Goodnight Punpun – Inio Asano

I picked Goodnight Punpun up at the library because it looked intriguing. It was only once I got home I realised that it was actually manga. I’ve been meaning to read more manga, so this didn’t faze me much, but now I’ve read it I’m not so sure. It was… weird.

Pupun is a young boy, and according to the back of the book (which is the front, if you read from left to right) «is an average kid in an average town. He wants to win a Nobel Prize and save the world. He wants the girl he has a crush on to like him back. He wants to find some porn.» All well and good.

However, as I said, it was weird.

One thing is that that’s Punpun on the cover. His family looks like this:

While everyone else looks normal:

Which I failed to see the significance of, to be honest. It’s probably me being dim, though.

Well, I say normal… Fairly normal, most of the time. However your teacher may look like this if he thinks you haven’t done your homework:

And you principal and head teacher may look like this while planning a game of hide and seek (a storyline I also completely failed to see the point of, by the way, but that’s by the by):

(Yes, I am aware that exaggeration of physical expression of feelings is usual in Japanese graphic art. Still.)

Also, if you chant:

God appears. Like this:

He will talk to you, and answer (some) questions, but his advice isn’t particularly helpful. So, one thing that’s fairly realistic in the story, then.

As for the rest, it basically mostly baffles me. There doesn’t seem to be a plot, as such. There’s a story running through most of the volume about domestic violence and divorce as a result, but it’s… weird. And then there’s the guy who has recorded over a porn video in order to confess to murder, and the following hunt for bounty. Which is also mostly weird. And Punpun himself is… weird. Not just weird-looking, but expressionless and full of feeling at the same time (which is a hard act to pull off, I suppose, which might be why it doesn’t really work).

I’m sure it’s supposed to make sense. No, strike that, I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be weird, or at least sort of quirky in a dark way. But I am sure I’m supposed to get something, a significance, an epiphany, an insight or at least some platitudes about growing up or something, out of it. And… I don’t.


I’m still going to read more manga, but perhaps I’ll try something a bit less edgy and art-like next. Perhaps Dragonball. Or Sailor Moon.



Wandering Son, Vol 8 – Takako Shimura

wanderingsonvol8I picked up Vol 1 of Wandering Son by Takako Shimura because it was displayed quite prominently at the main branch of the local library, and pretty much devoured the first 7 volumes in quick succession last year. I never got around to writing about it, and so thought I’d borrow one of them again as a reference to get a blog post down, but then found that Vol 8 had made its appearance, so I borrowed that instead.

The plot of Wandering Son centers around Shuichi Nitori, «a boy who wants to be a girl», and Shuichi’s friend Yoshino Takatsuki, «a girl who wants to be a boy» and I find it quite fascinating for a variety of reasons. There are another 7 volumes to go, and I will definitely be reading them all once they appear in English.

According to the wikipedia page, the series has received a lot of positive attention, but has also been criticized for the unrealistic maturity of the protagonists. To some extent I suppose there’s something in that. The series starts when Shuichi starts fifth grade at a new school, and on the whole most of the people he meets seem curious and accepting of gender bending, which has struck me as somewhat unrealistic. The only really antagonistic and, in contrast with all the rest, childish reactions come from Shuichi’s sister. And perhaps both Shuichi and Yoshino are more maturely self-aware than one could expect. On the other hand I suspect being transgender, in whatever degree or form, would tend to force self-awareness on any kid.

On the plus-side the artwork is delightful, deceptively simplistic. The characters may be unrealistically mature, but they are loveably human and I find it fascinating to follow their transition into puberty (which holds unusual challenges if you’re transgender) and their attempts at coming to terms with their identity.

The English edition is «unflipped», which means that though the text is translated, the pages are printed like the original, you need to start at what we’d consider to be the back of the book and read the panels from right to left. You’d think this would be tricky to keep track of, but once you’re into the story it’s such a page-turner that I really didn’t notice.

On the whole I highly reccommend Wandering Son. If you’ve been meaning to read more graphic novels, or try manga, this is a pretty good place to start. And for me it covers all of two topics on the Book Riot Read Harder challenge, so that’s a boon, too.