The further into Goodnight Punpun I fall, the harder it becomes to separate fiction from reality. Punpun himself is the result of awful, ineffectual parents, relatives, and friends. It seems like Punpun carries the burdens of his life on his shoulders. He wallows in a deep depression: suicidal thoughts and dim hopes for the future. He has an inability to read people’s emotions and slice often keeps his rather insightful thoughts to himself, leading people to believe he is selfish or stupid. You can’t really blame Punpun, though, for who he has become. It’s understandable that he would confuse rape with love, abuse and manipulation with friendship, and loneliness with safety. This is just a brief summary of the childhood that created the young adult we see in volume 5.
What makes this volume special is that the impact of the outside world has become so much more obvious. We have completely deviated from the original formula of following Punpun’s internal conversations as he moseys through childhood shenanigans. The actions of those who aren’t close to Punpun are more apparent. For example, Sachi’s manga gets rejected because Punpun’s story is too mundane. I paused for a moment here, because I bet Punpun may have chosen to focus on himself as the story for Sachi’s manga. It would come as no surprise, since he has been referred to as selfish on several occasions. It’s also not uncommon for an amateur writer to source material from their own experiences. This section spoke volumes about the world and its ever changing fads. The editor notes that they wouldn’t find readers for the Punpun’s story. She suggests Sachi find another writer. In reality Goodnight Punpun was a tough sell to publishers for the very reasons the fictional manga was rejected.
So much happens in volume 5 – this isn’t a bad thing. If anything, I’m going to argue that if Goodnight Punpun is a harsh look at reality then the increase in people and events in each volume as the series progresses is a reflection of how time feels in real life. When you’re young time goes by slowly and it did feel like Punpun was always going to be a child. When you get older, each year seems shorter than the last. You also have no idea as a child what the future holds. When you’re an adult, you have a good idea of what’s going to happen and maybe the days seem like weeks if you hate your job, your family, or yourself. The days probably felt very long to Punpun as he hid under the blanket in his lonely apartment.
I took a quick glance back at volume 1, when Punpun thought he wanted to be a baseball star or the scientist who will find planet Punpun. Do you remember that innocent boy trapped in a vicious cycle of domestic abuse? Looking back, I realize I barely remembered who Punpun was when we met him as a boy. As his personal life became more difficult and less forgiving, he became more distanced from humanity. I don’t mean physically – I mean mentally. Early on, after losing his virginity, Punpun loses the ability to read human emotions or build healthy relationships. I cannot think of one positive relationship Punpun has in the series. Aiko is an unstable option, Sachi is clearly using him despite having feelings for him. Punpun’s most helpful relationship seems to be with his landlord, who loses his health due to an unfortunate accident linked to his attempt at fixing the broken friendship between Punpun and Sachi.
I’ll have to admit, that was one heart wrenching scene when left in context. The goofy landlord who really has a good heart and just wants to help, makes an honest mistake and gets tackled into a coma. The cat statues, intended for Punpun and Sachi, lying on the floor really got to me. Additionally, his inability to purchase the cats so Punpun could have a gift for Sachi is foreshadowing for more trouble ahead.
I was beginning to hate Punpun in volume 4 for not getting himself together and acknowledging that he needs to learn how to interact with other humans. I was loathing him for being a loaf, refusing to come out from under the blanket in his filthy apartment. By the end of volume 5 I felt a deep sympathy for Punpun because he actually found a way to maintain his pure, childhood heart. Despite being an awful friend, terrible boyfriend, lousy hookup, and mediocre employee, he maintained his desire to reunite with Aiko. When he finally runs into her again, his feelings for her were as honest and innocent as in elementary school. Throughout the series, Punpun grew several layers of callous from the damage caused by his unfortunate situations. Asano rips them off as soon as Punpun holds hands with Aiko again.
I’m a bit worried about what may happen to Punpun in volume 6 because in life, you never know what is going to happen when you wake up the next day.