The Depths of Despair: Oyasumi Punpun Manga

Cute little guy, isn’t he?

He won’t be so cute once you read what I frankly believe is one of the best manga about the human experience I have ever read. It’s dark, brutal, and yet incredibly odd and charming in its execution. The fact that our main character is a silly and simplistic bird actually adds to the experience of reading.

So, what exactly is this about?

Punpun Onodera is a normal 11-year-old boy living in Japan. Hopelessly idealistic and romantic, Punpun begins to see his life take a subtle—though nonetheless startling—turn to the adult when he meets the new girl in his class, Aiko Tanaka.

It is then that the quiet boy learns just how fickle maintaining a relationship can be, and the surmounting difficulties of transitioning from a naïve boyhood to a convoluted adulthood. When his father assaults his mother one night, Punpun realizes another thing: those whom he looked up to were not as impressive as he once thought.

As his problems increase, Punpun’s once shy demeanor turns into voluntary reclusiveness. Rather than curing him of his problems and conflicting emotions, this merely intensifies them, sending him down the dark path of maturity in this grim coming-of-age saga. All through the lens of a cute little bird character against a highly realistic modern day Japan.

Fuck me, I am upset. I was at work while I read this so I can’t very well cry, but man, it feels like a dam about to burst. It’s an ugly, terrible, and hopeless fucking story. And yet I loved how real it was, loved the eccentric art style and dialogue, I just loved all of it.

Punpun is one of the most unlikable, stupid and yet so painfully relatable characters I have ever read in fiction. Everything he goes through is something I’m sure every boy, or hell, every person has went through.

From the innocent ignorance and curiosity of his childhood, sexual frustration and discovery in his teen years,chasing a long lost love, crippling depression and numbness in unemployment, just so many things that add up to a sad existence. The only difference was, Punpun made a lot more wrong decisions in his life, and it was spiral that never stopped spinning down.

That’s not to say this is just Punpun’s story. It has so many other great characters with their own stories, drama, mistakes and successes to watch unfold. I am being purposefully vague here, as I went into this story blind on a whim, and it gave me probably the best (worst?) experience.

It’s not all bad, though. The terribleness and despair is rudely cut with hilariously out-of-place goofball humor that, in my opinion, fits perfectly with the manga’s message that life is completely and totally random, and the best you can do is put yourself in a good spot as possible before the storms hit.

My only warning is that if you’re currently in a bad spot in life, and feel that this story could really ruin your week, avoid this like the plague until you are in greener pastures. It is a story that does not pull any punches. As a matter of fact, it punches you with a running start and then doesn’t stop punching. Couple that with a surreal and yet at the same time realistic art style, and it is a great read from start to finish.

But to anybody else who hasn’t read this manga, I implore you to take some time to read it. It is a visceral manga that will tear you apart, but I think it’s a story that is worth reading for everybody. It’s a beautifully brutal tale about the human experience, and I can say that I’ll be glad I read this manga once I’ve let it sink in. My only advice is NOT to read it all through in one sitting like I did. Now, if you don’t mind me, I’m gonna go hug myself in a corner and cry.

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