Goodnight Punpun, Vol. 1 by Inio Asano

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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10/10 Unicorn Horns. Goodnight Punpun, also known as Oyasami Punpun, is something I’d only gotten interested in because of the hilariously odd sounding title. Within the first few pages I figured I’d drop this very odd and nonsensical series…after one more page. But one more page became one more chapter, and one more chapter eventually become one more volume. Somehow I quickly devoured the first 2-in-1 omnibus volume, and was reaching for the second. I’m not even completely sure what makes me give it such a high rating.

Synopsis: Goodnight Punpun is something that comes off as an odd comedy at first, but eventually snowballs into a rather heavy read despite all the comic relief. It’s 3rd person narration begins with the main character Punpun in middle school. On the surface Punpun seems like a typical, albeit sensitive, kid, but is tying to cope with domestic abuse and all the complicated emotions that go with it. As the story goes on it occasionally branches off into the stories of side characters as they deal with past trauma, financial difficulties, insecurities, life choices, romance and the ups and (primarily) downs of life, but remains focused on Punpun up through high school (this is an on-going series with the 3rd volume ending with Punpun at 18 years old).  

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Goodnight Punpun is really strange. The host of strange things from imaginary figures to wacky facial expression and randomly blurted out comments is at times confusing, especially since I can’t always tell whether I’m meant to take it seriously. Punpun is annoying at times. His dysfunctional family infuriates me. There are triggers pretty much everywhere for readers who have experienced abuse/depression of any kind. Yet, I kept reading. Despite my many criticisms in the beginning, I am amazed with how this story was constructed.

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This was a downright grim and pretty messed up coming of age story, but is also about some of the most negative and conflicting aspects of being human. The emotional, social, and even psychological struggles and questioning these characters experience are things I’d say most people can relate to. It delves into all this on a psychological level expressed not just through the character’s conflicting actions, thoughts, and dialogue, but also through a lot of symbolism, metaphor and imagery. The abundant comedy in this manga- exaggerated drawings, ridiculous situations, nonsensical images and dialogue- contrasts with heavy emotional scenes and the troubling thoughts of the main character.

People are free…That’s why they insist on teaching you cooperation and ethics when you’re young. But the world is set up to force people to fight, cheat and steal as a default. Trying to live with that contradiction is torture…

I’d recommend this to any adult or older teen regardless of genre preferences, but warn off those who would be bothered by sexually explicit content as this story doesn’t shy away from it. This is a complete 13 volume series, but the English publication is currently on-going (the last volume is set to be released September 19th, 2017).

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