In Goodnight Punpun Volume 6, sex-drunk Punpun is blindsided (spoilers!) by his dizzying descent into the erotic creepshow that is Aiko, a ghoulish girlfriend not unlike David Lynch’s Laura Palmer or Junji Ito’s Tomie in her ability to completely consume the narrative despite being hellbent on her own destruction. While he can’t bear to look away from Aiko, Punpun feels her wrongness in the twofold shudders of their sexual release and his increasing nausea. In desiring Aiko’s beauty, and the lost childhood that she represents, Punpun accepts Aiko’s madness as well, and this insanity cannibalizes Punpun, making his bird effigy into a new dark, totemic, meme-self that now sports horns, as if to stigmatize Punpun’s violent lust. Is Punpun plotting to be rid of Aiko? We can’t be sure, though Aiko herself accuses him of it. All that we see at the end of this volume is Punpun’s demented uncertainty, and the strange comfort he takes in his arrival in Aiko’s nightmare world.
Volume Six Begins with Punpun finally getting his true wish—he has not only found Aiko, his childhood love, but she returns his affections. Before they embark on their new normal, they stop to bid farewell to Aiko’s mom, who first browbeats, then stabs her daughter. Enraged, Punpun’s hands fly, and in many grotesquely long panels, panels so lengthy it is like they are melting, he chokes the life out of Aiko’s mother. Punpun and Aiko, who is wounded but not mortally so, escape. Life on the run isn’t good for either Punpun or Aiko, but for the latter it’s a day by day degradation as not only her wound, but Punpun’s attitude towards her, festers. Not that the evil is one sided, but they torment each other like professional devils; Punpun punches Aiko in the mouth and dislodges a tooth, but Aiko outdoes him by putting a fork in Punpun’s eye. What is perhaps just as bad as half-blinding Punpun, however, is when she reveals to him that she has allowed Punpun to believe himself her mother’s killer; when Punpun left the room, Aiko’s mother came to, and Aiko finished the job. Not that this admission rewinds time and unwraps Punpun’s fingers from Aiko’s mother’s throat, and nor does it mitigate his murderous intent, but the knowledge that he is, in point of fact, not the killer, may have made Punpun’s burden easier if he had known it earlier.
In the B arc of Volume Six, Sachi’s search brings her face to face with Punpun’s friends. She discovers she’s not the only one who believed in Punpun, having become acquainted with Punpun’s landlord, who had been helping him get his real estate license. In Sachi’s pursuit of Punpun’s pathetic life, we see that Punpun had the possibility not only of validation, but of redemption, had he chosen the right one to love.
Goodnight Punpun isn’t read so much as it rolls over you—manga as demolition of the soul, or true catharsis in the sense used by the ancient playwrights. By the time I’ve reached the end of a volume, I am exhausted and energized, as if I’d lived Punpun’s harrowing days. On any list of the very best comics of the twenty-first century, Goodnight Punpun should be at or near the top, and Goodnight Punpun Volume Six receives my strongest recommendation.
Goodnight Punpun Volume Six arrived on shelves June 20th, 2017, but if you find it sold out, you can buy it in print or digital through Viz Media. You can find more reviews of Goodnight Punpun through this link.
Viz Media sent the review copy.