Now, this may be odd coming from an anime blogger, but I tend to look down on both anime and manga (and on film in general). I enjoy watching anime and reading manga, but I tend not to accord it the same respect I do to the best literature. Anime and manga are, first and foremost, entertainment. Literature is entertainment, as well, of course, but the best literature, which we’ll call “classics”, goes a step further: it revolutionizes our perspective of the world and our place in it.
To give an example, I recently read “A Canticle for Leibowitz.” The book chronicles the history of a monastic order in a world recovering from a nuclear winter. I won’t say any more about what happens, it doesn’t really matter (go read it), and I’m not sure if I agree with everything the book is trying to say, but I can say unabashedly that this book is a classic. It left me bawling for the last third of the book (manly tears, of course) and I’m still thinking about it three months later. It made me see the world in a new light. People will read this a century from now and think the same thing.
Unfortunately, I can rarely say the same thing of most anime and manga, which are filled with explosions, lolis and neko-mimi. There are anime and manga which, when pressed, I would probably label as classics: Simoun, Narutaru (the manga), and Haibane Renmei, to name a few. But I could easily fill an entire bookcase with books I consider classics, and I can count the anime I would label classics on one hand.
So why the huge disparity in volume of classics between mediums? It’s probably simply that there are more books. As everyone knows, over 99% of everything is crap. And I’ve seen a much much larger percentage of all the anime created than I’ve read of all the books written. But even so, I haven’t found an anime or manga that quite measured up to the very best works of literature.
So, you’re asking, when will this guy get to the point?
Well, this year, I found it. A gift from God: a manga I could unabashedly place on my bookshelf between the Bible and Les Miserables. Oyasumi Punpun.
Oyasumi Punpun follows the life of Punpun from childhood to adulthood. I won’t spoil it, but suffice to say Oyasumi Punpun is one of the most soul-crushingly beautiful stories I’ve ever read. The pages will tear your heart back and forth between the heights of heaven and the depths of the abyss.
The artwork is stunningly beautiful. as are the characters.
Oyasumi Punpun was the best thing I’ve read all year. If you haven’t read it yet, I can’t recommend it enough.