By Dustin Cabeal
I’m pretty sure that my theory about each volume of Goodnight Punpun matching the reading level of Punpun is a bust. It was an interesting thought, but this volume put the kibosh on with a decision Punpun makes in this volume.
If you haven’t read the third volume of Goodnight Punpun, you need to before reading this review because otherwise, I won’t even be able to tell you vague things that happen in this volume without it being a spoiler. Do that, return… Just read this volume too and return.
After Punpun’s mother’s death, his father returns. Let me just tell you that Inio Asano masterfully tackles the strained father/son relationship. Punpun realizes that his father hasn’t changed, but it’s him that’s changed. The opening to this volume is subtle and yet sophisticated with its relationships. It’s some of the finest family drama that I’ve ever read and one of the many reasons why this made my “Best of 2016” list.
Another slight spoiler, Punpun doesn’t go to college. He gets two-part time jobs and just lays down and sleeps a lot. He has no purpose in life. He doesn’t know what to do, and he still has unresolved issues with Aiko. What turns this volume around is the re-introduction to another character that was briefly shown in the third volume. It’s a strange relationship in the way that only adults can have strange relationships. It’s part sexual attraction on Punpun’s part, but then also stems from his sense of being utterly alone in the world. What amplifies this is the fact that Asano illustrates Punpun as a perfect triangle.
Yeah, let that soak in. As if Punpun and his family weren’t simple enough in their design, Asano turns him into a triangle. Which is brilliant because it represents the wall that Punpun has up. His emotional defenses that are up all the time. It’s not that he’s changed appearance, it’s that Asano is visually demonstrating Punpun’s mental position in the story. It takes a little to get used to and even longer to figure out, but its simplicity is brilliant.
The artwork continues to be the best in manga. I say that having just reviewed One-Punch Man vol. 10, but an artist that I hold in the highest respect. I would take Inio Asano’s artwork over any other artist currently working. There were so many jaw-dropping panels that I would stop and stare while reading. Panels with no narration that said so much.
I thought this might be the last volume of Goodnight Punpun, but based on the ending there’s more to come. I will be looking forward to it because right now it’s the best thing that Viz is publishing. I’m dead serious when I say that. It’s the best thing Viz is publishing, and I hope they’ll pick up more in the same vein as Goodnight Punpun. It’s going to be a long wait for the fifth volume, but I’m excited to read it. And if you’re like, “Oh that’s manga.” No, it isn’t. It’s a comic book. And it’s one of the best comic books being published on the planet.
Goodnight Punpun vol. 4
Creator: Inio Asano
Publisher: Viz/Viz Signature