Manga 101: Goodnight PunPun

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 1:30pm

    Inio Asano is a highly praised mangaka (manga author/illustrator). He is best known for his work depicting the trials of regular people coming of age. These manga, Goodnight PunPun, for example, are very raw and realistic.  

    Goodnight PunPun follows the main character through elementary and high school. The story is quite dark and sometimes depressing. The artwork however, tries to convey a different tone. Asano purposely drew PunPun as a bird to attract readers who would normally be attracted to more simple, fluffy stories. Goodnight PunPun is anything but fluff. It is heavy on dialogue. The story is dark, but engrossing. Once started, it is difficult to put down. It is definitely a future manga classic that every otaku must read.

    Asano’s most recent work, Dead Dead Demon’s De De De De Destruction, took me by surprise. The title fooled me into thinking there would be a lack of substance to the story. Asano fooled his readers yet again! The manga is beautifully illustrated with incredibly interesting characters and plot line. The story starts with two high school aged girls about to graduate. They are a little unsure of their future goals. Suddenly there is an invasion of a mysterious race of creatures in Japan, killing thousands of citizens. 

    This is NOT a hero fights bad guys story (at least not yet).  The girls continue to float aimlessly through life, with impending doom surrounding them. There is a thin layer of “slice of life” to this manga. Underneath it is Asano’s typical dark and gritty storytelling. 

    There are currently four volumes of Dead Dead Demon’s De De De De Destruction published in English. Now that I have read one, I cannot wait to binge the rest!

    A Girl on the Shore is another title new to us in English. Yet another coming of age story, A Girl on the Shore is classic Asano. The cover shows the back of a very young looking girl splashed in color. She is holding a messenger bag and staring out at the horizon. The title and cover lead the reader to believe they are about to embark on an exciting adventure…. and they are. This adventure is a real Asano story. In A Girl on the Shore, Asano does not hold back the darkness. There is depression, suicide, dysfunctional families, and underage sex. The story is incredibly well written, gritty but not crude. 

    There are other works by Asano, some out of print and harder to find, worth mentioning. Solanin, released in English in 2008 by Viz Media, is another of his popular coming of age manga. Older works, What a Wonderful World & Nijigahara Holograph are well worth a search on eBay.

    Olivia Gelerman, 12, is the curator of several hundred works of manga, anime and graphic novels that can be found in a book collection for sale of 47 West. Her knowledge of these genres is extensive and she is happy to recommend certain books for tween and teen readers. Her monthly review on a book in these genres appears exclusively in Penobscot Bay Pilot.
    Photos by Olivia Gelerman