That’s what Asano Inio is trying to say. Well, okay, there’s a bit more to that: life sucks, but, you know, It’s going to be okay.
I’ve already talked about Solanin, but since then, I’ve been trying to read everything I can that’s by this guy. The bulk of it was various one-shots and short stories that weren’t more than a handful of chapters. Even though they’re short, he’s able to connect you with the characters and the hopelessness or boredom of their situation. Nijigahara Holograph is really his one step away from talking about peoples’ lives. It’s about some supernatural happenings, which when combined with his ability to write dark and realistic situations, make for a really creepy story.
But the one that stands out to me besides Solanin is also one of his strangest, Oyasumi Punpun.
Oyasumi Punpun is about a kid, Punpun, who is just a normal boy. It’s about him growing up. We start with him in elementary school. We see him play around with his friends. We see him wrestle with his feelings as he realizes he has his first crush on a girl. We see him deal with his family issues, with his abusive father and alcoholic mother. We see him move on to various stages of his life.
Except that to the reader, he and his entire immediate family are rendered as really weird, flat bird creatures.
Trust me, it works very well.
Oyasumi Punpun starts off sort of whimsically, with the crazy God character popping up once in a while and the surreal imagery that comes up in Punpun’s thoughts. Obviously, the family situation makes it pretty dark as well, but later on it gets fairly depressing. It’s a lot like Solanin, except that Solanin focused on a very, very short snapshot of time in Meiko’s life. In Punpun, we’re watching Punpun grow up and we can see how all of the stuff that he encounters earlier on in his life goes on to affect him later on.
What’s ultimately depressing about Punpun isn’t that it’s Punpun going through all of the crap that he goes through. It’s realizing that the things that he goes through are entirely believable, that real people go through what he has to go through.
And that’s what’s really so amazing about Asano Inio. It doesn’t matter whether or not the character is like you, which was the case for me with Solanin. Heck, it doesn’t even matter whether the character looks anything remotely close to a person. He’s still able to make what they’re going through and what they’re feeling uncomfortably real.