Story & Art: Asano Inio
Translation: JN PRODUCTIONS
What They Say:
Meet Punpun Punyama. He’s an average kid in an average town.
He wants to win a Nobel Prize and save the world.
He wants to go far away with his true love.
He wants to find some porn.
That’s what he wants, but what does he get..?
As has become the norm with Viz’s Signature Releases, Goodnight Punpun volume 1 comes at a slightly larger size than Viz’s standard releases (5.8×8.2 inches over 5×7.5 inches) with a cover that has a nice, grippy feel to it. French flaps on both ends round out the cover and make for a subtle, classy look. Oddly enough, even though the series has been given an M-rating, it’s not wrapped in plastic and the rating can only be seen on the inside final page rather than the back cover.
The design for the cover takes a minimalist approach, focusing on Punpun’s noticeably different design in comparison to the rest of the cast, and consists solely of green, yellow, and white, all topped off with a dotted screentone to give a retro pop comic feel and accent the offbeat tone the series occasionally dips into. The overall presentation is reminiscent of Funimation’s packaging for FLCL, which isn’t the best fit for Punpun, but at least it’s an aesthetic the cover fully commits to.
Being an omnibus collection of the first two volumes of the series, the table of contents have been split in two, with the second starting where the second volume begins. An odd choice, but nothing that takes away from the reading experience too much. SFX and signage have been translated to English, as is standard with Viz’s releases and blend in with the art well enough to not come off as obvious or distracting—a fear most have and enjoy nitpicking whenever the issue comes up with manga translations.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The previous Asano Inio series Viz has released were What a Wonderful World! and solanin, both of which were very down-to-earth relatable series, beautifully illustrated and well-grounded in reality. Goodnight Punpun takes that last bit and turns it on its ear just enough for you to take notice.
The art and writing is what you would expect from Asano Inio—lush backgrounds full of detail and relatable characters trying to make sense of life’s journey… and then there’s the titular character. Punpun Punyama and the rest of his family members stand out among the rest of the cast not due to their eccentric nature but due to their designs. Note: while the world around them is as realistic as can be, the Punyama family are depicted as children’s drawings, stick limbs and all.
Paired alongside a narration that feels like something out of a children’s book, Goodnight Punpun is this interesting mix of wide-eyed curiosity, and a deluge of adult themes. Domestic violence, sex, religion… all are topics Inio doesn’t shy away from exposing to the young Punpun, who tries to make sense of it all while dealing with more tame problems like talking to girls and deciding how spicy he dares make his curry.
Seeing Punpun muck about life, however, never feels as aimless as it should. Every chapter feels like it’s offering something new for Punpun and the reader alike, whether it be witnessing his homeroom teacher go through spurts of mental breakdowns, or hanging out with his friends under the collective name “Porn Watchers’ Club.” And as we’re eased into Punpun’s offbeat world and the characters that inhabit it, we feel more inclined to worry about their well-being, as they begin to venture out of their comfort zone and into unknown territory.
Goodnight Punpun relishes in the harsh disconnect its characters have between reality and a children’s interpretation of it. Authority figures from parents, to teachers, to shop owners feel like funhouse mirror representations at times, but that’s the point. Author Inio strings together an endless list of adult-world harshities painted over with a sense of childhood nostalgia. It’s beautiful, terrifying, and a bit funny at times, reflecting life appropriately enough.
Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 18+
Released By: VIZ Media
Release Date: March 15th, 2016