The first volume of Goodnight Punpun was unlike any manga I have ever read. It was dark, strange, humorous and strangely full of heart. The second volume is similar, but creator Inio Asano has jumped the story forward in time to place Punpun in middle school. It is this leap forward on the timeline that makes this volume different from the first because it gives Asano a bevy of new emotions and events to work with this time around. There is another pretty significant change as Punpun’s Uncle is the focus of most of the volume. His life has taken some strange turns, to say the least. Boiled down to its simplest form his story is an intensely personal look at a time in his life in which he felt temptation by beauty and ended up losing his way in life. On Punpun’s side of the story, he is still pining for his first love. The girl he never got to run away with because of his mother and father. Things get even more complicated when he discovers that she has a boyfriend, and he knows him from the badminton team.
This world is dark and lacking hope. That is not a negative aspect of the story either; that is the difference that sets it apart from any other manga I have read. Punpun and his family’s life are not extraordinary. They are common and relatable because even though this takes place in Japan, it is a story that is likely happening all over the world. There is a twisted family that can’t find happiness or sabotages their life with self-destructive habits anywhere on the planet. Asano clearly understands that and while his message is not “give up,” he also doesn’t pretend to have the answers to why you should not.
This story is just full of sadness. I almost said emotions, but in thinking about it, it is really sadness and depression. Everyone is sad, but love is the cause of the sadness which any moody teenager or person in their early twenties can relate to. Love is great, but losing love is terrible and destructive, and that is something that Asano shows quite well.
Asano’s artwork is some of the best I have ever seen in a manga. Don’t let Punpun and his family fool you with their simple designs; this book is gorgeous and photorealistic through and through. Speaking of the designs, I feel that it is intentional that they look like that. The reason being that their plainness allows for the reader to more easily paint themselves on the canvas that is Punpun’s family. Add the fact that a dialog bubble is never attached to Punpun and you also become his voice. There was clearly a lot of thought put in by Asano on how readers would experience the story. In fact, that is precisely what he has done with the art and panels, created an experience.
There was as much humor in this volume. What is here is pretty dark so if you do laugh a lot… well, you may have some unresolved issues to work out. It is however incredibly difficult to put down once you start reading. I had the same problem with the first volume, so I was glad to see that Asano’s magic was still present. If you are the type of comic reader that doesn’t read manga because of the formulaic writing and story structures, the house styles and dozens of other stock answers, then I implore you to read Goodnight Punpun. You can even start with this volume because you do not need to know anything about the previous volume to appreciate the story here. Do yourself that favor though because this is probably what you are hoping to find when you try a new manga one after the other. I assure you, there’s nothing else in the world of manga or comics that’s like Goodnight Punpun.
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Goodnight Punpun vol. 2 Creator: Inio Asano Publisher: Viz Media Price: $24.99 Format: TPB; Print/Digital