Every now and then I come across a story that completely resonates with me. It either reminds me of a time from my past, of a place, or I just connect with the characters in some way. Goodnight Punpun is one of those stories, in fact it ticks each of those boxes perfectly.
Goodnight Punpun, for those unaware, is a series following a young mans life from early childhood up to his young adult life. We get to witness all the struggles, challenges and successes of Punpun Punyama as we follow him through his path to adulthood. I knew from the beginning I was going to be a fan of the series, since it comes from the mind of Inio Asano (Girl on the Shore, Solanin). What I didn’t expect was to resonate with Punpun’s life so well though, as it hit a lot of the same feelings and experiences I had experienced throughout my own life.
The familiarity of Punpun’s life experiences had lead me to reflect on my own past as I read each chapter. It constantly brought memories of some of the happiest times of my life, as well as some of the darkest times. My experience with Goodnight Punpun has been bittersweet throughout, bringing me on an emotional roller coaster I haven’t encountered in a long time.
I don’t think I am alone when I think about all the childhood friends I had, and wish I could go back to just enjoy being a kid again. Punpun has a pretty typical group of friends for a boy his age: A bunch of guys who were always looking for things to do and places to explore. A girl friend to have a crush on. It matches my childhood perfectly, and seeing Punpun hanging out with his friends gave me those warm and fuzzy feelings you get when something perfectly nostalgic reminds you of the good times.
As Punpun grows older though, his childhood friends begin to drift apart from him. By the time Punpun is getting ready for highschool, there is no one left. He messed up his chance to be with his childhood crush, he has lost touch with most of his friends, and he isn’t sure what to do with himself anymore. Punpun’s answer to the new found void in his life is to just keep busy and study hard for highschool. He doesn’t even seem to have any specific goals or aspirations in mind, he just needs to make sure he keeps his mind off his loneliness.
As I left highschool I ended up in a similar situation, where I had left all my childhood friends behind and my new highschool friends really were not that close to me. This lead to the inevitable situation where we all just parted ways, and I was just starting University. Like Punpun, I decided to just put all my time into studying rather than think about how boring life had become losing all of my friends. If I wasn’t cooped up in my room reading manga or playing games until the long hours of the night, I was at the library. This anti-social behavior did some serious damage to my psyche during that time, so seeing Punpun go through all the same experiences brought to the surface all the memories and feelings from what was probably one of the toughest times of my life. At first it made me sad, but as I read on I began to realize how much better I am doing now. Punpun’s experience served as a comparison point to what I was once like, and how I am now. It has lead me to realize that I have come a hell of a ways since then in terms of getting my life together. What initially made me depressed while reading Punpun has become a more bitter-sweet feeling. Although it reminds me of the darker times in my life, it also helps show me how far I have come since then.
I hope Punpun can find some amount of happiness in his life. As someone who has been there, in that same experience, I can say it certainly does get better. Not all at once, but gradually. A dream and a will to achieve it was what helped me out of that hole, so hopefully Punpun will find something to live for and work toward as well. Where I am right now in the manga he seems to be lifting his spirits as he has met a new girl (and has opened himself up to her) but only time will tell if it will be a lasting happiness or if this relationship will also come crashing down for Punpun.
Whatever the case ends up being, keep fighting Punpun. Everything will be alright in the end, you just have to keep moving forward!