Oyasumi Punpun is a manga of the Seinen(1) genre by Inio Asano. The first thing that you will notice when you start reading this manga is that the male protagonist Punpun is drawn as a penguin-like bird. The lack of a human face in the protagonist may have been done to facilitate the reader’s immersion into the story by making the readers identify with the protagonist’s experiences even if they may have not gone through the same things. The main character aside everything is drawn very realisticially, especially the backgrounds.
The plot extends itself from Punpun’s childhood and ends in his twenties. However a large section of the manga is spent on the side stories and events regarding characters Punpun has met. Some of these stories such as that of Punpun’s uncle are very interesting and important to the themes and the plot. Side stories like that of two of Punpun’s elementary school friends (Seki and Shimizu) however are not as vital to the story so some reader’s may not like this. There is also a lot of info dumping of some character’s past but it was done well usually through small conversations that the characters have and not through long monologues that feel unnatural. Punpun’s character remains stale for a majority of the manga and then rapidly develops towards the end so some reader’s will be irritated by this especially when they spot similarities between Punpun and themselves (as I did). Personally I found Nanjou Sachi’s character to be the most interesting followed by Punpun’s uncle and his mother. Each character has got their own mindsets and ideas that are explored to various degrees. However I will not go into detail as to why I find each of them interesting. The point here is that there are many characters who are well developed that you may or may not find interesting regardless of whether you like or relate to the protagonist himself.
The plot is fine and issues like unexplored character arcs are mostly resolved by the end. However some of the plot elements such as the religious cult present throughou the story don’t seem to have a clear purpose and this disappointed me. However given that this is a character driven story, it didn’t do too much harm to introduce some mystery elements like the cult to add some spice to the plot that could have otherwise been less interesting. While most of the characters are very realistically portrayed, this is not true for the cult members and Seki and Shizimu (those two elementary school friends) and most unfortunately for Aiko (Punpun’s love interest). Aiko’s behaviour and actions may be attributed to her experiences but that doesn’t mean that the reader’s will be able to relate to her. This is made worse by the fact that she is one of the characters who is offscreen for long periods of time. Some characters even disappear never to come back. These issues can be explianed but not excused by the fact that the story spans over a long period of time and is primarily concerned about the main protagonist and those characters who are immediately around him at certain instances in his life.
There are many but not too many sex scenes scattered throughout the pages of this manga but they do serve an actual purpose so I have nothing to complain about them. The purpose however should be nothing new to Seinen reader’s, chiefly that of creating the right atmosphere for mature themes to be discussed. Simply having a sex scene is not enough, using sex scenes to create drama is not enough either.
Recommendations: Aku no Hana (Manga & Anime adaptations). Explores similar issues, Characters are less believable but it goes into more detail into the confusion and feelings that one may have during their adolescence.
No Longer Human (Novel by Osamu Dazai and Manga adaptation by Usamaru Furuya). Has a protagonist similar to Oyasumi Punpun but instead of delving into the stories of the side characters, it is narrated mainly by the protagonists perspective.
(1)The Seinen genre is targeted at adult audiences.
Interview with the author: DO NOT read this before you’ve read the manga. It’s full of spoilers. It will answer many questions that you may have after reading the manga.