Punpun Punyama is a good kid from a screwed up family. Seriously screwed up. The first chapter ends with him coming downstairs in the morning and findPunpun Punyama is a good kid from a screwed up family. Seriously screwed up. The first chapter ends with him coming downstairs in the morning and finding his mother lying in a bloody heap on the floor. His dad looks at him and says, "When the cops get here, I want you to tell it was a burglar." Next chapter opens with dad in jail, mom in the hospital, and Punpun's Uncle Yuichi coming to stay with him.
Punpun's young enough that he doesn't understand what's going on, and he quickly resumes his everyday life, hanging out with his friends, crushing on Aiko, the new transfer student, and hunting for porn.
Punpun is terribly naive. After he experiences his first wetdream, he runs to his uncle thinking his brain is melting and leaking out his penis. His uncle gives him an old biology textbook and directs him to the chapter on sexual reproduction, but this just confused Punpun as he becomes convinced that vaginas are alien invaders (the illustrations have to be seen to be believed).
The art, in typical Asano style, is hyper-realistic, with the characters drawn in a slightly grotesque manner. All except Punpun and his family, who are depicted as birds. Yes, birds. And not realistic ones. They look like a cross between the Partridge Family logo and Pacman ghosts. It's not that they are literal birds, but rather Asano uses this convention to portray Punpun's naivete about the world. He sees himself and his family in a simplistic, cartoonish light. When he finds his mom lying on the floor, she has a giant lump on her head like Bugs Bunny.
This isn't the only element of magical realism. When Punpun gets depressed or scared, he calls upon God using a poem his uncle taught him -- "Dear God, dear God, tinkle tinkle hoy!" -- and God appears to him as a Japanese dude with a giant afro. One of his friends, who is clearly not at all in touch with reality, has visions of the God of Poo, who rides around in a flying saucer.
This is a surreal work, but one of Asano's most accessible since Solanin. ...more
I first encountered When the Wind Blows when my high school social studies teacher showed the film version to class. It's a great nuclear apocalypse mI first encountered When the Wind Blows when my high school social studies teacher showed the film version to class. It's a great nuclear apocalypse movie, far more effective than melodramas like On the Beach or The Day After. (Has a great score, too, with music by Roger Waters, David Bowie, Paul Hardcastle and Genesis.) Sadly it's never been released on home video in the US. The original comic it's based upon, however, is.
The story concerns an elderly British couple, the Bloggses, the sort of stalwarts who grew up in the Blitz and take British indomitableness for granted. Stiff upper lip, chap, we'll muddle through somehow, etc., etc. Time has past them by, but they don't realize it. They believe WWIII will be just like WWII with slightly bigger bombs. Jimmy gets ahold of a bunch of goverment leaflets with instructions for surviving a nuclear war -- how to build a fallout shelter with a couple doors, what supplies you'll need, though apparently how how to go to the bathroom -- and naively follows them, not realizing they're bullshit even when he runs into contradictory instructions in different pamphlets.
I don't want to give the ending away, but this is a brutally realistic (and darkly funny) look at nuclear war. Don't read this if you're expecting a happy ending. ...more
I've been a fan of Niko Tanigawa since reading Choku, her manga about a hapless high school student and the sociopathic stalker who believes herself tI've been a fan of Niko Tanigawa since reading Choku, her manga about a hapless high school student and the sociopathic stalker who believes herself to be his girlfriend. Tanigawa's new series, "It's Not My Fault I'm Not Popular," isn't quite as good -- but then, it's hard to top something like this:
-- but for whatever reason it's become extremely popular on 4chan, where users have been translating each chapter as it appears in Japan. The popularity on 4chan is so great, in fact, that the publisher actually gave them a shout-out on the cover of the first bound volume -- where an ordinary book might proclaim, "Bestselling author," this one mentions how popular the story is with American pirates. Which, perversely, has caused many 4channers to import copies from Japan. The book has been the #1 bestseller on CDJapan, a webstore that specializes in imported Japnese merchandise -- for a couple months now, except for a brief period when it was out of stock.
So what's driving interest? Well, it's a story 4channers can relate to. The main character, Tomoko Kuroki, is a total loser -- apart from one friend, she only spoke to another person six times in middle school. Now she's starting high school and she's been separated from her lone friend. So she decides to change herself and become super popular. Unfortunately she has no clue how to do this and her severe social anxiety often manifests in bizarre behavior. So it's the story of a loser being a loser -- and being a loser, and being a loser. There's really no let up. Tomoko doesn't progress at all in the first volume. She doesn't improve herself. She doesn't make friends. Apart from her brother, she hardly ever talks to other characters, and when she does she ends up embarrassing herself. This is a comedy, but it's a damn depressing one. Yet you can't help but keep reading in the hope that things will lighten up -- like Charlie Brown believing Lucy won't jerk the football away before he can kick it....more