Goodnight Punpun Vol 1. – Coming of Age as a Bird

By Patrick Tedder

Hello, fine readers! You haven’t heard from me in a while because I’ve been on the ol’ job hunt. That said, I should hopefully have more content than you can possibly handle coming your way. That said, let my latest masterpiece … decent article commence.

Manga can get as weird as it can be fantastic. Goodnight Punpun is one such incredible example that simply must be read.

Combining cute drawings with garish portrayals of adults and the world, writer and illustrator Inio Asano creates a coming of age story that in unequaled in its uniqueness. Make no mistake though, it’s more than just a novelty. The heart and hefty themes that make up this tremendous first volume, more than tell a story that would excel even if it weren’t for its wild illustrations.

Onodera Punpun is a normal kid that for some reason is depicted as a bird that looks like it has a sheet over his head. The depiction is apparently meant to allow the reader to see themselves as the main character, rather than become distracted by facial features. To what degree this succeeds, I’m torn on. At times, the choice feels like an effort to make itself so wildly unique. Still, even without facial characteristics, Punpun resonates both in joyful and sorrowful situations.

In volume one, Punpun maneuvers everything from first romance, to friendship, to sexual realization, and domestic abuse. On a dime, the story can go from amusing to heavy, but never in a way that doesn’t earn its pathos. If anything, the drastic changes in tone help create an environment that feels as if it is being witnessed by kids, not fully grasping the situation. It also keeps the story from ever feeling complacent and stale. It’s jarring, sometimes cringe-inducing, but always sincere.

Beyond that, it’s hard to talk about Goodnight Punpun without giving away what it’s about. To talk to too much about it to someone who hasn’t read it probably would be lost on deft ears. Individual story components don’t exactly do justice to this odd adventure. By themselves, they sound like nonsense, but together they create something beautiful and perhaps timeless as far as manga goes.

Should you read it? Absolutely. This truly is a beautiful work of art that is bound to surprise you. If there was a clone of this work, it’d get old pretty quickly, but thankfully, this is one manga series that appears to have created a space all its own. I can’t wait to see what happens next in the life of Punpun in volume 2.