This week, the Mangasplaining team dives into one of the most infamous manga in fandom, Inio Asano’s Goodnight Pun Pun. But Chip has a very unexpected reaction to the book that causes the Mangang to reconsider their memories of the series. First volume syndrome strikes again? Listen and find out!
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IN THIS EPISODE
00:00Goodnight PunPun Volume 1, by Inio Asano 43:05 THE BREAK 43:35 SHOUT-OUTS! Two TV shows worth watching, a giant robot worth visiting, and a graphic novel that’s not manga that you should read anyway
Goodnight Pun Pun Volume 1 By Inio Asano
Translated by JN Productions Touch-up Art and Lettering by Annaliese Christman Design by Fawn Lau Edited by Pancha Diaz
Audio editing by David Brothers. Show notes by Christopher Woodrow-Butcher and Deb Aoki
BEFORE WE GET STARTED
And we’re ALMOST caught up on our weekly manga podcast schedule, following the end of a hectic period of travel for Chris and Deb… Thanks for sticking with us! As a reminder, you can subscribe to our podcast on your favourite podcast app, or you can subscribe to our Substack Newsletter to get the podcast and shownotes delivered to you… When we’re ready with them…!
Born September 22, 1980 in Ibaraki prefecture, Inio Asano made his manga debut at the tender age of 18 with Hello From Outer Space, published in Shogakukan’s Sunday GX Magazine in 2001. An avid manga reader from childhood, Asano has mentioned that his favourite authors include Kyoko Okazaki (who we covered in episode 4, with Helter Skelter) and Usamaru Furuya, among others.
Despite getting work published at a young age, he still went to post-secondary education, majoring in Information Design at Tamagawa University. I think from our perspective, it pretty clearly shaped his manga-making process. His breakthrough came with the publication of Solanin in 2006, which hit pretty darned big, scoring a live-action movie in Japan.
His English-language career also began with Solanin, as the two-volume series was release as a one-volume graphic novel by VIZ Media just 2 years after the Japanese edition in 2008! VIZ followed that up with his 2-volume short story collection, What A Wonderful World, and that did… poorly. To be blunt. I think the poor performance MIGHT have been why VIZ held off publishing any more Asano until 2016… with Goodnight Pun Pun Volume 1.
Despite PunPun being Asano’s immediate follow-up to Solanin in 2007, the book was left untranslated via official sources for years. However, it came a bonafide online cultural phenomenon through online piracy, under the transliteration of its Japanese name, Oysasumi PunPun. As Christopher mentions in the intro, you can tell when someone read it by what they call it.
His next book in English actually came from art comix publisher Fantagraphics Books, into one of their forays into manga publishing, Nijigahara Holograph. It’s a dark, horror-tinged done-in-one book with some mind-bending time-skipping involved. It seemed to find its audience here, and has returned for multiple printings.
Vertical then stepped up to the plate and released Asano’s extremely polarizing book A Girl On The Shore, a first-hand exploration of puberty, sadism, and the boredom of living in a small town. Not for the faint of heart, that one.
Since then, VIZ has seen fit to release the one-shot Downfallby Inio Asano, also a very dark book about a manga creator who’s dealing with some… stuff, that’s getting a live-action movie(!) that comes out… NEXT WEEK! Wild.
… and then Asano’s most recent multi-volume serialization Dead Dead Demons’ DeDeDeDeDestruction, an energetic sci-fi social commentary adventure about Aliens who start to invade earth and then just… stop… hanging over the city. I think VIZ’s serialization of that just finished up, or is about to.
There was also a very limited printing of the one-shot Solanin Epiloguepublished to coincide with Asano’s visit to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in 2018, that’s now available digitally.
DEB: Speaking of Asano and his fans, here’s a pic from his visit to TCAF, where a fan showed off their PunPun tattoo.
Asano is one of those mangaka that has a pretty strong following in the U.S. by name, where most fans simply follow titles by name and aren’t super up on knowing the creators’ names. It’s surprising that there isn’t more work from him in print given his output (France has tons, OF COURSE), I wonder if he’d be a good get for Denpa or someone in future? I’d love another one of his short story collections. He’s won quite a few awards for his work, with Dead Dead Demons winning the Shogakukan Manga Award and the Excellence Award at the Japan Media Arts Festival.
Worth noting that Asano was married to fellow mangaka Akane Torikai from 2018-2022. You can read some of Torikai’s perspective on their relationship (in addition to her own totally awesome work) in this interview we published over at Mangasplaining Extra, conducted by Deb Aoki. It’s a doozy! As for what Asano’s up to now, Dead Dead Demons is getting an anime either later this year or next, and he’s been on something of a break from making manga to concentrate on making the anime.
UPDATE: I went and checked Asano’s Twitter, @asano_inio, and he just announced his new book today! It’s called Mujina in the Deep, and there’s preview art. Wow, look at us, right on time with this stuff.
02:00 Here’s what VIZ has to say about Goodnight PunPun from the back cover of volume 1:
Meet Punpun Punyama. He’s 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.
That’s what he wants, but what does he get…?
3:30 That’s right, we’re starting with Chip, and he LOVED it! What a rave! And yeah, that first chapter really is a wacky, off-the wall introduction to the series, our lead character PunPun’s mind and POV, and the seeming absurdity of adults from the perspective of children. I like that this also sets up a pretty weird dynamic for the series, because it’s shown to be taking place in the real world, from a ‘real’ perspective, and yet everything is just completely insane. So is any of it real? Can the POV of PunPun, or the narrator, or of anyone in the series actually be trusted?
4:50 Yeah, Goodnight PunPun is 13 volumes in Japan, and is collected into 7 volumes in the English edition, with the first 6 being double-volumes. All of them seem to still be in stock/in print at major retailers too, so why not go check it out?
9:45 Yeah, the characters that look like humans are just on this side of grotesque, kids and adults alike. I think that once you’re ‘in’ the story they stop standing out quite so much, but it’s intensely jarring to see them out of context.
10:25 Here’s what the back cover copy is on the penultimate volume of PunPun:
Punpun has finally reunited with the love of his life, Aiko!
But she isn’t as exciting and wonderful as he remembered.
And she doesn’t make him exciting and wonderful.
In fact, he thinks they’re both terribly banal.
And now they’ve done something terrible…
Punpun, what do you do when there’s no way out?
So, dark things to come.
12:00 Yeah, God is kind of *over* PunPun praying to him.
I think I heard that the image of God is Asano, but I can’t find any reference for it online. It certainly doesn’t look like how he looks now. Even the Oysaumi PunPun wiki doesn’t know. Yes, there’s a wiki for this series. There’s also a Reddit forum. I wasn’t kidding when I said that this book became a very big ‘cult’ classic in the west.
Meanwhile, over at MyAnimeList, which got the info from Yahoo Answers Japan, it’s said that the photograph that’s used for ‘God’ in this book is of a friend of Asano’s named “Kumatsuto”, almost certainly a pseudonym. So it’s NOT Asano, which is fascinating? I think that plays into some spoilers from the end of the book about who God really ‘Is’. Anyway, no more spoilers.
Anyway, Deb was right. Maybe not it’s not the Japanese Ed Chavez, but it’s definitely not Asano.
13:30 The Clitoris Monsters are a thing.
13:40 I think David offers up an interesting alternate take on Bird PunPun. I really did see it as PunPun identifying his family members as ‘like him’ and sort of basic, understandable, whereas everyone else in the world was incredibly complex. Lots to ponder in this book!
15:45 It’s worth noting that elementary school, the first segment of the book, only goes to about ¾ of the way through this volume, and then jumps forward. It wasn’t a hard and fast break at the end of the volume. The Japanese Wikipedia entry on PunPun breaks down the complete series into five segments which divide unequally through the 13 volumes: Elementary School, Middle School, High School, Freelance, and Aiko.
17:30 Ooo, Scary! God is berating PunPun and PunPun tells him to shut up. His relationship with “God” changes a lot in the first volume, and a hell of a lot by the end of the series.
18:44 This is weird, we talk about Friends for a while for a reason that isn’t entirely clear? That said, our little M*A*S*H-splaining sub-episode was a fun time (scroll to the 49 minute mark), but I’m pretty sure a Friends-splaining could be a lot of fun too.
Also, I brought up Friends as an example of a show where I yell hatefully at the screen as the characters do awful things, but I can rewatch it BECAUSE I’ve already watched it, and it doesn’t make me feel tense or anxious anymore. Trying to watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or that Larry David show instantly triggers my anxiety in a bad way, actually. Friends is not a fresh wound, and PunPun is the same way for me personally. Maybe a very personal comparison, not a broad one…?
Anyway, this is pretty good, but they’re way too hard on Phoebe.
20:30 Yeah, honestly, the art is GORGEOUS in the official editions, and the screentone looks so, so good. Maybe get yourself a copy, digital or print?
21:10 Deb is referring here to a talk that Asano gave on how he puts together a page of comics at TCAF, and it was really something spectacular. It was an amazing talk, and I’m glad I got to see it. But yeah, I don’t think it’s online anywhere.
LUCKILY! Inio Asano DOES talk about his comics making process on this episode of ManBen (hey, second Manben link in two weeks), and if you’re a fan of his work I highly recommend watching.
21:30 Deb also mentions the work of Shigeru Mizuki, with clean characters on complex backgrounds. Mizuki is best known for Gegege no Kitaroand the Eisner Award-Winning Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths and a bunch of other works published in English by Drawn & Quarterly. He’s got a style closer to Tintin than most manga, but it’s really interesting to see Deb draw the artistic connection between him and Asano.
22:40 Christopher and Chip end up talking about Page 235 a little, which features PunPun in the center of the bottom panel, and his crush Aiko in the immediate foreground. The panel uses filmic techniques, blurring Aiko because she’s so close to the ‘camera’, but it actually looks good, as opposed to most usages of this technique (IMHO). Maybe because the screentoning is done on TOP of the blur? Either way, a lot of effort has been taken to make the art look really coherent throughout the entire book, from the photo-referenced backgrounds, the lighting effects (that light blur on the windows in the back!), the insane depth of field in a black and white comic.. This was just one of four panels on this page…!
24:30 Deb makes a Who Framed Roger Rabbit? reference, and I think that’s an amazing thing. Like I think that worked pretty well for the time, it was honestly transformative, but I’d say that the integration of photos and drawn art here is pretty darned incredible.
25:20 Sadly, David did not edit out the “bro.” [sad face]
26:30 The snot-nosed kid doing two things at once.
26:50 Talking about motion and movement, Page 256- 257 where the kids running is downplayed. I think David and Chip are right, he’s a lot more interested in the static moments.
29:30 I mentioned “The Demon in verse” and that’s an oblique reference to the DC Comic created by Jack Kirby, The Demon, who always speaks in rhymes.
33:05 I didn’t really go into the “art exhibition in Japan” but Asano had a pretty major exhibition of his work that covered his career up to that point in 2019, I believe. Basically right up until Dead Dead Demons DeDeDeDeDestruction. I took a ton of photos and I’m pretty sure I posted them somewhere, but you know what? That would be a perfect little article for Mangasplaining Extra, all my photos from that exhibition. Look for at at mangasplainingextra.com right around when these show notes go live.
For now though, here’s a picture of me with Pun Pun:
34:15 Friends-splaining! It’s gonna be a thing! But probably not!
37:30 Deb: “Does this resonate with guys’ existential dread?” Boys in unison: “Yes.”
41:20 Porn-watchers club, we didn’t even mention the porn-watchers club. But we’re at the end of the episode! Thanks for listening, stay-tuned for the shout-outs!
43:05: THE BREAK!
DAVID references the song “Tsubasa wo Kudasai” (Give Me Wings), which is translated to English on pages 402-403 of Goodnight PunPun.
He sent along this video from Nichijou which has the song performed for y’all to listen to.
Most notably for me, it’s played at the end of Rebuild of Evangelion 2.22, but the scene it appears in contains massive spoilers, so no embed here, but you can go watch this video if you want a refresher.
DEB shouts-out the Netflix sports/reality show A Clean Sweep, which features retired Korean baseball players forming a ‘superstar team’ that plays sometimes surprisingly challenging games against top-notch high school and college baseball teams. Funnily enough, this is the first television/video recommendation for Mangasplaining that I’ve searched for that I couldn’t find a trailer for. Huh. Anyway, here’s a static image, and you can look for it on Netflix if you still subscribe.
CHIP recommends Yellowstone, which everyone has already watched, I assume?
DAVID comes back with another shout-out to listener RamzeeRawks who recommended we read Goodnight PunPun back in the day. David and Chip then also shout-out the 2022 graphic novel It’s Lonely at the Center of the Earthby Zoe Thorogood, available now from Image Comics.
CHRISTOPHER recommends going to Yokohama to see the giant Gundam. In fact, it was supposed to close at the end of March, and they decided to keep it open another year! So go see it. Here’s the Gundam…
…and here’s the note from Tomino-sensei:
And that’s this week in Mangasplaining! This episode is also available wherever you get your podcasts, so please subscribe and leave a review, so others can discover our show.
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NEXT WEEK: Get ready for our episode about NewGrappler BAKI! It’s finally happening!
Thanks so much for listening! Please support your local comic and manga specialty shop when purchasing these books, and you can find one near you at comicshoplocator.com. You can also check your local library for print and digital lending options, they have TONS of manga! Finally, thanks to D.A.D.S. for their musical accompaniment for this episode.
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READ ALONG WITH MANGASPLAINING Here's what's coming up on the podcast:
March: Ep. 89: Goodnight Pun Pun, by Inio Asano Ep. 90: Grappler Baki, by Keisuke Itagaki Ep. 91: My Love Story, by Kawahara and Aruko April: Ep. 92: Bleach vol 1 & vol. 55, by Tite Kubo Ep. 93: Pop Team Epic vol 1, by Bkub Okubo Ep. 94: The Boxer, by JH
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Thanks, Nicole! I made the correction!