By Dustin Cabeal
I have looked at this volume sitting on my desk for a few weeks now. Originally, I wanted to jump right into it like I do when I received a new volume of Prison School (which is tied with Punpun for the best manga currently in the market). The difference being that I knew I was in for a heavy trip once I started this volume for Goodnight Punpun has become increasingly dark as the series reaches its conclusion.
There is actually no point in reading this review if you haven’t read Goodnight Punpun volumes 1 through 5. There is nothing here for me to point to that will make you say, “hey, that sounds good I will finally check it out.” No, if my first five reviews for this series haven’t swayed you yet, there is little more that I can say to you and that’s fine. It is also your loss and your loss alone because this series is killing me with just how damn good it continues to be each volume.
Punpun and Aiko have found each other, patched things up and she’s looking to leave her mom and her crazy cult life behind and live with Punpun. Which sucks, because no one reading this story is rooting for these two anymore. No one. Things get complicated when they go to visit dear old mom. The first red flag is when she’s wearing Aiko’s old school uniform. The second is when her underwear is down by her ankles, and she’s flashing some bush. It was a queasy moment for sure. The events of this scene in which Punpun frees Aiko from her old life have huge consequences for both characters and the story as a whole.
It is human nature to want stories to end happily, and I’m sure that readers of Goodnight Punpun are praying to any of the gods found in this story (except maybe the Poop God), that Punpun finds his happy ending. I am under no such delusion and fully expect for this story to get sadder and somehow more depressing by the end of the story.
Mostly because there is one big theme that has been running throughout Goodnight Punpun and that’s that life is ultimately pointless. Now, I’m not saying that life isn’t worth living or condoning suicide, but that is the theme of the story which makes the ending of the series fascinating because creator Inio Asano will have to either answer why it isn’t pointless or give us a logical reason for why it is pointless. Frankly, this is the most relatable aspect of the story because I know very few people that haven’t felt like everything was pointless at some point. It happens to most people because a lot of us are just average at what we do, which isn’t bad, but fuck is it hard to find fulfillment in that feeling of mediocracy. That’s what makes Punpun’s journey so damn relatable is that he’s right there in the middle of it and Asano captures that existence in life perfectly.
While there’s a ton of crazy supernatural elements in the story, there’s also this sense that none of it is happening. It's hammered home when Pegasus realizes himself that maybe everything he’s been doing is bat shit crazy and that he should stop. Or when one of the side characters takes a job to press a button thinking it would have some profound effect on the world and it ends up being for a TV and an old woman. Maybe Asano is telling the reader that we can imagine a different world, but not to get lost in it or fuck, who knows it could be something completely different.
For this next part, I just want to talk about two of the coolest things to happen in this volume. The first is when Punpun’s God shows back up finally and tells him he’s been waiting forever to tell him, “Good morning Punpun” which damn near killed me with how awesome it was. There is a much deeper meaning to those simple words that would spoil a lot of the story, but I will say that it’s very much an ominous greeting to the awaking of a new form for Punpun. Which is the second thing I want to talk about since it’s on the cover and the internet already. That’s Punpun for most of the book, and it’s just incredible. Much like when he transformed into the Triangle there is a very different personality to Punpun here, and it’s scary. It’s not the norm we’ve come to expect, and it’s thrilling. It also changes the way that Asano does a lot of the dialogue as he slaps it on Punpun’s face rather than giving it its own box like he usually does. Somehow this makes it creepier because whereas we never had to start at Punpun while he talks, now we’re looking at the beast, and it doesn’t look like Punpun.
There is an insane amount of art in this volume. The backgrounds are lush, and the story always looks alive and vibrant. Asano’s talent is just baffling because he’s so incredible. Everything looks photo realistic, and while there are some obvious photo references, they don’t look nearly as good as his art does on its own. I don’t know what else I can say about the art other than it’s the driving force behind this entire story and brings the world to life. If anything, I would say there’s an intentional effort this time to keep the supernatural elements to a minimum as the story intentionally dwindles them down to reality. The artwork is awe-inspiring plain and simple.
Whereas Prison School is a series I can’t wait to get the next volume of, Goodnight Punpun is a different story. One that will end with the next volume making me patient as I wait for it rather than anxious. I’m genuinely nervous to see what happens to Punpun because by and large, he’s a character the reader has been able to paint themselves on and walk through the story with; when you read Goodnight Punpun you are Punpun, which makes the ending of this series all the more frightening.
Goodnight Punpun vol. 6
Creator: Inio Asano
Publisher: Viz/Viz Signature