Lovefool returns with a look at an unrelenting, and at times uncomfortable, look back at the trials and tribulations of childhood in Inio Asano’s Goodnight Punpun.
Hello, nerdlings. I know, I know. And, honestly, it’s been almost a year since I’ve written a column and so much has happened that it’s kind of hard to even wrap my brain around the idea of getting you caught up. I mean. I can summarize, I suppose. We made some pretty big decisions about our immediate and long-term future. I got a new job. I went back to school. I dyed my hair blue. I went a con for the first time in…five years? I used to do this thing where I’d envision myself in the place of Homer in that gif where he kind of disappears back into the bush and then I kind of actually did that?
Ooof. This feels weird. I’m kind of not used to telling people true things anymore. I mean, I have sincere and meaningful conversations with people, I just really prefer making it about them and people are typically happy to oblige and that works for everyone. So actually expressing an opinion about my life that isn’t shrouded in a couple layers of something is weird and kind of uncomfortable.
So it makes sense that the first book I’m talking about is kind of weird and uncomfortable. I started my illustrious Playback career with a review of Inio Asano’s solanin that was, quite frankly, better than anything I’ve written in a hot minute. solanin was weird and kind of uncomfortable but it was in an easier way than his latest release. Asano’s Goodnight Punpun is just…it’s this unrelenting journey back into childhood. But it’s not the childhood you want to remember; it’s the childhood you actually had. It’s violent and disgusting and frightening and it feels like a bucket of cold water being dropped on your head, but it’s worse because it’s actually your brain itself being doused.
Remember your first crush and the horror of “what is this feeling oh my god my brain and my pants are doing something weird whaaaaaat” that led to a “relationship” that lasted for the time between lunch and the bus ride home? Remember how ridiculous you and all your friends were since you were all this complicated mix of fear and bravado because you literally did not have enough information to deal with the world? Do you remember all the promises you made that there was zero chance you could keep because you were, like, nine? Remember when you realized your parents weren’t…well, remember when you learned they weren’t the people they wanted you to think they were and that crystal-clear moment of shock and doubt in the entire world? Remember wrestling with the concept of God? Remember trying to figure out sex?
Inio Asano ensures that you will remember all of that. But you’ll remember the way it actually was and it will be squirmingly uncomfortable, but you’ll come out the other side of it feeling cleaner than you did when you went in, because you’ll be forced to strip away some of the kind lies you’ve told yourself about childhood and, in doing so, maybe you’ll be forced to strip aside some of the kind lies you’re telling yourself about adulthood. And you’ll have a beautiful book (French flaps and all) to keep on your shelf that you’ll catch sight of out of the corner of your eye and, when you do, you’ll suppress a small shudder and then go about your day slightly relieved. | Erin Jameson