Saitama became a hero fun fun but still didn’t get a lot of recognition. After unwillingly gaining a disciple (the cyborg Genos), Saitama takes the test to become an official hero and then begins tackling official jobs. Unfortunately, other than Genos, no one else seems to realise just how strong Saitama is.
One Punch Man is available on AnimeLab.
It’s really difficult to review One Punch Man. On the one hand, it is awesome. The main character defeats his enemies with one punch. It’s funny. It’s visually striking. The music is really well chosen. On the other hand, essentially the plot is about a guy with almost zero motivation who instantly kills his opponents removing any tension from any conflict and once you’ve seen the punch line to most of the jokes there isn’t a lot of rewatch value.
So is it good or isn’t it?
Saitama really feels like a character for the modern world. He’s self-centred, lazy, and reasonably ignorant of things that don’t particularly impact on him (not saying that everyone in the modern world is like that but it is certainly a recognition of a social trend). He also has a very high opinion of himself and his value and at times seems to carry a giant chip on his shoulder about the lack of credit he receives for his work. Compared to the superheroes of the past (or the current Hollywood trend of dark and edgy heroes), Saitama is a fantastic breath of fresh air and fairly easy to relate to.
And he has even more depth than most of us initially give him credit for. There are times when he could receive recognition but because of the ramifications to others, Saitama deliberately plays down his part in a job. Given his usual self-involved attitude, these moments are really important to making him feel like a genuine character and someone who is becoming more aware of the world around them even as he seeks recognition.
When you start your anime with city destroying monsters, giants, cyborgs, gorillas and life sucking mosquitos, how do you up the ante? Sure, aliens? Why not? Only they don’t come off as any more threatening than the hoodlums or any of the other villains we’ve seen. I think they are supposed to, given all of the heroes are seemingly gathered to face them, but what we end up with is a series of small group fights that lack punch (sorry about that) and then Saitama squaring off against the leader of the aliens and… well winning with one punch. They may draw out this battle sequence for longer than others in the series, but to be honest the outcome is obvious and you’re not sitting on the edge of your seat waiting but rather just waiting for the inevitable punch line.
Genos. My favourite character from the show. He is your typical hero in every sense of the word. Tragic childhood on quest for revenge and to save others from the same fate. Willing to sacrifice himself and always working to improve. He is also the only one who really recognises Saitama for what he actually is (even if his perception is a little tinted by rose coloured glasses). Genos also brings about some of the more amusing and tragic moments of the anime as he tends ot attempt self-destruction fairly regularly (to save others of course) or gets swatted into pieces. You feel bad for him but can’t help but laugh and given how much damage he sustains in early episodes without lasting impact (because apparently being a cyborg means anything can be fixed) it takes a lot of the trauma out of his injuries. While Genos couldn’t carry the show by himself (he is too weighed down with clichés), he is an excellent support character and adds just the right notes of earnestness, dedication, and over-zealous stupidity to most scenes.
Plot. Saitama is strong. Saitama is good. Saitama hits things and kills them in one punch. Really? Possibly this is a story about the organisation for heroes and maybe there’s more to the whole thing there but in the first season (which is all we have at the moment), there is genuinely no real plot. There are a series of incidents that get dealt with and in the process we see Saitama and Genos interacting more and more with other heroes (all of which have their own agendas and motives). This is not actually a plot. The series is a series of set-ups and punch lines with just enough world building packed around it to make it feel like maybe there is some plot progression. Certainly there is space for there to be a plot. you know, the hero guy who seems to be wanting to take over, and the other guy who… wait we just don’t know what they are actually up to and they probably made up less than 5% of the screen time so let’s not justify that as a plot.
This is high energy fun. I may make fun of the obvious ends to battles but the show continues to find ways to make these amusing and visually appealing regardless. More importantly, they keep finding ways to make battle sequences look and feel different (even knowing they will end the same way). The sheer variety in the enemies and the use of lesser heroes and even the stronger heroes in the early stages of fights keeps things feeling fresh and moving.
For me a lot of the jokes fell flat. Even the ones that were pretty funny the first time round weren’t particularly amusing when I tried to watch it again with a friend. A lot of the humour relies on shock and spectacle and unfortunately that just doesn’t hold up to a second viewing. The character related humour worked better but even that didn’t have the same impact on rewatch. There are definitely some satirical elements at work here, but the show isn’t really cohesive enough to call itself a satire. Mostly, it’s just going for amuesment and entertainment and for the most part it succeeds.
My recommendation? If you haven’t watched it and seen what all the fuss is about, you probably should give it a go. The first time through it does have quite an impact and it isn’t as though anything can spoil this show because it is all about the emotion connected to the scene rather than the events. For me though, I won’t say this is a ‘best’ show or even one that will be long remembered. It is a good watch but that’s about it.
What did you think of One Punch Man?