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The Unrivaled Art in “Goodnight Punpun”

the beautiful and the horrifying

By angela hepworthPublished 26 days ago 4 min read

I recently revisited one of my favorite book series of all time, Goodnight Punpun. And it was phenomenal.

Goodnight Punpun is a very important series to me. Despite how dark and desolate the series is, it actually really helped me overcome a very hard time in my life. It’s one of those literary experiences that leaves you unable to do anything but feel, for better or worse, and I really appreciated its brutal humanity. It helped me come to terms with some of the trauma I was dealing with in my own life at the time I read it. It drove me to take action against my actively negative emotions and outlook on the world around me.

In all honesty, I was shocked to find myself so affected by a manga. I always enjoyed reading manga, but I had never read a manga series on the level of any of my favorite literary works of all time. Goodnight Punpun was the first to change that. It is a genius series. It combines darkness, absurdism, and humor in the best amalgamation of ways.

The story has a simple, coming-of-age basis. The main character, Punpun, starts off as a kid in elementary school. The first leg of the story sees him navigating life as a young boy, having to go through his parents’ divorce and live with his jobless, existentialist uncle, as well as falling in love with a new classmate named Aiko.

Punpun is a great character. He starts as very relatable and almost hilariously dorky, making the best of his life as he knows how. He is imaginative and a dreamer. Like so many children, he is intent on wanting to be a grown up to get to achieve his goals, all of which exist to make the people around him happy. When it comes to how he wants to live, Punpun is a fairly blank canvas. He is deeply reliant on others for his own happiness.

Punpun’s deep seated insecurities and resentments are shown subtly yet quite early in the series. He resents his mother because he believes she doesn’t love him, and to be fair, she really doesn’t do much to lead him to believe anything else; she is emotionally abusive and cruel to Punpun, struggling with depression and mental illness on top of resentment towards her own self and her life. This leads to Punpun idolizing his father, a mostly deadbeat dad who was sent away from their home for hitting Punpun’s mother and putting her in the hospital. Eventually Punpun realizes both his parents are imperfect, deeply flawed people who he cannot look up to, and so he stops. He starts living his life for himself alone, for better or for worse. Spoiler alert: it’s for worse, mostly. Punpun’s mental decline is powerful, heartwrenching, and terrifying to watch.

The author makes the interesting choice to draw Punpun’s character, a human boy, as a small, cartoonish bird. This is the seminal uniqueness of the Goodnight Punpun books. Punpun’s drawn character gives the series a charm. He is depicted as very cute and innocent. When we as readers see the insights into Punpun’s thoughts and imagination about God, girls, friendship, sex, and adulthood, even when they are rather sad or dark, we relate these thoughts to the silly caricature of a bird that we see and know. It gives Punpun this everlasting innocence, this eternal childlike state, that makes him charming and lovable.

Even more interestingly, Punpun’s bird-like character changes along with his mental and emotional state throughout the books. Without explicitly spoiling the story, because I highly recommend everyone who loves literature to please give it a shot, Goodnight Punpun is a story of descent, a coming of age story gone nearly as wrong as it can go, and Punpun’s physicality reflects that. As the series goes on, he gets drawn with darker, thicker lines. He grows darker in color to reflect his emotional anguish, and he becomes more and more sinister looking.

Punpun’s metamorphosis from bird to monster, or human to monster, represents his waning goodness and morality as the world lets him down time and time again. It’s akin to Breaking Bad where you suddenly realize, wait—this guy is the bad guy, and I only just realized it. Punpun’s birdlike form prevents you from seeing the extent of his horrible words and actions until it doesn’t, and then his design actually contributes to how horrible he becomes. I absolutely loved this form of artistic symbolism. It blew me away.

Below are some of my favorite panels in the series. All credit goes to the mangaka, Inio Asano. I’m a huge fan of him and his art is just amazing.

Trigger Warning: This manga is known for being quite dark, unhappy, and not for the faint of heart. Some of the following art pieces may contain depictions or insinuations of sensitive material such as depression, violence, suicide, sexual assault, and various forms of mental and emotional abuse. Please be cautious and take care of yourself!

My Favorite Goodnight Punpun Panels

Believe it or not, this is only a glimpse at the talent of this artist and at the beautiful, horrific nature of the story. It is so, so worth reading. Check out Inio Asano’s Goodnight Punpun!

Thank you for reading!

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About the Creator

angela hepworth

Hello! I’m Angela and I love writing fiction—sometimes poetry if I’m feeling frisky. I delve into the dark, the sad, the silly, the sexy, and the stupid. Come check me out!

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Comments (5)

  • Murali19 days ago

    I'm currently into Goodnight Punpun manga.

  • Denise Larkin24 days ago

    Wow interesting series. Love the photos.

  • Omgggg, I relate so hard with Punpun because just like him, I've become a monster now. My heart broke so much for him 🥺

  • Michelle Liew25 days ago

    Hey, Angela. My hubby is into anime and manga too! Some of these tell very inspirational stories. Good review.

  • Natasha Collazo26 days ago

    Ok I’m in. This sounds incredible

angela hepworthWritten by angela hepworth

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