Our thoughts from the monthly Mangaforum
Goodnight PunPun; Sweet dreams and nightmares
So, our November manga has been Goodnight PunPun written and illustrated by one of Lara’s favourite mangaka, Inio Asano.
It’s an unconventional “coming of age” story, following Onodera Punpun, and his development and life experiences with dysfunctional family and friend relationships, love in different forms, his oncoming adolescence and his hyperactive, hyperbolic mind.
The story-telling is particularly unusual in that PunPun is depicted as a small birdlike figure, who only ever speaks outside of speech bubbles, with in a background of hyper real Japan and grotesque human characters.
So, What we all thought in a nutshell;
- Lexa; Having read up to book 2 now; Did really like it and is compelled to read even more
- Still sees the comedy and lightness in the story
- Lara; Having read to book 5; It’s all dark
- Compelled to buy book 6 and 7 to get to the end, but warns Lexa, its not an easy, enjoyable read, and unlikely to get any more cheerful
- It’s been quite graphic, touching on really emotional topics, and I’m starting to feel that you’re not meant to really like PunPun.
What we liked
It is a truly gripping start and desperate story that you need to keep reading.
Getting past the initial discomfort of seeing the main character as an abstract doodle, you’re pulled into the story about this little boy growing up and exploring the world around him.
The art work is also astonishing – Asano used photography and computer graphics for the backgrounds, converting them to black-and-white, and printing them so his assistants could draw outlines and objects on them.
So this look, with the juxtaposed surreal depiction of the main character, is a really strong artistic method for immersing the reader; Punpun is ultimately someone the readers can see them selves in. Punpun also never actually says anything in speech – if he does (fairly rarely) it’s separated text in an individual panel, which the reader then needs to take on the voice themselves, rather than literally see the character say it out loud.
Another commendable aspect is how it introduces a lot of topics that aren’t spoken about in society, let alone in comics; Things like a parent’s vulnerability and incompetence, confusion and shame about and around wanting sex, the intensity of feelings, detrimental mental health issues and loneliness.
What we disliked.
Asano has said that he purposely emphasized silly elements in the first half of the series to increase the shock of the second half, and I think i’m in the middle of that dark turn at book 5. Apparently, sales dropped as the book progressed, which i don’t find surprising because it’s becoming really unpleasant and uncomfortable to read. Its Punpun’s character development which gets progressively more sinister, and the relationships between him and other characters, that become more upsetting and tragic.
Punpun isn’t meant to be a hero; And perhaps depicts our own dark minds and immoral tendencies. There are no “good” or “bad” characters here, everyone is flawed and destructive or disappointed.
Asano has apparently said he regretted doing this ultimately, because his readers were being alienated and became hostile – which I sort of understand.
There’s also no story line; Don’t get me wrong, I LIVE for slice of life stories, but I still feel you need an arch, a climax, or a goal. There isn’t any here, or at least not yet – At the moment, it really is a slice of someone’s desperate, some-what horrific life and mental breakdown.
Note; While doing my google image search for this article, I’ve seen things that I know are in book 6 or 7 that are already making me almost regret investing in this manga – I need to know what happens, but i’m not sure I’m going to like it.
Lastly; there are also quite a few things I just don’t understand the significance of, or perhaps I just can’t relate to; For one – The weird looming “God” character, depicted as a smiling Japanese man with an afro…”Tinkle Tinkle Hoy?” …What is this meant to mean?
There are certainly so many aspects that provoke us to talk about all kinds of artistic methods of story telling and human experience. I’m dreading the outcome.
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As always, We look forward to hearing what you think so comment below!
Lara and Lexa