There are slice-of-life dramas, and then there’s Oyasumi Punpun. Written by Inio Asano, the manga follows a young boy called Punpun Onodera through different stages in his life from elementary school to his early 20s. While he and his family are ordinary people, the manga portrays them as birds as he deals with depression, love, and his domestic struggles. As strange as it can get, it’s a serious story that goes into some heavy places.

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Oyasumi Punpun doesn’t aim to be deliberately sad, but Asano didn’t want to make it a ‘feel-good’ tale either. It’s simply a relatable comic about real issues done in a curious way that makes it worth checking out. But are there any other manga comics that follow Oyasumi Punpun’s tone? Well, yes. Otherwise, this would be a short article. Here are 8 other series fans should check out.


8 A Girl on the Shore

Punpun wasn’t Asano’s only series. He also wrote and drew A Girl on the Shore for Manga Erotics F. If that name didn’t give the game away, this series goes into some racy territory. However, just as Asano made Punpun to avoid ‘feel good’ stories, A Girl on the Shore wasn’t made just to titillate the reader. It’s a similarly serious coming-of-age tale that faces the sexual side of things honestly and realistically. In other words, it’s more awkward, messy, and difficult than a fantasy comic.

It’s about Kōme Sato and Keisuke Isobe, two students who enter a loose relationship with each other. Keisuke likes Sato, but she doesn’t feel the same way. Initially. Their feelings get more complicated when Sato finds photos of a girl on a beach on a spare SD card Isobe gave her. Now the two have to figure out where the two stand with each other, alongside dealing with issues like peer pressure, drugs, grief, and more.

7 Nijigahara Holograph

Before Asano worked on either Punpun or A Girl on the Shore, he created this psychological horror for QuickJapan in 2003. It has a non-linear narrative, so it skips between the past and the present. But the story overall focuses on Arie Kimura, a girl who goes around telling the locals a fairy tale about another girl who was sent by God to warn the village of a monster. They sacrifice her to appease the beast, but she just keeps getting reborn, while the monster gets bigger with each sacrifice it devours.

Arie’s classmates shove her into a well-connected Nijigahara tunnel. She survives but is left comatose. Her classmates are left dealing with the guilt of their actions. Their issues relating to it get worse and worse until they dominate their lives. Some become brutal bullies, others neglectful parents and others do worse deeds. All become monsters, just as Arie’s story said.

6 Homunculus

Moving away from Asano, this horror story from Ichi the Killer creator Hideo Yamamoto isn’t as grounded as Punpun or Holograph. But it does involve the same combination of using fantasy to bring out a person’s true self. The manga is about Susumu Nakoshi, a homeless man sleeping out of his car. A strange man accosts him, looking for participants for a trepanation experiment (drilling holes in the skull). Susumu says no but changes his mind when his car is towed away, and he learns the experiment will pay him ¥700,000 for taking part in it.

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He lets medical student Manabu Itō drill a hole in his skull, thinking it would give Susumu ESP abilities. At first, it seems to have done nothing. But when Susumu covers his right eye, he sees ‘distortions’ in the place of people. Itō tells him they are homunculi, representations of a person’s subconscious. Nakoshi thinks he can use this to manipulate others, but he gets a part of their homunculus with each interaction. They may have flaws, but he may be the most flawed of all.

5 Girls’ Last Tour

Created by Tsukumizu for Kurage Bunch, the manga is a slice-of-life story set after the fall of civilization. Two girls called Chito and Yūri travel the ruined world in a Kettenkrad (a half-track motorbike) in search of food and supplies. They come across a range of different survivors on their travels, each trying to make their own way in life.

Like Ishii, a scientist trying to make an airplane to find other cities, or Kanazawa, who’s more interested in mapping out the city he and the girls live in. It’s almost an inverse of Asano’s work. Instead of taking a real setting and distorting it to make it rawer like Punpun, Girls’ Last Tour takes a harsh setting and eases it up to provide a more positive outlook. It doesn’t shy away from dire situations, but it gives the reader some hope.

4 Flowers of Evil

Shūzō Oshimi’s manga for Bessatsu Shōnen is perhaps better known for its odd rotoscoped anime adaptation. But the original comic is easier on the eyes with a more typical art style. Its tone is quite close to Asano’s A Girl on the Shore as it involves students dealing with the difficulties of love, relationships, and their own dark sides.

Takao Kasuga gives into temptation and steals the underwear of his crush Nanako Saeki, only to be caught in the act by his classmate Sawa Nakamura. She blackmails him into a ‘contract,’ forming an odd form of relationship while he also becomes Saeki’s boyfriend. This arrangement only gets more complicated as the three students wrestle with their feelings for each other and deal with the consequences.

3 20th Century Boys

Naoki Urasawa’s manga for Big Comic Spirits was a big deal when it originally came out. Soon after it ended in 2007, it led to a trilogy of live-action films, all released between August 2008 and August 2009. It was about four boys in 1969 who set up their own secret base, celebrating their friendship with their own custom gang logo, and their own fantasy story called ‘The Book of Prophecy’ about them joining forces to save the world.

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Then 30 years later, after they’ve all grown up, they discover the book’s events have started coming true. The grown-up gang discover a plot to spread a virus through cities across Japan. Luckily, a new political party are able to provide a vaccine for it. They’re led by a figure called Friend, who wears a mask with the boys’ old logo on the front. Who is he really? What connection does he have to the Boys? And how are the events from their Book of Prophecy becoming real? Give it a read to find out.

2 Boy’s Abyss

Ryō Minenami’s Boy’s Abyss might be more familiar ground for Punpun fans. Made for Weekly Young Jump, it’s about a young boy called Reiji Kurose. He wants to leave his rural town, but he feels trapped there by his family. His brother is burnt out on studying for exams, his grandmother is succumbing to dementia, and his mother is working herself ragged to hold everyone together.

When he meets Nagi, a former pop idol, the two make a pact to end their troubles for good by leaping into the ‘Lover’s Abyss’ outside town. Their attempt fails when Reiji’s teacher Yuri saves him. That sounds happy enough, except from then on, everyone connected to Reiji finds their lives spiraling out of control and towards the Abyss. Only Reiji’s bully Gen gives them hope of breaking the cycle, but that’s not guaranteed.

1 Not Simple

Out of all the suggestions on this list, Natsume Ono’s manga for the webcomic magazine Cosmic Seed is perhaps the most like Punpun. Like Asano’s work, it’s a slice-of-life drama that follows a young boy and his dysfunctional family. Though, unlike Punpun, it throws in a mystery and gets harsher.

It’s a non-linear story about a man called Ian. His friend Jim writes a novel called ‘Not Simple’ based on Ian’s life, detailing how he grew up with an abusive mother, an absent father, and a sister who went missing. He endures physical and other forms of abuse and other hardships as he goes looking for his sister and ends up learning more than he bargained for.

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