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Eros and Thanatos
For the March episode of The Comics Alternative‘s manga series, Shea and Derek discuss two recent releases, both by Inio Asano: A Girl on the Shore (Vertical Comics) and Goodnight Punpun, Vol. 1 (VIZ Media). Before they plunge into those titles, though, they provide a bit of context about Asano’s style and briefly discuss his other works that have been translated into English. The guys primarily reference Solanin and Nijigahara Holograph as key Asano texts, but they also mention the two-volume series of short stories, What a Wonderful World. In many ways, Derek feels that A Girl on the Shore is a cross between Solanin‘s emphasis on relationships and Nijigahara Holograph‘s fractured or more experimental narration. The guys also spend a good amount of time talking about the sexually explicit nature of the recent book. Most of A Girl on the Shore centers on its protagonists, Kuome and Isobe, slowly exploring one another, and much of that exploration is sexual in nature. However, neither Shea nor Derek feel that the visualizations are gratuitous in any way, and that Asano even complicates his explicitness through certain intriguing artistic choices. Next, the guys turn to a completely different kind of story, and one that’s a little more challenging to wrap your brain around. Goodnight Punpun originally ran for thirteen volumes in Japan, and this month VIZ Media began releasing the English translation in larger, two-in-one editions. In this first volume, we’re introduced to Punpun Punyama, a weird, largely silent bird-like creature who is supposedly a young human boy as are all of the other characters in the story. (Only the Punyama family is depicted as abstracted birds…although for all we know, this is a world where abstracted birds living with humans has been normalized.) While the storyline of this first volume is fairly straightforward — primarily a quest narrative for Punpun and his friends, and mostly involving Punpun’s love interest, Aiko — the manner of storytelling isn’t. At times Asano’s art is surreal or even psychedelic, and the events that occur can be downright trippy. Derek is fascinated by the hipster figure of god that keeps popping up throughout the book, and Shea likens Asano’s style to something approximating magical realism. All in all, this first installment of Goodnight Punpun is a fun punch in the gut that has the guys eagerly anticipating the next volumes to be released later this year. But then again, as far as Shea and Derek are concerned, any Inio Asano is worth eagerly anticipating.