The most anticipated manga came out last month, and noted manga people like Justin and Manjiorin felt they had to talk about it because reasons!
Last month Inio Asano’s Goodnight Punpun made it’s debut as a published, translated title that everybody could buy. Two people, Justin and Manjiorin, ended up reading it. For one person, there’s doubt. For the other, there’s praise. Is this title worth your time? Feel free to comment and explain if you enjoyed Punpun in the comments sections below. Here’s our thoughts on the title.
Note: You can read a preview of Punpun here.
Justin: Goodnight Punpun is an ODD bird.
It was last year at Otakon when Viz Media announced that Inio Asano’s manga would be coming to the states in print, and there was much celebration. It was another Asano work, whose manga has been published over here (What a Wonderful World, Solanin, Nijigahara Holograph), so he has a following. There are also fans who read Punpun online and loved it, and wondered why no one licensed it. Now it’s licensed, now it’s out, and now that it’s in my hands… I don’t know how to feel about it? Manjiorin, I think you probably would know more about Asano than I would. How’d you feel about this title before it was licensed to finally reading it?
Manjiorin: This title was hands down my number one license request, so when we got it I was beyond thrilled. Now that I’ve had the chance to read it, and more than once, for me it lived up to what I expected from Asano. The “coming of age” aspects of the series feel pretty standard so far admittedly, so I can see how this series could start out so-so for some people, definitely. What stood out to you initially, Justin?
Justin: Pretty sure the first thing that stood out to me was the bird…as in, Punpun Punyama. I mean, he’s clearly the oddest drawn character in Goodnight Punpun, though not the oddest character in the manga. But it’s clear there was a reason why the perspective of the story, which has humans, is told from one who is small, has no wings, little legs, and can’t talk unless internally or as an aside.
After that, I think what I began to notice is there’s an obvious distinction between children and adults. It’s set in grade school, where the kids are probably between 5-8 years old, and in reading the manga, they seem to be the only ones with any sense? After all, as we go into Punpun’s family life, his mom and dad are not on the best of terms, and they even argue in front of him. Did you get that sense of the distinction or did you have a different interpretation?
Manjiorin: I had a pretty similar interpretation, but not exactly. It wasn’t that I felt like the adults had no sense at all, moreso that the argument was being made that the ideas of sense and normalcy was arbitrary anyway. So maybe not so much that the adults had no sense, but that the kids’ view of the world wasn’t necessarily less sensible than the adults just because they’re kids. The kids are working from a different framework and set of experiences, sure, but the adults seem to be more destructive of the two sets of people. I mean, Punpun’s father tells him that a burglar broke into their house while his mother lays bruised on the floor… I’d say that’s just as nonsensical as any kid’s imaginary stories (though the motivation is different, obviously).
As far as Punpun and his family being birds, I really liked that choice. Punpun’s family could be any family, really. That, and the character design could be a reflection of how Punpun views himself and his relation to the world. It’s an interesting choice, to say the least.
Anything else jump out at you, Justin?
Justin: Ooh, good point on the views from a kid and adult perspective. That makes me think of all the stories in real life about adults doing silly things, and it’s generally adults because when kids do it, they don’t know better — but for some, they learn from this experience. Others don’t, which can lead to some bad things.
I’m not sure I got around to accepting that his family, and himself, are birds. I think for a while it’s quirky, it’s intriguing, but after reading a lot of chapters, that’s how he’s going to look for the whole series? It probably will depend on how the story is told — it leaves off on a pretty dark note for Punpun — but from what I read, I’m not too convinced.
The only thing that did convince was the art. Even though he did draw a simple bird figure, the page where his eyes go crazy once his crush is with him in the school’s nursing room was pretty fantastic, and overall, that is the biggest standout for me. I did see in Nijigahara how talented Asano is drawing wise, but I feel it’s a step up here, possibly due to the quirkiness, possibly because of what he was able to express (two school administrators acting high, for starters), or possibly because he’s good at cutting to the heart of a scene.
Manjiorin: Yeah, as much as I like the story we can’t forgot Asano’s art, because, really, it’s good. I agree completely that he knows how to cut to the heart of a scene. He has a couple of scenes where PunPun is out of focus in the front of the frame and it really helped set a scene. Asano uses two page spreads pretty sparingly, but when he does they seem really emotionally effective, like when PunPun chases Aiko and promises to stay with her — perfect use of a two page spread.
All that being said, was there anything you really didn’t like about this first volume? As crazy as I am about the series, the multiple chapter arc with all the kids searching the factory stretched on a little long and took me out of the story. Normally the story shifts pretty well between the heavier topics and lighter every day kid adventures, but that was a bit of a long-winded mis-step, I thought.
Justin: I can’t say I didn’t like anything about Punpun — it manages to combine some weirdness with some lewd stuff and trying to show how you grow up in a world where your parents aren’t all there for you as they’re at each other and you’re curious about aspects you know nothing about. But nothing right now is clawing at me to keep reading to find out what’s going to happen. I think this is a title that’ll fit right in with consistent Asano readers. But I would probably recommend you check out a different Asano title before taking this one on — maybe Solanin is an option.
Manjiorin: Again, as much as I loved Goodnight Punpun, I have to agree that Solanin is the best starting point for Asano. It’s an Asano classic, but doesn’t quite get as heavy as say A Girl on the Shore; Punpun, at least this first omnibus, is kind of in the middle of those two in terms heavy vs light content. Right now I think it’s a good coming of age story that anyone can relate to — so Punpun’s face really isn’t important — but it’s got that Asano quirkiness (like God being a Japanese guy with an afro) that make make fans unfamiliar with his work scratch their heads. If that’s the case, yes, go grab Solanin first.
But! If you’re an Asano fan, this is it — and I’m sure you probably already own this book! But if you don’t, Viz has done a great, great job with this release and it’s well worth picking up.