Niccolo Mejia ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Contributor
Inio Asano’s Goodnight Punpun Vol.1 was released in English for the first time last month. The story follows Punpun Punyama (later Punpun Onodera), a fifth grader drawn as a cartoon bird. Despite living in a world of realistic people and places, Punpun and his family of birds are accepted as normal. This allows for the realism of the subject matter to hit the audience hard despite the main character’s appearance.
In dark comedy seinen manga, the main characters are typically broken, young adult men who are distanced from society, but that is not a full definition of Punpun’s character. The manga is surely about him growing into that type of character, but starting with his coming of age changes the typical story arc completely. It deals with life’s circumstances that create this type of person, and asks the reader to attempt to relate to them from the ground up.
In this initial volume, we are shown the violence of Punpun’s home life, and how he changes while being taken care of by his uncle. Outer influences from his rowdy, hormonal friends to his adorable, yet intimidating crush all build on Punpun’s worldview and appeal to different experiences for each reader. Asano’s careful characterization allows the reader to gain sympathy for Punpun in preparation for later chapters.
The art takes a surrealist turn when depicting the inner workings of Punpun’s mind, resembling complicated paisley designs and bubbles containing his current thoughts. Along with the fact that he can summon a god to talk to him in times of need, one might think this manga is entirely fantastical, but it is all in service of the realistic themes. Punpun’s perception of the world is believable because of how childish and hyperactive it is, and seeing that change from such a close perspective is the ultimate appeal of Goodnight Punpun.
This volume does not give a good impression of where the manga will go, however. Despite some dark moments, Goodnight Punpun Vol. 1 stays fairly lighthearted for a seinen manga and does not have obvious foreshadowing on the first read. We won’t post any spoilers here, but we will definitely say that the rest will not be for the faint of heart! This acclaimed manga from 2007 is great for fans of 20th Century Boys, Aku no Hana, and Welcome to the NHK. However, it requires no knowledge of manga (other than reading it right to left) to pick up and enjoy.