Take a poorly-drawn cartoon bird who never speaks, a broken family, an afro-clad 'god', mentally troubled children, outright insane adults, a large dose of surrealism as well as realism, and a soul-crushing amount of cynicism
and you have Oyasumi Punpun
("Goodnight, Punpun") is a supremely bizarre Seinen
manga by Inio Asano
about the title character, Punpun. Punpun is a young, innocent, and naive child, who, in some kind of strange stylistic choice, is depicted as a simplistic sketch of a bird despite everyone outside of his family looking like a normal human. He has no real dreams, his father is an abusive deadbeat (at least, he appears to be), and his mother is a drunk who regrets having him, but Punpun has one thing: a pretty girl named Aiko whom he fawns over. Well, her, and an afro'd and slightly useless god he can summon by chanting 'Dear God, dear God, tinkle-tinkle hoy!'
The story begins as Slice of Life
comedy, following Punpun through his childhood as he deals with his family life, his school life, his social life, and his budding romantic life. While noticeably dark, it also contains a hint of child-like innocence. However, as the series progresses, it develops into an extremely dark Coming of Age
story, with all innocence being wiped away. While the humor remains, it takes a backseat to experiences of Punpun, his family, and his acquaintances as they deal with the hardships of adolescence, adulthood, and life in general. The story is split roughly into four arcs: Punpun's life in elementary school, middle school, high school, and as a young adult.
The series ended publication in Japan at thirteen volumes. The series is licensed in Italy and France where other works by Asano were published.
This series provides examples of:
- A Day in the Limelight: Seki and Shimizu get chapters centered entirely around them with no appearances from Punpun.
- Abusive Parents
- Aiko's mom abuses her verbally, emotionally and physically, and forces her to take part in her cult. The effects of this abuse on Aiko become very clear in later chapters.
- The 16-year-old daughter of one of Yuuichi's art students claims that she is a victim, but it's ambiguous as to whether she was lying to get attention.
- Seki's dad, who is a neglectful drunk.
- Sachi's stepfamily comes off this way as well, although their abuse is more on the verbal/mental side.
- The Ace
- Yaguchi. Handsome, outstanding athlete, gentlemanly, and rumored to have a huge dick. He sadly lost (maybe) his athletic ability due to his injuries. He is also probably the only male character in the manga who is not broken or crazy in some ways.
- Punpun apparently also used to be an ace in the eyes of others, being apparently good-looking, getting good grades, but not nerdy, cool, and aloof; at least until Azusa gave him a Heroic BSOD that completely drained him of all his self-confidence, leading him to where he is now.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: From Pegasus' list of predictions:
- Attempted Rape
- Punpun to Azusa, but she snaps him out of it before he can go through with it.
- A similar experience repeats with Punpun and Aiko, although it's hard to tell whether she snapped it out of it or he stopped himself.
- The Atoner: Punpun attempts to atone for killing Aiko's mother by killing Aiko and then himself. Luckily, he doesn't succeed.
- Beware the Nice Ones
- Midori. She rapes Punpun after Yuuichi's actions leave her emotionally distraught.
- The 16-year old daughter of Yuuichi's art student. She used her body to persuade an adult to try to kill her mother, and Yuuichi was almost trapped.
- Bland-Name Product: The drink Mr. Pepper — in style of Dr. Pepper's logo.
- Blatant Lies: Punpun's father keeps sending him letters that he is off fighting giant space aliens. Punpun didn't buy it when he was a little kid, and thinks his father is being an idiot. Justified since it was revealed that Mama Punpun was actually sending him those letters, so that Punpun wouldn't hate his father.
- Break the Cutie: The manga is about Punpun's progressing disillusionment with the world as he grows up, stemming from his mother's abuse, his father's absence, Aiko's situation and how it affects him, among other things. This process occurs with various other characters, usually seen in flashbacks (Punpun's uncle was nearly tricked by a girl into killing her mother, for example).
- Book Dumb: Seki doesn't bother going to school, but is able to find work and take care of himself anyways.
- Book Ends: The manga begins with Aiko transferring to Punpun's school, him falling in love with her, Punpun's friends telling him about sex, and Aiko telling Punpun that one day mankind will collapse. The story ends with this too, only with different people. There are also shots of a gym.
- Call Back: In chapter 117, Aiko bites Punpun's hand so hard her tooth falls out, and she ends up looking like she did as a child.
- Can Not Spit It Out: Punpun towards Aiko, initially. The entire Punpun family is like this in general, one of the motifs in the manga is how they cannot communicate effectively with each other.
- Cast of Snowflakes: Even outside of the Punpun family, every character has a unique design that makes them instantly recognizable, even minor characters who only appear once or twice or don't play a significant role in the story.
- Catch Phrase
- Punpun's elementary school teacher likes to say, "Juuust kidding."
- Pegasus' is "Good vibrations!"
- Chekhov's Armoury: Very much so. The story has a rather tightly-packed continuity, with small details, past events, or hidden connections that are easily overlooked coming into play at a later part in the story.
- Chekhov's Gunman
- Punpun and his friends actually meet Sachi very early on, at the miso factory. However, her face appears very different when she shows up again, due to her plastic surgery.
- Harumi, after a large absence during most of Punpun's adult life, reappears during the ending chapters.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Shimizu with his visions of the god of poop, plus Punpun's occasional non-sequiturs.
- Aiko's mom is a member of one, much to Aiko's embarrassment.
- The group led by Pegasus, which Shimizu joins, that plan on saving the world via a music concert.
- Coming-of-Age Story: The story follows Punpun as he grows from a child into an adult.
- Darker and Edgier: By far the most dark, cynical and depressing of Inio Asano's works to date.
- Death Equals Redemption: Subverted. Mama Punpun apologizes to Punpun before she dies for treating him badly, but even then Punpun still can't bring himself to love her.
- Despair Event Horizon
- Punpun reaches it after killing Aiko's mother. From that point on, he talks even less, becomes abusive to Aiko, constantly thinks about how long a murderer would spend in jail, and then plans to kill Aiko before killing himself to escape the guilt.
- It's unclear when Aiko's is, but it seems to be either almost getting killed by her mother, and then seeing Punpun murder her or hearing the radio transmission of the discovery of her mother's body and the search for her whereabouts, right after finding a new place to live with Punpun, as well as a promising job.
- Destructive Romance: Punpun and Aiko's relationship, which is best described as two self-hating, damaged, hollow shells of people seeking comfort in the other, to the point of obsession, idealizing the other and overlooking all their flaws, later throwing abuse into the mix as well. It's implied that one reason Aiko committed suicide was because she realized these things.
- Diabolus Ex Machina: Several of the twists in volumes 12 and 13 pertaining to Punpun and Aiko feel like cheap twists purely made for drama and angst, mostly due to the contrived nature of said twists.
- Domestic Abuse
- Leading to Punpun's father becoming a Disappeared Dad after putting his wife in the hospital. Except it's subverted: it turns out that he only knocked Mama Punpun unconscious because she was unstable and trying to kill herself.
- Punpun and Aiko's relationship; generally it's Punpun abusing Aiko, but she does have a couple of more questionable moments, like trying to poke out Punpun's eye just for ogling some other girls.
- Driven to Suicide
- Punpun's mom and uncle, but fortunately they are not successful.
- Near the end of the manga, Aiko hangs herself.
- And not long afterwards, Punpun stabs himself in the eye, but he's saved from death by Sachi at the last moment.
- Dysfunctional Family: Punpun's family. There's a jobless, deadbeat father and an unstable mother. His uncle seems to be a stabilizing force when he's introduced, but even he has issues of his own; he's just really good at not showing them in front of Punpun.
- And then there's Aiko with her abusive, mega-supersticious mother.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: After all the torment of his life, his raping, attempted suicide, running away from home and severe depression, Punpun eventually recovers from his conditions, and returns to the world, as normal as he was before. The final chapters even show him as his original form — a cartoony bird — to symbolize that his innocence has finally returned.
- Eye Scream
- Aiko tells Punpun that he only needs one eye to look after her with, and begins to drive a fork through it. She stops herself, though.
- Punpun stabs himself in the same eye in one of the final chapters.
- Fan Disservice
- There are many sex scenes in the manga, and none of them are meant to be sexy. A few of them are particularly disturbing to look at.
- Mama Punpun's gravity-defying breasts come off as more hilarious than arousing.
- Gonk: Tons of characters. They generally look normal with the exception of, say, having horribly glazed eyes staring in different directions, or gaping smiles. One of Punpun's childhood friends, Komatsu, has eyes that are a little too open, and sure enough, the audience loses sympathy with him at the same time he goes completely Gonk.
- Growing Up Sucks
- Seki certainly seems to think so.
- The series itself seems to think so.
- Hair Color Dissonance: Aiko canonically has dark-brown hair. Most fan-artists give her a reddish-brown, if not outright red, tone, while some of the color pages in the manga have given her red (though sometimes reddish-brown or brown-looking) and greenish-blue.
- Hands-Off Parenting: Seki's parents don't care about what he does with his life; they're just worried about having just enough money to live comfortably without much effort.
- Heroic BSOD: Every major character seems to suffer at least one throughout the manga; Punpun in particular goes through several, for better or for worse.
- Hope Spot
- Chapters 130 and 131. You just know it's going to be better after Punpun shows that he still loves Aiko. But you're proven wrong when in chapter 132, he plans to kill her and then kill himself in order to be free of his guilt from killing Aiko's mom.
- Chapter 138. Even though Aiko appears to be dying from her wounds and there isn't a hospital in the near area, but even so, there's a small glimmer of hope that maybe, despite the odds stacked against them, these two will finally get through everything and be happy together. Then in chapter 139, Punpun wakes up alone and almost immediately finds out that Aiko hung herself.
- Humans Are Good / Humans Are Bastards: The series alternates between the two so much, that it really becomes impossible to say which one is right in the end.
- I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Punpun tries to pull this off with Aiko, but it doesn't work very well.
- Informed Attribute: It is occasionally implied that Punpun and Yuichi are good-looking. Because of the stylistic decision to represent them all as simplistic cartoon birds, we never get to see it.
- It's All About Me: Several characters get called out for being self-centered, notably Punpun by Azusa and Sachi's pride by various people.
- Karma Houdini: Midori never gets any repercussions for raping Punpun.
- Made of Iron: Several members of the cast suffer wounds that should've heavily injured, crippled, or killed them, and yet come out relatively unharmed. The most glaring would be Aiko stabbing Punpun in the heart and Punpun not being affected by it in any way whatsoever.
- May-December Romance: Yuichi had one in his flashback, with the daughter of one of his students. She was actually just trying to use him in order to kill her mother.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: The volume covers are a solid color embossed only with a picture of Punpun, or sometimes one of his relatives.
- Mukokuseki: Averted. The characters are drawn with normal black and brown hair colors and everyone generally looks more realistic than most series.
- Madness Mantra: While only being spoken once during the actual chapter, it's debatable that part of the cover to book 9◊ could showcase Punpun's descent into his madness.
- Non-Standard Character Design: Punpun and his family. Punpun's design in particular actually goes through unusual changes later in the story, in a manner that's indicative of his state of mind at the time.
- Not Good with People: Every major character in the story has some issues with people or dealing with others. Punpun and Aiko, in particular, are the greatest examples of this.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Shimizu, despite his dreamy tendencies, seems to have a pretty good head on his shoulders; he just merely lacks the independence to show it.
- Put on a Bus: As the story goes on, Aiko become less and less prominent, and after Punpun leaves for high school she hasn't been seen since outside of flashbacks. However, she makes brief reappearances during chapters 72 and 89 before properly returning in chapter 99.
- The Quiet One: Punpun speaks very little. His lines are always text in a black background instead of balloons.
- Questionable Consent: Punpun and Aiko's first time together — Punpun practically coerces Aiko into having sex with him, the atmosphere is devoid of any positivity, the sex itself is rough and Aiko never displays any pleasure throughout it, and Punpun doesn't exercise any restraint, leaving Aiko a sore, bleeding mess by the end.
- Raging Stiffie
- Punpun on his date with Azusa. She doesn't notice.
- And again on a date with Aiko after her return.
- Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Averted. Punpun is raped by his uncle's girlfriend, and it's most certainly not okay.
- The Rashomon: Mama Punpun's injuries in the first volume. Later, we find out that there's more to the story than just husband-on-wife Domestic Abuse.
- Sadist Teacher: While not outwardly violent, Punpun's elementary school teacher seems to get a lot of joy out of screwing with his students' heads.
- Scenery Porn: Backgrounds are very detailed, especially in page spreads.
- Self-Deprecation: Apparently the manga Sachi published is Solanin. A stranger who looks kinda like Inio Asano◊ described it to Punpun as "pretty boring. All the characters are so clueless." With said character also getting beat up by Punpun later on.
- Shapeshifter Mode Lock: Punpun's cartoon bird appearance gets locked into a faceless prism after he starts living alone. Sachi snaps him out of it.