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Manga / Goodnight Punpun

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What’s sex? What’s normal? Did you know?
Humanity is done for.
Punpun was just fine again today.

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 both realism and surrealism, and a soul-crushing amount of cynicism and you have Goodnight Punpun.

Goodnight Punpun (Oyasumi 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-clad and slightly useless god he can summon by chanting 'Dear God, dear God, tinkle hoy!'

The story begins as a 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.

Running concurrently with Punpun's story is a very odd side plot about a cult-like movement trying to (apparently) save the world through "good vibrations", which some of Punpun's classmates end up involved in. It's possibly even more weird and unsettling than anything going on with Punpun, as it's never quite clear if it's real or the mad ramblings of its leader.

The manga ran from 2007 to 2013, initially being serialized in Weekly Young Sunday before switching to Weekly Big Comic Spirits in 2008, where it continued until the end of its run. The series is licensed in Italy and France where other works by Asano were published. VIZ Media released it in English in March 2016 in seven large-format tankobons.

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:
    • Punpun's mother's selfish, dismissive attitude toward Punpun and admittance that she never really wanted to be his mother take their toll on him in the early goings.
    • Aiko's stepmother 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. Her actual parents ain't a whole lot better, as, her birthmother either died or left when she was still little and her dad bounces when Aiko's in ninth grade.
    • 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 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.
  • All for Nothing: As if the manga's final stretch wasn't horrifically depressing enough, the ending reveals that Punpun and Aiko's tragic journey together was completely pointless. They were running away from the law after having killed Aiko's stepmother, which Punpun feels personally culpable for. However, he'd merely acted in self-defense when he killed her, as she was attacking him and Aiko with clear malicious intent. Although he'd be obligated to alert the authorities and get the whole incident squared with them, legally he's not guilty of any crime. Had he simply called the police instead of panicking and skipping town, the pair would have avoided so much hassle and grief. Punpun is shown to still be a free man after the detectives question him in his hospital bed, so it's likely that he just told them what happened and he was cleared of the crimes suspected of him.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: From Pegasus' list of predictions:
    He correctly predicted the Aum Shinrikyo Cults Attack, 9-11, and even the Marimokkori character.
  • 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 him 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).
  • Broken Bird: Punpun and Aiko have both experienced traumas that have left them deeply shaken. By the end of the comic they're little more than shells of humans clinging to each other to try to find a measure of happiness about life, even as their mental and emotional scars cause them to damage themselves and each other.
  • 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.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Punpun towards Aiko, initially. The entire Punpun family is like this in general; one of the manga's motifs 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.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Punpun's elementary school teacher likes to say, "Juuust kidding."
    • Pegasus' is "Good vibrations!"
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: When Aiko and Punpun go back to Aiko's place to tell her stepmother, Mitsuko, that they're leaving together without her, they interrupt her stepmother masturbating.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The beginning of the manga has a lot of quirky humor, a faint sense of child-like wonder, optimism, and innocence. However, as the story goes on, the darker aspects of the story come in full force and the story becomes increasingly oppressive and depressing, with a lot of the earlier surrealism vanishing. Word of God is that this was intentional. Asano wanted to do a very dark, emotional story, but felt it might scare off potential readers. He decided to compromise by having the first few volumes be (comparatively) lighthearted, only for it to become soul-crushingly depressing in the later chapters. He admits that this had the added benefit of traumatizing people who thought they were getting a cute, family-friendly manga because of the art style.
  • 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.
  • Cult
    • Aiko's stepmother, Mitsuko, is a member of one, and forces Aiko to go door-to-door passing out tracts, much to her 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. According to Asano, the reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, he didn't wish to be pigeonholed as a creator of “feel-good twenty-something manga”. Secondly, at the time of Punpun's conception, Asano felt there was a lot of "feel-good", optimistic manga, so he set off to create a story to fulfill a different niche and present a darker and more cynical storyline.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Subverted. Before she dies, Mama Punpun apologizes to Punpun for treating him badly, but even then Punpun still can't bring himself to love her.
  • Despair Event Horizon:
    • Although Punpun wasn't exactly in a good place mentally to begin with, it's clear that killing Aiko's stepmother weighs heavily on his shoulders. From that point on, he talks even less, becomes abusive to Aiko, constantly speculates on how much time he'd be spending in prison, and then plans a murder-suicide with Aiko because he feels the need to atone for what he's done.
    • It's unclear when Aiko's is, but there are three distinct possibilities: 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, or discovering that her relative who could've helped with her and Punpun's injuries has closed his clinic and moved to the city, meaning that she might very well die before they can make it back to town.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Averted. Punpun is raped by his uncle's girlfriend, and it's most certainly not okay.
  • 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. Sadly, the period when Punpun's uncle and his girlfriend are living with him and his mother is probably the most stable the house is at any point, as there's at least more warmth and intimacy than later on when he's alone with his.
    • And then there's Aiko with her abusive, fanatical stepmother, on top of Aiko being abandoned by both of her parents. note 
  • Dysfunction Junction: Even outside of Punpun's family, a number of the other characters suffer from emotional and psychological issues.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After all the hardship he's seen in his life, from being raped, to attempting suicide, to running away from home, and his ongoing battle with severe depression, Punpun eventually reaffirms his humanity by learning to live with his problems and returning to Sachi and their friends in the city. His emotional troubles haven't gone away, but it appears he's at least attained some measure of normalcy by dealing with them in a healthy, non-destructive way. The final chapters even shows him in his original form — a cartoony bird — to symbolize that the goodness and innocence in his heart from when he was younger never truly went away.
    • However, Asano would beg to differ, seeing "living as harder than dying" for Punpun and thinking it's the "worst possible ending" for his story. Still, Punpun is objectively at a better point in his life than he was before, plus it's shown that his ambiguous relationship with Sachi has at least become friendly again, so it's not a complete downer like Asano is asserting.
  • Embarrassing Damp Sheets: Aiko wets the bed in Chapter 117 after having the flashback of her Potty Emergency reappear in her dreams.
  • 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, especially Midori's rape of Punpun and Punpun and Aiko's first time, both for its overall depiction and for graphically revealing that it really was Aiko's first time.
  • Fanservice Model: Prior to Aiko and Punpun meeting as adults, Aiko had a brief stint as a bikini idol but didn't last long because she couldn't smile convincingly.
  • Fetish Retardant: In-universe, this is the general reaction to Aiko's idol pics, as her obviously fake smiles kill the turn-on factor.
  • 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 tone, if not outright red, 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.
  • Hate Sink: Unlike every other character, Aiko's stepmom is presented as a truly despicable monster with no sympathetic qualities whatsoever all the way to her violent murder.
  • Hero of Another Story: The members of the Pegasus Orchestra. According to Asano, they weren't delusional weirdos; they seriously were defending the world from evil. The entire concept behind the characters was that they were secretly protecting the world in the background, while none of them main characters had any idea any of this was even happening.
  • 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. 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 hanged herself.
  • Humans Are Flawed: The series has a pretty complicated take on this. Most of the characters are noticeably flawed in many ways, frequently engaging in acts of pettiness or downright cruelty and depravity to the point where it'd be easy to write off most of them as terrible people. However the manga also goes out of its way to show that many of these same people are this way because of their circumstances, and that they are capable of moments of profound kindness and empathy, which makes it hard to write them off purely as good or bad.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass Gods: Punpun's god is this, either being deliberately unhelpful or straight up nasty to Punpun, to the point that even Punpun calls him "an asshole" at one point. Justified in that this "god" is really a representation of Punpun's conscience and depression, which becomes more clear later on in the story as he moves from being a simple annoyance to being downright malevolent and hellbent on making Punpun kill himself, or someone else.
  • Karma Houdini: Midori never gets any repercussions for raping Punpun.
  • Lady Drunk: Punpun's mom stays blitzed to one degree or another in a failed attempt to take her mind off her dissatisfaction with her life.
  • Loser Protagonist: Punpun becomes this as the series goes on.
  • Love Triangle: Punpun-Aiko-Yaguchi in the middle school arc.
  • 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 Punpun, who is stabbed in the thigh by Aiko's mother, then stabbed in the eye and chest by Aiko later on without being significantly affected by it.
  • 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.
  • 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 are all depicted as cartoony bird-like figures with stick arms and legs, and in Mama Punpun's case, tubular breasts that stick straight out like long balloons. 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. In the later chapters, when he's at his lowest points, he's actually drawn as human, but with a misshapen balloon-like head that sometimes has horns.
  • 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.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In chapter 113, right before Punpun snaps and attacks Aiko's stepmother, the always smiling "God" suddenly stops, taking on a serious expression as he says "Good morning, Punpun." From this point onward, he does it every time things go even more wrong, most notably when Punpun discovers Aiko's corpse after she hung herself.
  • Potty Failure: Aiko wets herself in a flashback to a High School day that she had a Potty Emergency during class, in Chapter 115.
  • Put on a Bus: As the story goes on, Aiko become less and less prominent, and after Punpun leaves for high school she isn't seen 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.
  • Raging Stiffie:
    • Punpun on his date with Azusa. She doesn't notice.
    • And again on a date with Aiko after her return.
  • 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.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Some scenes are very strange, even in the context of the story, but get a pass due to their obviously symbolic nature.
  • 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." Said character also gets 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.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Silent Protagonist: Played with. Punpun is never shown directly speaking to anyone; the reader only sees his speech and thoughts as white text on a black background between panels, although it's clear that he is communicating with people. He finally directly speaks in chapters 144 and 145.
  • Silent Scenery Panel: Everywhere throughout the manga. Practically all of them are a sight to behold.
  • Slice of Life: The manga is all about a boy growing up and dealing with his circumstances in life. There IS a subplot with the character Pegasus where he and a group of other people defend the world from evil, but the story makes this sufficiently unclear that Asano had to explain his intentions in an interview.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Far on the cynical side, as noted above, to the point of being nihilistic.
  • Slowly Slipping Into Evil: Happens to Punpun as the terrible events of his life pile up, and increases in speed after he reconnects with Aiko.
  • Spell My Name With An S: Word of God actually spells it Pung-Pung, not Punpun.
  • Take That!: Asano Inio makes quite a few blatant stabs at the current trend of childishness in anime and manga, including a very poorly drawn young girl in her underwear drawn in the last page of chapter 89 prompting readers to buy the next volume standing next to an equally poorly drawn anthropomorphic crocodile, and an unusually placed rant by a nameless character about the "impurity" of actual women over 2-D fictional variants.
  • Title Drop:
    • Used at the end of an arc, right before the Time Skip.
    • A rather odd example: In one of the final chapters, during Punpun's dying moments, there is narration at the bottom of the page reading "Goodnight". On the next page, the word "Punpun" is spoken, and it's also the only one spoken on that page.
  • Unstoppable Rage: The sight of Aiko's stepmom stabbing and preparing to kill her causes Punpun to absolutely snap and fly into a homicidal rage. It all goes downhill from there.
  • The Unreveal:
    • What exactly Punpun looks like. In the final chapter, every time he's in the panel, his head is blocked by something. And the very last time we see him, he has returned to the bird appearance, albeit adult sized. We do see him realistically drawn a couple of times, however both times the majority of his face is obscured.
    • We also never learn his real name. In his only onscreen spoken line, he says "My name is..." Then it cuts away. His old friend, Harumi, later says he can't remember Punpun's name.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Chapter 50. In a fit of emotional distress, Midori rapes Punpun, which affects him for the rest of the story.
    • Punpun killing Aiko's abusive stepmother after she tries to stab him and then does stab Aiko.
    • Several chapters later, Punpun waking up to see Aiko has committed suicide.
  • Wham Line: Courtesy of Aiko, in chapter 132:
    Punpun... Am I going to be killed here?
  • What You Are in the Dark: The reason Seki doesn't kill a cheating boyfriend he was hired to kill.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Seki is afraid of fire, after the incident at the miso factory. He later overcomes it to save Shimizu, when the latter is caught in a deadly fire.
  • Woman Scorned: A woman who was cheated on by her boyfriend hired Seki to kill him. Seki being Seki, he doesn't carry through with it. The woman also regrets using him as soon as he gets her orders.
  • Yandere:
    • Aiko threatens to kill Punpun if he breaks his promises. She was probably joking, but she certainly came off as frightening to Punpun.
    • Far further into the timeline, Aiko almost pokes out Punpun's eye with a fork for ogling other women.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Happens to Punpun and Aiko frequently, especially in the later volumes, when they're on the run after Punpun murdered Aiko's mom. Example that stands out the most would have to be the unfortunate radio transmission in chapter 134, reporting the discovery of Mitsuko's body, and the search starting up to find Aiko, right after Punpun and Aiko finally find a job and a place to live.

Dear God, dear God, tinkle-hoy!

Alternative Title(s): Oyasumi Punpun