In his short career as a manga artist, Inio Asano has tackled various formats and genres–short existential vignettes, twentysomething dramas, mind-bending psycho-horror–with a delicate emotional touch and a willingness to break stodgy storytelling rules. While his body of work is not yet large enough to suffer legitimate accusations of repetition, he nonetheless announced before his latest story that he wanted to “start fresh.”
The result of this rebirth is the comedy Goodnight Punpun. Asano’s latent, surreal sense of humor, which percolated beneath the surface of his more serious works, is released to its full potential, transforming what is—on the surface—a classic bildungsroman in wild and unpredictable ways. Witness the titular Punpun (pronounced “poon-poon”), who is depicted as a tiny, caricatured bird in an otherwise normal human setting. The extreme depictions of his overactive imagination are matched at each step by even more bizarre characters.
Asano keeps a careful balance of exaggeration and realism in both theme and presentation; imagine a stage performance of Looney Tunes. The mood of the manga swings between slapstick and nightmarish but nevers fails to be striking and evocative.