Story & Art: Asano Inio
Translation: JN PRODUCTIONS
What They Say:
Punpun was an average kid in an average town… But things have changed. The love of his life wants to kill him. His parents got divorced. And God is being mean to him. What are you going to do now, Punpun?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first omnibus for Goodnight Punpun already showed just how depressing a childhood coming-of-age story can be, and this second volume only further digs the depression knife in. It would have been fine to have the one defining, disgustingly, overtly sad moment in this volume, but to have several with all of them providing something equally fresh and uniquely depressing is masterful in a sick and twisted way.
With our cast now in middle-school, the ol’ gang has parted ways a bit—the starry-eyed Shimizu and increasingly jaded Seki hanging out together as an odd-couple of sorts, Punpun and Komatsu now in the badminton club, and Aiko spending her time with the badminton team’s varsity member Yaguchi. With Aiko caught between Punpun and Yaguchi, age-appropriate drama is bound to ensue, and yet it never feels forced or too contrived. Rather than playing up the drama to an audience that’s the same age as the characters (like his previous manga), author Asano treats his readers like an apathetic third party.
As stressed as the characters get throughout the series, they are also equally aware of how petty their problems are, with their mentality of how they deal with their issues being the primary focus over the issues themselves. They’ve grown out of being the naïve children they once were, but still aren’t mature enough to sort out matters of romance or their ultimate place in the world. Such is especially apparent through the evolution of Punpun’s narration panels—what used to be simple white text against a black background are riddled with interfering second and third thoughts buzzing around as well as spiral doodles representing Punpun’s ever-increasing pubescent drive. The kids are growing up, and it’s not in the world they once thought they could roam about so freely in.
Aiko in particular faces some interesting character development in that due to her unorthodox home life, she among the cast has especially deviated from her childhood self—the lonely girl without any real friends now growing into someone that views relationships as an all-or-none gamble, unable to empathize with anyone’s feelings outside of her own. It’s this upsetting development that pairs perfectly with the Yuichi’s own story. As Punpun’s thirty-something uncle, Yuichi lives a lonely life not because he doesn’t care to understand those around him, but because he cares too much for them. As we find out, he’s put others first before himself on a number of occasions to the point that he devalues his own worth, making for an equally soul-crushing experience to read.
It’s these equal yet opposite mentalities that drive this second omnibus of Goodnight Punpun, balancing its pompous life reflections with the same surreal yet comically mundane moments that made up the previous release.
The second omnibus of Goodnight Punpun only further amps the series’ already depressing nature. Its incessant ramblings about life and our role in it, as we continue forward from childhood, adolescence, and beyond pull no punches and can be downright depressing to bear witness to. But it’s this unabashed approach in author Asano’s writing that makes for an interesting read, peppering some self-deprecating and even outlandish humor for variety, while never using it to fully distract from the crushing sadness he insists on writing about.
Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 18+
Released By: VIZ Media
Release Date: June 21st, 2016