Watch One Punch Man. So long, everybody!
Oh, I suppose you want more than that, your majesty. Ok, let’s take it from the top!
One Punch Man follows Saitama, a disillusioned former salaryman who decides to become a hero for a hobby after he saves a kid from a humanoid crab monster. After three years of doing a rigorous daily exercise routine of 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and running 10km, he lost his hair and gained strength, speed, and endurance of which their limits aren’t known. Because of this he winds up defeating all of his foes with just one punch, leading him to become slowly bored with his hobby.
Eventually Saitama befriends and makes a disciple out of a teenage cyborg named Genos who is seeking to avenge the death of his family. After taking on numerous monstrous foes and still having no recognition, Saitama and Genos apply to become officially sanctioned heroes under the Hero Association, bringing them into a world full of “colorful” characters. Is One Punch Man the hero anime needed, or is it a one pump chump?
Madhouse is a studio well known for being able to put out visually stunning works, but even compared to some of their previous exemplary work, One Punch Man is one of their bests, even moreso when the focus is narrowed to just their TV series. Because of how fluid, dynamic, and detailed much of the animation is, particularly in the action scenes, many people believed that the show had to have a rather sizable budget. This is apparently false, with Chikashi Kubota, the chief animation director, stating that the show only had an “average” budget and that the glorious animation was merely the result of the great passion the animators had for the project. As if I needed any more reason to love Madhouse as much as I do.
One of the great ironies of One Punch Man is that Saitama left the soul-sucking bureaucracy of the Japanese corporate world...only to get involved in the soul-sucking bureaucracy of the Hero Association. Like any “good” corporation, the employees that love their field of work and have the mentality and personality that should make them a model employee, but lack the skills necessary to advance up the corporate ladder are forced to stay at the bottom, while those at the top have all the skills necessary, but lack things like teamwork skills.
This is unfortunately what happens when a system champions individuality heavily over true team players. Sadly the Hero Association is one of those systems that does, giving the majority of the credit for stopping a threat or injustice to whoever the highest ranked heroes who participated, regardless of how much of a part they actually played in it. And then there is the petty in-fighting by the employees who dislike how fast some employees climb the ranks. One of the recurring things in One Punch Man is that people don’t like that a hero with Saitama’s rank is able to show up many higher ranked heroes with great ease, leading to a lot of people claiming he is a cheater.
There’s no way of getting around it, if One Punch Man focused squarely or even primarily on Saitama all the way through, the show would not be anywhere close to as good as it is. It would have eventually become repetitive at best, possibly boring at worse, to see Saitama just one punch all of the villains in the first fight the villains got into. Thankfully after the first arc of the show, the series greatly expands its supporting cast, pulling in several heroes from the different ranking classes; from the mentally strong and heroic, but physically inept C-Class Mumen Rider, all the way to the diminutive and selfish, but insanely powerful S-Class Tornado of Terror.
It is through these characters that the show truly becomes something special, as the focus gets to be pulled off of Saitama, making his moments all the more awesome. These other heroes aren’t pushovers, either. Many of them get to have some truly badass moments, with Genos having the best non-Saitama fight scenes in the show by far.
As a long time fan of comics, I must say that I am quite frankly tired of the “beware the Superman” style of storytelling, when it comes to using insanely powerful superheroes. Thankfully One Punch Man does a more comedic take on things. Saitama very well could kill everything if he wanted to, but he’s not some superhero on the verge of being a planet controlling tyrant or anything of the sort. He’s just really...really bored. All he wants for Christmas is an opponent who can take more than a single punch without turning to goo afterwards. He literally dreams of fighting such powerful foes.
During the first several episodes of One Punch Man, Saitama easily disposes of a wide variety of foes, some of whom managed to actually fight Genos first and completely wreck him. Seeing the immense damage some of the later villains in the show manage to do, particularly on Genos himself, it becomes rather abundantly clear that these early foes were bigger threats than originally portrayed as. It is rather interesting to imagine just what the hell would have happened had Saitama not been around to one punch these guys.
Maybe it is just me, but for some reason I just feel like many times while I was watching One Punch Man, it was as if I was seeing an 80s rock album cover come to life. And I’m not merely talking about many of the shots in the epic opening, either. Many of the fight scenes, Saitama’s last fight of the season especially, are full of these kind of truly badass imagery. It doesn’t hurt that the soundtrack for this show is awesome as well, with Saitama’s personal theme starting with a very distinct, and sure to be iconic, guitar riff.
So, um...the story in One Punch Man sucks. As in the actual story, which I mean to say...there isn’t one, at least not in a traditional sense. This season of One Punch Man was a collection of around 4 different arcs that escalate in badassness and threats. These arcs are loosely connected, and are more a progression of events, not too different from it being sunny one day and a blizzard the next.
But that’s probably for the best. One Punch Man’s writing shines through its characters and its comedy. If they tried to do some kind of major overarching tale, the writing in other areas would suffer as well. Instead because they keep the overall story rather simple, they can focus on more important areas.
Remember how people thought this show had a massive budget? Boy how were they wrong. As the show goes on, it becomes visible that they are cutting corners in some areas. For example, anyone doing rapid attacks allows for them to do some repeated animation, and they can get away without having to animate all the limbs for a few frames. On top of that, towards the end there were several scenes where characters would appear off model from time to time. Thankfully these off model shots were almost never used during the action scenes, and when you have action scenes as well animated as this show has, that is a worthy sacrifice.
One Punch Man is this year’s break out “mainstream” anime hit, you know the kind series whose merchandise is destined to adorn the anime section at Hot Topic with the likes of Dragon Ball Z, Attack on Titan, Sword Art Online, and Tokyo Ghoul. Unlike many of the other massive hit series, I can at least see why One Punch Man has been doing so well. It takes a concept that only a fraction of Westerners aren’t familiar with, superheroes, only through the filter of creative minds who did enough acid to think on the same bombastic over the top action-parody wavelengths as Hiroyuki Imaishi.
While I still don’t think One Punch Man is the savior of anime like people are still heralding it to be, I do think it gives the superhero genre a much needed breath of fresh air to remind us all of how insanely goofy as all hell superheroes actually are, and how fun it can be to tap into that corny cheese factor from time to time. Actually, 2015 as a whole has been rather reinvigorating for the genre, and One Punch Man is not the only anime to help with that. Gatchaman Crowds Insight was another superhero series from this year that managed to tell an incredibly smart social commentary tale, that showed that superhero stories don’t always have to be about big booms, energy beams, and lots of punching.
In actuality, I view both shows as two sides of the same coin, and as such are complementary shows. Whereas Gatchaman’s fight scenes are few and far between and rather subdued all things considered, it makes up for it with spectacular writing that ranks among some of the best I’ve seen in a show in years. On the other hand, One Punch Man has the best fight scenes I’ve probably ever seen in a visual medium, but its writing is not particularly the best. So I would highly suggest both shows to people who want to see some of the greatest potential the superhero genre has to offer. Now let us pray that this is one of those lucky few Madhouse shows to get a second season.
One Punch Man can be watched on the Daisuki and Hulu streaming services. One Punch Man is based on an ongoing webcomic by ONE and an ongoing digital manga by ONE and Yusuke Murata that is running on Shueisha’s Young Jump Web Comics website.