It’s difficult deciding how to word everything in this. Since binging an over 100 chapter-long manga that was meant for serialization isn’t normally something done or should be done. Especially in this case where the original magazine was published weekly so as to give some space between the chapters. Nonetheless I’ll give my thoughts on the experience as well as I can, in case this all becomes wiped again in the future.
To recap, I have just finished reading all 147 chapters of Oyasumi Punpun in roughly six hours, give or take a few halves. I will say that it has been quite the ride, and that currently most of my upper torso is paralyzed at the moment. Since, typically at this point, you usually just slouch back and think for a while before returning to reality.
Nevertheless, let’s begin.
The art is good, like really good. About near Homunculus levels of detail and direction. The best parts are either massive wide shots, usually taken in the side portrait position, or incredibly shaded half-body shots, where the characters expressions are fully unveiled. The choice to make Punpun appear to the reader as a small bird is also a nice touch, making him appear more fragile and innocent than a normal kid would look like.
I will note that during the entirety of the read I was listening to synthwave and that I am already familiar with Catcher in the Rye to the extent of recognizing the similarities between two stories.
Plot-wise though, I would actually consider Catcher in the Rye to be a better story, mostly because it’s more tightly written and has a certain unreliable narrator. Then again, this might as well be comparing apples to oranges since the two works are in different mediums.
Overall, its a good read. Grueling to get through, but still a good read. Thing is though, it ends on a happy note that still makes you feel empty inside. I suppose this is more or less from the fact that barely anyone hit any consistent highs morally speaking. As in most of the cast would fluctuate between certain extremes with some in permanent lows, but none of them ever really were consistently nice or whatever. It brings me back to a comment said about it, that a lot of it is misery porn, and I would agree. The few highs that each character reaches, especially Aiko, felt specifically done in order to stir shit up when the distressing inevitable happens.
(Fuck, the hanging scene was really well done. Side shot with great distance. Man, that’s good).
Anyway, would I ever read this again?
Hell no. I read it out of curiosity, got invested into the world it presented, and was left with nothing but a regretful melancholy about the inevitable state of the world, the inevitable highs and lows that exist everywhere.
A lot of other people said that they’ve cried from reading this, and maybe it’s because I read to fast, but the most extreme I felt was a firm tugging on the heart strings. So, I guess it satisfies the quota.
As a final note I should want to make this distinction for any future person that stumbles across this. If Catcher in the Rye is about tragedy becoming a catalyst for disillusionment and cynicism, which then ends with a rather warm feeling of happening, the Punpun is about repeated tragedy resulting in being unable to function as a person, then leading to further tragedy. To use a hastily created metaphor, Catcher breaks a person and has him try to avoid the sharp bits that are now himself. Punpun breaks a person and has his broken pieces serve as the only available tool for interacting with other people. There’s also a difference between antagonism and self-loathing between the two, but that should be discussed in an actual review or retrospective and not just a post-credits rant.
In summary, it’s a good read, but don’t read it again, if your active memory is still as good as it is now. If anything, I would compare it to having surgery done: you need to do it if necessary, but intentionally getting yourself into the situation is just foolish and self-destructive.