There is a reason to be able to love and hate Inio Asano’s “Goodnight Punpun”. The reason I love it is that it depicted how the pain of living is, how realistic yet absurd a depression is, and how crisis our existential. On the other hand, the reason I hate it is because of the main character, Punpun Onodera, is a nothing, blankness, coward, without knowing the reason why he exists. When I first saw this on MyAnimeList, in the top-rated manga. Of all the manga on the list, this caught me a lot; although it’s hard to think why I just read it now. And now, “Goodnight Punpun” really deserves to be in the list of the best manga of all time. Sadly, a lot of people don’t really know about this.
“Goodnight Punpun” is a dark comedy and a black satire manga. It’s possibly one of the most depressing and realistic manga you’ve come across. It’s a tale of coming-of-age, focusing on a boy, Punpun Punyama. We follow him all the way from his elementary school, stepping on the phase of adolescence, college, adulthood, until having a family. It’s probably not really your cup of tea because a lot of manga really highlighted such an unrealistic element. This manga is so special because it’s rather than a lot of things in its story, it’s a heavy impact for all of the readers. Psychological aspect in Punpun’s environment was so relatable to all of the people.
At first, I don’t understand why a bird-like lives and exist in a human environment. Ridiculously, all the characters in this manga never realized it. But, there is a reason. First, Punpun’s character design depicted as glass and our reflection on the reader and even Punpun. It’s like portraying reader’s psychology from a plain design to growing up. Therefore, we recognize him better. We recognize it as a character, as a human being, as to how sick it was and suffering. Second, the manga isn’t just about a bird-like with two legs. However, Punpun’s family also uses these forms and caricatures. By utilizing this form, Punpun’s psychological state and symbolism emerged. How innocent is he? How dirty is he?
It begins with Punpun was an elementary student, known had a crush on a newly transferred student in his school. After getting to know her name, Aiko Tanaka, for Punpun, it’s just a love of first sight. In Punpun’s point of view, he is rather nil, besides his face and innocence about the world of maturity doesn’t make him if he is in puberty. He took the first step to Aiko as his friends. He just seems a normal boy. In his group, there are at least six character boys with the same activity like seeing porn magazines and testing their courage. Among all their friends, Seki and Kou are the most influential characters in the story.
“Goodnight Punpun” is actually not only focused on Punpun in his childhood to adulthood. However, there are so many details on such things. We learn from many and various points of view, throughout the story, there is a lot of viewpoints from one to another character. As is the case, we don’t really know who Yuuichi Onodera really was and why he was so important in the manga. Likewise with Punpun’s mother, in the absence of Punpun, she is like an antagonist. But, we learned more about this character when we explore more. Yet, the entire plot isn’t just from Punpun’s cynical view but takes a wide range of us as the reader.
For me, “Goodnight Punpun” is like Stanley Kubrick if he was a mangaka. If only he was a weeb, then the idea of making this manga looks weird and absurd is such a great way. It’s true showing what emotions are, showing not just what we come across in Punpun’s mind, but also how a visual and language is so easy yet complex to explain. Regardless of his family and friends, resembling 2D birds-like with legs, the artwork is absurd, realistic, but there is a dream-like or surrealism.
The backgrounds are so detailed as well as the character designs; and come think of it, this is adult manga. There are so many nudity and explicit content, rather than showing both of them as a fan service, it’s more you go into dark moments and situations. It’s like watching “Eyes Wide Shut“, which exploited its nudity, but the more you see it, the more you realize you don’t really enjoy it. The art is so realistic, hard to distinguish its events whether or not this is the same manga. It perfectly describes a lot of emotion, in one frame or panel or page, it repeats so many times like you don’t really know what to tell about.
The manga seems more explore about God, as like Punpun also often talks about himself, his existence, and God. The more you read it, you would think this is just a nihilism from the image of God as a black afro guy. But, I see this two characters battle against Punpun’s head, like they both try to exist how bad and how depressing they are. Even though Punpun and God are like the same two characters, there is nothing to emphasize if they both exist in the same place. But, I prefer to call it two personalities or two alter egos, likes when he sees himself in the mirror but he doesn’t deny it’s really his face. And he never realized.
Even from the Punpun journey, he finally learned a lot about how life is, how sex was, alcohol, the pain of losing, hiding behind the rock, all of it. “Goodnight Punpun” isn’t your typical happy story at all, just one chapter as much leaves an impact on its reader. Punpun questioning himself whether he makes a good decision in the first place. This is why I hate it because he isn’t actually perfect. Always hiding behind the rock, as he grows up, he realizes he has nothing but shelter. He has a lot of regret behind his family, friends, promises, little by little he forgets but also vice versa. When he fell, he just couldn’t remember anything else. Even though he does this in his narration, there has never been a dialogue between characters. Yet, it rather does it directly to the reader itself.
Another reason why I hate Punpun is how he often exploded. When dogma and doctrine during his childhood were implanted by sexual matters, he was only concerned with himself. He never understanding others. Therefore, his friends left him and the people closest to him as well. He makes many worst decisions every day, every chapter. In his mind, sex is just his main food. It felt like even the same as our lives, make bad decisions every day as we do. However, we never know why, how, or for what reason we choose such a choice.
This manga tells a lot about its characters, like about an occult club is one of the most interesting sub-plots in this manga. Not forgetting in exploring various sub-plots, there is also Seki and Kou as two best friends overlapping each other. It should be emphasized, all the sub-plots and minor characters are shown as triggers, cores, and relationships with the main story. Inio really utilizes this element. The story doesn’t only focus on the same theme but also deals with psychology, anxiety, and suicide attempts. The stories focus on these puzzles, in order to complete or unite everything, the main character must take the right choice. Sadly, not much too.
“Goodnight Punpun” is about the pain of living, sadness, depression, anxiety, real life, and various stories in it. It might be one of the most depressing manga you don’t want to remember again when you finish reading it. It deals with so many themes, and lots of nudity, sex, and etc. Yet, it’s a manga people really overlooked even though the rating on MyAnimeList never changes anything. This manga is so underrated. And, it’s just the fact you don’t miss this manga.
5 out of 5 stars.