit home to a lot of people and many can probably relate to this manga… no matter how twisted it is.
Quite frankly, I loved Goodnight Punpun and couldn’t put it down. Despite Punpun being depicted as a bird, it’s very obvious that the bird-like appearance of himself and his family is symbolic. At first I wasn’t so sure I would be interested in following a bird thing through 400+ pages but I quickly got hooked on the characters and the story. I really appreciate how normal Punpun is despite his apperance. His human friends don’t even seem to be aware that he’s a bird, which further convinces me that he’s actually just human. Maybe this is Japan’s twisted version of Wilfred? I can’t say I understand the concept completely, but this was exciting to read.
As a reader you’re just dropped into this little boy’s life and you’re forced to take a ride. We get to see Punpun as seemingly innocent – he bounces from crush to crush within 20 pages. Then we get to go home with Punpun and witness the mayhem of what is likely his daily life. Eventually the home situation escalates to violence, hospitals, divorce, etc.
We don’t see too much of Mr. Punyama but we do know that Punpun loves him very much and misses him. It is also obvious that Punpun hates his mother, but she doesn’t seem to be very interested in having a child anyway. She is also not around very much in this volume. Despite these hardships at home, Punpun has friends at school and indulges in the things you would expect of someone his age. In fact, Punpun’s friends play a very important role throughout the volume. They are peceptive of each other’s emotions and always show concern for Punpun, despite being troublemakers. Like anyone going through a rough patch, Punpun survives because of the strong support he has from his friends.
There are lots of interesting characters in this volume – I particularly like Punpun’s uncle, who wears glasses and a beanie all the time. He’s accepted life as a part-timer bum and is rather philosophical despite being lazy. He’s an athiest who has taught his nephew silly prayers and ideas to keep him going despite not believing in anything himself. That’s pretty respectable, in a weird way. I think everyone knows somebody like this. I would consider Punpun’s uncle to be the most intelligent character in this volume.
Punpun’s friends are drawn in a humerous way that reminds me of old Mad Magazines. Asano will draw her characters normally when they’re far away from the ‘camera’ but once we zoom in, she shows snot dipping, nostral flares, gap teeth, and other unaesthetic attributes one may expect from young children. I really liked the art style – it works very well for this series and doesn’t seem like too much overkill. The hilarious appearance of the world Punpun lives in is balanced out by how serious the story actually is.
I know some people may not be able to make it through an entire volume of Goodnight Punpun, but I finished and I can’t wait to read the next one.
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**This item was provided for review