At this point, I don’t even know if I can do Goodnight Punpun justice. I attempted to on this week’s episode of the CBMFP, but even then it still felt as if the words summoned failed to do it any real justice. To fix that, I will be providing spoilers because this material is just too complicated to continue dodging around events in the story or giving you general ideas. The main reason being that this very mature book doesn’t just fall into the “slice of life” category. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of independent films or even French films in which sex is a large aspect of the story, but not the defining feature. Punpun has always been thinking about sex from the very beginning of the first volume, but the opening of this volume changes everything. Punpun is essentially raped. He goes along with it, but his reaction and the damage done to him by having a woman older than him commit the act has messed him up terrible. The story tackles this in a very subtle way because this was Punpun’s first experience and so essentially the norm for him. So much so that it is and isn’t a surprise when he meets a girl and later tries to force himself upon her only then realizing that it’s not who he is or what he wants to do. It does take her firm rejection for him to snap out of it, though.
Punpun is a mess, but he’s not the only mess we deal with. Aside from his rape from someone who he trusted, he’s also on the major “outs” with his mother and just moved from his childhood home into a shitty apartment. With the second volume, the focus was split as it followed Punpun’s Uncle along with Punpun. With the third volume, we focus on Punpun’s mother who is a real mess herself.
At one point she ends up back in the hospital and befriends a teenage boy the same age as Punpun. The differences in the relationships just goes to show how messy family can be. That is what this volume is indicating to the reader as Mother and Son can’t connect on an emotional level. It’s difficult to say whose fault that is, but after reading it all you have to point to the mother/parents. After years of neglect she wants Punpun to love her and praise her, but she doesn’t see the damage she’s done. She doesn’t realize how far she’s pushed her son away. To the point that he goes out on his date while she goes under the knife.
As I said on the podcast, this volume took me the longest to read. There was simply more to read, and it wasn’t info dumps or anything like that. What I believe that creator Inio Asano is doing, is matching the reading level of the comic to Punpun’s age. The first volume set in elementary school was a quick read, but still a little complex. The second volume was at the middle school level, but maintained the maturity the series has always contained. This third volume is definitely at the high school level and shows the growth and development of the series. Point in case that we learn what actually happened between Punpun’s mom and dad way back in volume one. Which is brilliant because it’s also a statement of how we see our youth and that maturity brings about new info that we couldn’t see for ourselves.
I’ve always said that Punpun and family’s “ghost bird” design was intentional for two reasons. One, it’s funny and the second, because it allows you to see yourself and your family within the story. The simplicity prevents you from telling yourself this is someone else’s family. This isn’t mine, and this isn’t happening to me. It prevents that so that you are involved more. You are present. It's why you never see Punpun talk, but you read what he says. You. Read. What. He. Says. Asano makes you an active participant in the story, and that’s genius. I can only think of a tiny handful of books that have done this to me while reading them, but never so smart or consistent.
There is one catch to the intentionally vague illustrations of Punpun and peeps. During the sexual scenes or when hands directly interact with other characters, Asano adds human details. During Punpun’s rape scene we see him in pants and a shirt like he was any other kid. At first, this was off-putting, but again intentional. Asano needed it to be clear that what was happening was serious and not a playful or joking scene. He does keep it censored for the most part but in his own style.
Otherwise, the art continues to be incredibly detailed and some of the best I’ve ever seen come from a manga. After Goodnight Punpun, Inio Asano has made me a fan for life. Asano’s style defies the manga norms, while also just being incredibly detailed and enjoyable.
Even after 840 words or so I still don’t know if this review has given you enough insight. My goal has been to get your interest in this series and not as a manga reader, but as a comic reader or more importantly a reader of stories. At the end of the day, people who read comics and read a lot of them are just looking for great stories. Stories with visuals that they can’t get anywhere else and the origin of the created work doesn’t matter. If you give me a manga or a French comic book I won’t turn it away because it’s not from America. Rather, I’m more curious. Hopefully, you’re curious about Goodnight Punpun. You can’t start the series here, but if you’re willing to invest in the first two volumes, you’re in for one hell of an experience. One that I’ve never come across in all my reading.
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Goodnight Punpun vol. 3 Creator: Inio Asano Publisher: Viz/Viz Signature Price: $24.99 Format: TPB; Print/Digital