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  • Writer's pictureAshley Mongrain

Goodnight Punpun | Review


Rating - ⭐⭐⭐


"Meet Punpun Punyama. He’s an average kid in an average town.


He wants to win a Nobel Prize and save the world.

He wants to go far away with his true love.

He wants to find some porn.


But Punpun’s life is about to unravel…"


 

Goodnight Punpun, more commonly referred to as Oyasumi Punpun, is a manga series by Inio Asano.


It took me a long time to write this review because I had no idea how to go about condensing my thoughts or conceptualizing how I felt about this series. Trying to condense my thoughts into one single review, rather than reviewing each volume or arc, was a bit of a nightmare. This is a decently long series, and I have tons of notes that I took down but just couldn't talk about on here. But I did it to the best of my abilities without trying to be excessive (hopefully).


I honestly don't even know where to start when it comes to this series because reading this was quite the experience. It is the kind of series where I didn't necessarily enjoy myself while I was reading it but can appreciate how well the story was crafted. So, while personally, I gave it a 3-star rating because I just didn't know how to feel about it, in reality, there is no doubt in my mind that this was an immaculate series.


I don't want to go into more detail at this point because I think that the story is best consumed without knowing anything about it. That is also why I appreciate that the synopsis pretty much gives away nothing about the story. While I do say this though, this series contains a plethora of content warnings, so you still might want to look those up before diving in.


Let's get into the details.


 

WRITING/ART


One question probably every reader, or non-reader, has is - why is Punpun drawn like that? Rather than drawing him, and the rest of his family, as normal human beings, the author (and artist) chose to draw them as cartoon birds. As he grows his form does change as it reflects his current state of mind, but we do not get to see him drawn fully as a human (sadly because I am curious about that).


I think drawing him the way he is was to make the reader connect more to him, which was an interesting choice considering that it ends up setting him apart from every other character. His design is also what lures people in, especially if you don't know anything about the series and think it will be some cute slice-of-life story. Spoiler alert, it is most definitely not.


On the whole, though, I know that a lot of people consider Inio Asano's artwork to be stunning. It certainly takes a departure from a lot of the manga I read and am used to, so I was unsure how to feel about it. That is especially when there are a lot of scenes featuring the characters with less than pretty faces.


One thing about this series that may have impacted my reading experience more negatively than positively was how Punpun was written. What I am talking about here is that we don't really get any dialogue from Punpun himself, as he is mostly a silent character. Or maybe I shouldn't say silent, he does communicate, but we don't get to see that written on page.



PLOT


This series has the perfect tagline - "a dark coming-of-age tale where slice-of-life slices back." This is a very realistic, albeit dismal, take on the genre and, while it may be a bit too dismal, it is done very effectively.


Here is the thing about this series. This in many ways can be a character study and a social commentary about growing up in an environment that is detrimental to your mental state. My issue here though is that obviously, I am not going to end up enjoying reading something this despairing which does impact my overall opinions. While I decided to push my feelings aside though and accept that this was an incredibly well-written story, we come to issue #2 - sex.


This does follow a character as he is growing, so for him to be hypersexual does make sense (even though it is still uncomfortable to read for obvious reasons). What my problem here is, though, is the sheer amount of dubious and underage relationships.


While I will get more into this in the next section, there was just too much in that regard that crossed the line, and it was not great to have to read it. As it turns out though, there is a reason for that (the underage relationships and not the dubious consent), that being that the age of consent in Japan is 13, which...yikes. It was really jarring to read that both before and after I found out what the legal age was.


Moving on though, out of the entire series, I liked the last two volumes the best. The reason for that, without going into spoilers, is the direction the story went in which I wasn't expecting. It completely shifted the tone the story maintained, but that shift made things a lot more intense and turned the story completely on its head. I liked it more when things went completely off the wall compared to when everything tried to be normal.


As for any content warnings, some of which I mentioned already, they are definitely prominent throughout the series. Some volumes are lighter than others, but the themes and implications are there. While in many instances I was uncomfortable, I wouldn't say that this is the most graphic and dark thing I have read, not by a long shot. If anything it is more dreary, but still be cautious going into this because it involves depictions of abuse, underage relationships, and dubious consent.



CHARACTERS


Good characters and healthy relationships are pretty much non-existent in this. Every single character, and I mean this literally, could have benefited from therapy. The younger characters grew up in an environment that was detrimental to their mental, emotional, and sometimes physical, health. The result of his is having characters whose outlook on life and subsequent motivations aren't very positive.


By and large, this is also due to the adult characters in their life, who are no better. You want to have that hope that the characters are able to grow as people and maybe have a healthier state of mind, but you know the likelihood of that is small because of the adults in the series. Not one single adult character in this was a good person to have as an authoritative figure. From abusive and neglectful parents to horrible strangers and cult leaders, it is no wonder that the younger characters were not able to mature properly.


Now, let's dive into the individual characters, starting with the titular one - Punpun. While I was reading, I read some reviews of volumes later down the line that said that up until then they rather liked Punpun's characters. I do not share the same sentiment because Punpun was an unlikable character pretty much the entire time. Now, I know, I know, characters don't have to be likable, but that doesn't make my reading experience any better. It also doesn't diminish how well-crafted the story is either though.


Moving on, as a pre-teen Punpun didn't really know what to do with himself, but as he grew older and started to develop more, the direction he went in wasn't exactly good. Specifically, I am talking about his hypersexuality, which I mentioned already in the previous section. Punpun becomes uncomfortably focused on having sex, to the point where he definitely crossed some consent lines. Again, while in Japan you may be able to (maybe?) justify the relationships due to the age of consent, still having to read about that plus dubious consent was a one-two punch I didn't need.


As he keeps growing older and his life keeps unravelling and he is in a constant state of existential crisis, he becomes a lot more chaotic and unhinged. Oddly enough though, without getting into spoilers, I liked the development his character took towards the end because it took such a drastic turn.


Moving on now, as you have already read, I said that pretty much every single character was unlikable, there was a saving grace for me in the form of Seki and Shimizu. They were the only characters I rooted for, partially because I just wanted them to have a good life, and partially because they were the least problematic characters. They were also the only two characters who had a somewhat healthy relationship.


As for the rest of the characters, because going into depth about all of them would be excessive, they weren't great to read about. Mrs.Punpun, and frankly the entire Punpun family, all had issues of their own which weren't great to read about. I am looking at you Uncle Yuuichi because while you may have been portrayed as the cool uncle, in the beginning at least, you made a lot of questionable choices in this. We also have Aiko who brought out the worst in Punpun and was a major catalyst for his development.



CONCLUDING THOUGHTS


The way the story elicits emotions from you is unparalleled, even though the vast majority of said emotions are negative. While I may not have enjoyed myself, though that is not the point of the story, I can't say I don't regret reading it because this is the kind of story you will never forget.


As I said in the introduction, be aware of what you are getting yourself into, even though this many might say that this is best consumed having known nothing about the series. That could be detrimental though because of the content warnings. At the least, if you think this is going to be a sweet lighthearted story...you would be wrong.


For now, Goodnight Punpun.

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