First, a foreword on seinen manga.
I've officially graduated from shounen to seinen as my favorite "genre". It's not a huge jump... because it's more of a rating than a genre. Basically going from PG-13 to rated R. Or Law & Order to Dexter. Cable television to HBO or Showtime. Which kinda sucks, because it means no more reading at work during breaks (because it's too risky). But I've looked at my most recent read and enjoyed series, and almost all of them are seinen. Shounen (or shoujo) just seems too limited. I'm not saying I need nudity or gore. But when you have a fighting series where hardly anyone ever "dies" (especially not without a prolonged and meaningful death sequence devoid of too much blood or agony)... or a slice of life series where the worst thing that happens is "He dumped me because I'm not cool enough!!!" as opposed to "He knocked me up and kicked me to the curb" or "He was abusive because his parents act the same way"... it's just... meh. On an IRL sidenote, I watched the first 5 episodes of "Roswell" with my roommates last night (thankfully while drinking) and I realized how GOD AWFUL that show was. But I watched the first two seasons in high school and loved it! 10+ years later, I realize it was rubbish. Maybe I just grew up.
But speaking of growing up... Punpun.
Where do I start?
So, scanning seinen sections tonight for new series, I came across this one. It's a crazy combination of everything. Slice of life. Dark comedy. Cynical. Depressing. Hopeful. Realistic. Surreal. Insane. Down to earth.
It's probably not the best manga I've read. But it is definitely one of the most accurate (if depressing) slice of life series I've read. As a brief summary, it's an ongoing series that mostly follows a boy named Punpun, who, along with his immediate family, is portrayed as a mostly mute two-dimensional bird set in the "normal" world. It goes from the time he's a child (say, 6?) to, currently, when he's 20. In a lot of ways, Punpun is a normal person: he falls in love (sometimes unrequited), he worries about his future, he makes friends and has them move away as they grow up. And then there's the surrealistic aspect. Punpun summons "God" with some random little prayer... but "God" is a naked Japanese guy with a huge afro who insults him. When he can't deal with life, reality goes nuts; the principal starts playing hide-and-seek, the teacher smashes his head into the desk, or tons of other zany things happen. But it underlies real issues: his dad gets arrested for beating his mom; his parents get a divorce while his dad's in jail; his mom tries to commit suicide when she gets out of the hospital. That doesn't even account for some of the even more depressing things later on.
Anyway, the story seems to just get darker and darker as it continues. It becomes somewhat less surreal (though maybe more supernatural, especially when it comes to his childhood friend who joins a cult), although Punpun's physical form always reflects his mental state. But a good amount of his experiences are incredibly empathetic. Who hasn't gone on a date to try and impress a girl and ended up sticking their foot in their mouth? Who hasn't had unrequited love that you did nothing about and wistfully looked back at, even years later? Who hasn't tried to change themselves, only to completely fail and find themselves back in the same rut? Depressing? Yes. Realistic? Hell yes. If you can keep in mind that you're not a cartoon bird.
Anyway, highly recommended for those who are 18+ (there is a little bit of nudity, a fair bit of graphic language, and more adult themes than you can shake a stick at). And it's still ongoing; apparently the next issue comes out in two days... hopefully it'll be scantilated soon after, because the most recent volume ended on a "WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!?!?" note. Anyone else seen it?