By Dustin Cabeal
There is only one problem with this final volume of Goodnight Punpun, and it’s the white fucking cover. I instantly got the cover dirty from flipping the pages inside because there’s a lot of ink on those pages. Probably because of the hyper-realistic art from Inio Asano, but it fucked up the cover which saddened me. It didn’t sadden me as much as this book though.
After the last volume, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wanting the story to find a way out and get a do-over. There’s even a point in the story in which “god” suggests the same thing to Punpun, and that’s when you know that it’s never going to happen. After a while, it starts to feel as if this was where Punpun’s life was always heading, that it was inescapable.
All parts of our story are picked up right away in the final story. The cult is on fire and everyone there seems to have accepted their death. Our side characters that have always been a part of the story wrap up their chunk and I will say, much like their continued presence in the story, it felt a little meh. Punpun and Aiko are still on the run. As they’re deciding to bail on the town they found, someone recognizes Aiko. She wants to go to where her Uncle lives because he’s a doctor and he’ll be able to help her without going to a hospital. She still thinks Punpun is trying to kill her and get out of it, but a lot of it seems to be her guilt that she’s dealing with. And that’s all you need to know about this final chapter of the story.
The ending isn’t sad or happy; it’s believable. In the end, even with all the crazy illustrations, the cult, God, the Poop god and everything strange and weird, the story has always shown the harsh realities of life. Punpun and his family are faceless so that you can see yourself in him or better yet as him along his journey. It’s when Asano gives Punpun more human features that we’re supposed to disconnect with his journey and become the viewer instead of the participant. I don’t know if it’s commentary about how when we look at people in Punpun’s position and don’t help steer them away from trouble that we lose our voice in the matter, but it certainly seems that way. There were a lot of points in which people could have helped Punpun, but they didn’t. He could have helped himself, but he couldn’t. He lacked the upbringing to do so.
Goodnight Punpun has always been an emotional journey, and the range of emotions has been vast. We’ve been with him his entire life, and so it’s bittersweet to say goodbye to him. I found myself eerily calm by the end of the story, which seemed to be Asano’s goal, to leave it the same way we approached it: A little confused but interested.
The artwork is masterful. Asano is one of those rare manga artists that actually lets the artwork tell the story. There’s a large sequence at the end in which even though there’s a little bit of dialogue, the bulk of the emotion and story is being told solely through the art. Especially on this final volume, there is so much detail. Every panel is photo-realistic, but particularly towards the end it’s like a master class. I stopped and gazed upon the pages soaking up every little detail. This will for sure be a volume that I go back and re-read, but first I will look only at the artwork. Even if the story isn’t for you, there’s no denying the masterful skill of the artwork.
I will truly miss reviewing Goodnight Punpun. It has been a staple in my reviewing habits and something to look forward to over the past two years. While I was sent the other volumes for review, this last volume was the first that I bought, and it wasn’t because I needed to review it, but because I truly wanted to. I don’t have a top ten or a top one hundred list, but I do have a must-read list. It’s not ordered in any way, but if it were, Goodnight Punpun would be somewhere near the top.
This is the end, Punpun.
Goodnight Punpun vol. 7
Creator: Inio Asano
Publisher: Viz Media/Viz Signature