Feature – I Want To Be The Very Best

I’m actually not writing a Pokemon post but I just felt that those words, I want to be the very best, really summed up what I wanted to discuss this week. I want to look at the motivations of anime protagonists and this idea of being the best.

Pokemon has this concept at its core but it doesn’t really look at the darker side of this theme so while the song beautifully encapsulates the theme, I’m going to look elsewhere for today’s discussion.

So many anime feature protagonists who are obsessed (and obsessed is definitely the correct word for it) with being the strongest, the smartest, the very best. This obsession is seen in every action they take and really defines them as a character. And while it might seem really great that at least they have a clear goal, what we see more often is an inability to accept failure, to lose gracefully, and to work with and cooperate with others.

Not actually taking a swipe at ambition or being driven. Both are fairly necessary to self-improvement. More concerned with the extreme levels some anime characters take it to.

The two main examples I want to look at are Ichigo from Bleach and Light from Death Note. That said, there are thousands of examples of anime characters out there that would have fit the bill. Definitely going to hit some spoilers during the discussion.

Who is becoming the very best?

Kurosaki Ichigo

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We meet Ichigo as a normal student (who can see spirits). While he has the usual male teenager attitude problems he really has no main goal or focus in his life that is apparent. He gets into fights over petty issues (knocking over a vase of flowers left for a dead girl) and he doesn’t really get on with his father, but otherwise there is really not a lot to Ichigo.

Then Rukia comes along, and after his family are endangered, Ichigo accepts power from Rukia to protect them. Even then, Ichigo has no real focus or drive. He outright refuses when Rukia tells him he has to work as a death god and defeat hollows. He tells her that other than keeping his family safe he doesn’t care.

She takes him to a park where a spirit is being attacked. She tells him not to save the spirit unless he is willing to save all spirits. Ichigo runs in and saves the spirit. While he still tells Rukia he hasn’t accepted the job, from that point on he pretty much never refuses.

Ichigo needs to be the very best

What we see over the rest of the first season is a transformation. Ichigo goes from reluctant hero to someone who is quite driven to prove his strength. Every hollow, soul reaper, or other individual who mocks him just fires him up more. After Rukia gets taken back to Soul Society, Ichigo’s obsession is complete. He has to be stronger. He has to save her. Even though his friends accompany him, he pretty much ignores them and focusses entirely on his goal.

In the process, Ichigo does get beaten. And each time he laments. No, this can’t be happening. No, I need to be stronger. No, I can’t stop here. While each time it is seen as somewhat inspirational, human will overcoming all obstacles, what it ignores is the lesson about understanding limitations or finding new solutions to problems. Ichigo has one solution. Charge in and swing your sword around. When that doesn’t work, swing it harder. More power.

By the time Ichigo goes to rescue Orihime from Hueco Mundo we see he has become an extremely isolated character. Again, his friends accompany him, and again we see how little regard he has for them. At least during the early stages of this campaign his friends force him to acknowledge their growth and strength but then they get sidelined once again. Even Orihime herself is told not to contribute to her own rescue.

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Ichigo is, by his own choice and actions, a lone wolf. More importantly, though he has goals outside of power (save the girl, stop this villain, return to this place, etc) these goals are regularly delayed in the pursuit of more individual power. Ichigo becomes obsessed with being the one who saves the day and genuinely does not rely on anyone else to accomplish anything. He takes the world on his shoulders and then plays the tragic hero card of being weighed down by all of these responsibilities.

Yagami Light

We also meet Light as an ordinary student. He also seems pretty directionless but is mostly just annoyed at a world he views as rotting. However, at this point in time, he has determined that he can’t do anything about it and so has basically given up.

Then the Death Note falls into his hands.

Light - wants to be the very best

From that very moment, Light realises exactly what he has and it is as though all of his ambitions come to life in one moment. He decides he wants to shape the world by removing all criminals. Unlike Ichigo, Light is extremely flexible in the approaches he will take in achieving his goals. For Light isn’t about being the strongest. He is definitely all about being the smartest.

If it were just against the police, the story would have ended pretty quickly with Light achieving his goals and ruling over the world as its new god. However, Light is matched against L, the mysterious, genius detective. Both of these characters strongly believe they are a force of justice and that they cannot be beaten.

What I find interesting about Light and L, is that through L’s analysis of Kira’s personality (the pseudonym given to Light on the internet after the criminal murders become common knowledge) the audience are told clearly the flaws of such driven ambition. He’s childish and a sore loser. Because of this, he will make mistakes.

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Much like Ichigo being unable to accept it when he loses a fight, Light cannot accept being challenged or talked down to. He has an arrogant personality, which he usually keeps in check, but when playing the role of the villain it is given free reign and the results are disturbing.



What we can also see from watching Light, is that once again pursuit of a single goal will leave you very isolated. While he does attempt to save his sister when she is kidnapped, he ultimately sacrifices his own father in pursuit of his goals. His only ‘friend’, L, is actually his rival that he keeps close only so that he can one day kill him. Misa, the owner of the second death note, is a convenient tool that he uses and he never once actually thinks of her as a girl-friend or even a friend, though he will certainly continue to maintain the illusion so that he can control her.

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The bottom line is because Light is obsessed with becoming the best, he has cut his ties to others. However, it is this approach that leads to his downfall. L fails to defeat Light, but his successors manage it because while they are seemingly working independently, their coordinated attacks corner Light very effectively. On the other hand, even though Light has compatriots, they do not act without his instruction and so he cannot get the same leverage from them.

So, while striving to be the very best might be an admirable goal (most Olympic athletes would probably agree that it is) it becomes clear that characters who lose themselves to that goal are fairly tragic figures. Finding a balance of striving to move forward while still maintaining human connections would probably be more advisable.

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Of course, we could always just ask Saitama from One Punch Man if becoming the best is actually worth it. I wonder what he would say.

What do you think of characters who want to be the best?


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Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


One Punch Man Series Review

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One Punch Man Overview:

Saitama became a hero fun fun in One Punch Man 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.

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One Punch Man Review:

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. Which all leaves you wondering if being cool is enough for an anime?

On the other hand, essentially the plot of One Punch Man is 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 from One Punch Man

In One Punch Man, 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.

Saitama vs Genos, One Punch Man

However, 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.

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Despite appreciating Saitama as a superhero for the modern world, my favourite character from the show has to be Genos. 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.

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But as much as these characters rise above what they kind of feel they should be, the plot does not.

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.

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Though, while not slowed down by actually needing to really string things together, One Punch Man 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.

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But One Punch Man is a comedy. And for me, probably unsurprisingly to a my regular readers, 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 amusement and entertainment and for the most part it succeeds.

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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?

Images from: One Punch Man. Dir. S Natsume. Madhouse. 2015.


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Karandi James


One Punch Man Review Season Two Episode Nine

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Those Who Would Call Themselves Hero

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One Punch Man Season 2 Episode 9

The dashing Saitama comes racing to the rescue and saves the day. Well, not quite. Saitama does get his amazing entrance in his hero costume and Suiryu is suitably impressed by the entrance of his saviour. However, a one punch fight is over pretty quickly and once again we see the true ennui that has overtaken Saitama’s existence.

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That seems to be the focus this episode as Saitama realises he missed a lot of the monster fighting and then seriously begins to question why he’s even doing it. A chance encounter with King allows him to wax philosophical, at least until the hero hunter Garou shows up. It has been awhile since Garou was even vaguel relevant and yet he’s still running around, licking his wounds after being beaten by a hero and ready to take an opportunistic shot at King. Naturally that’s a lot of build up for a non-encounter as Saitama simply pushes him aside and into a wall as though he’s nothing and King and Saitama continue on business as usual.

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However, Garou isn’t the only non-nemisis making an appearance this week as Sonic is training when he’s approached by representatives of the monster association. I did actually enjoy what they did with his gag as he’s given the monster cell and chooses to eat it in pursuit of his goal of beating Saitama, however decides first to cook it, which I assume renders it fairly useless.

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By episode’s end, the monsters have sent a message to the hero association and I guess we’ll find out what they are after soon. This episode felt very fragmented as we lurched from one event to the next and one group to the next, with even Genos making a brief, if broken, appearance. It very much feels like the set up of things to come but with only three episodes left I have to wonder if it will end up being a big enough ending to warrant all this set up or whether we’ll be left hanging for a third season that just might never be.

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Karandi James


Is The New Season of One Punch Man Disappointing?

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The Spring Anime season is upon us and over and over again I’ve been seeing blog posts discussing how this season is a slow season or a poor season in terms of anime. I don’t necessarily disagree but at the same time I’m actually having fun with the season even if a lot of what I’m watching is decidedly average. However, there’s one title in particular that I’ve seen being hammered because it is a ‘disappointment’ and it made me wonder whether or not One Punch Man Season 2 is actually disappointing?

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Though, realistically, the answer is pretty evident. The vocal fans of the original season are disappointed. Whether the second season is objectively any worse than the first season is potentially something to be discussed, but the palpable feeling of being let down by a lacklustre second season is wide spread. Even the MAL score supports this with season one scoring 8.87 and season two coming it at 7.90 and likely to fall as more and more episodes come out and more people check out the second season.

As for my personal satisfaction levels, I’m enjoying season two of One Punch Man well enough. Then again, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original season. While I loved the music, found it on a first watch through amusing enough, and enjoyed some of the social observations it offered, there was little rewatch value and even by the end of season one it felt like the punch-line had worn a little thin.

Therefore, I wasn’t one of the fans hotly anticipating a season two. I was more the person who was wondering just why a second season was even needed.

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The key to no disappointment is no expectations.

While that might seem like a simplistic view it really has had a strong impact on my viewing of One Punch Man so far this season.

However, taking my personal expectations out of the equation, what is better and what is worse about One Punch Man season two? Or what are people saying is better or worse and are the criticisms warranted?

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Right from the news that One Punch Man was changing studios, from Madhouse to J.C. Staff there was criticism and concern. Admittedly, an anime changing studios isn’t the end of the world but the two studios are known for such vastly different types of stories that it seemed like an odd fit and the question of whether J.C. Staff could deliver what fans were demanding was opened before the first trailer even dropped.

When you couple that trepidation with promotional videos that do nothing to address the concerns, showing neither the bombastic animation or musical score that characterised the first season, and providing little else in place of it, the concerns and outright derision for an anime that hadn’t even aired yet got a lot louder.



Throw in an OP that in no way lives up to the original and you have a recipe for disaster before a single minute of actual episode has even played. It is probably telling that actually finding a YouTube version of the new opening is actually kind of hard and then I realised I didn’t want to listen to it anyway. The OP of season 1 however is perfect in every way. From the dramatic visual of Saitama punching the screen to that initial “One Punch!”, it hits the perfect note for hyping you up for the series and the show you are about to watch. The new OP lacks impact in more or less every way. Whether it is visuals or sound it is a poor second at best and for an anime that is largely loved for those elements not spending the time to get them right is certainly a clear way to upset the fan-base.

Then we have the anime itself. Still just focusing on the visuals, we get tweets such as this one that remind us clearly how much better the animation was in season 1.

For a sensationalistic anime that built itself on its aesthetics, those explosive scenes where the sakuga took over and nearly took on a life of their own were key and 8 episodes in to season 2 we’ve nothing that even comes close.

Is the animation in One Punch Man season 2 bad?

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No. It is perfectly adequate. And adequate would be fine if we’d never seen season one. Alas, this isn’t a matter of comparing apples and oranges. We aren’t comparing the biggest work of the season to some small project. We’re comparing the first part of the story with the second and the second has been found wanting.

And let’s not even discuss the actual soundtrack within the episodes. See, watching the scene in that tweet, outside of how good it looks is how well the sound contributes to the impact of the scene. This aspect has largely been ignored by season two and while again the sound direction is adequate it also isn’t in any way memorable or noteworthy.

In fact, the only element I’d possibly argue that One Punch Man Season Two is maybe at least on par with season one is the narrative itself and the occasional moments of comedy.

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Now, if you read my blog regularly you already know I’m not a big fan of comedy, but I liked the sense of humour in One Punch Man. The repetition of the same central joke got a little tiring but Saitama’s laconic nature and blunt replies as well as the gap between his superhero prowess and his lifestyle was amusing.

Season two actually continues the humour pretty well and I really liked the introduction of King and listening to Metal Bat plan to kill the next person who returned a sushi plate to the train was pretty funny. And Saitama’s entry into the martial arts tournament has had plenty of comedic moments thrown in.

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Additionally, the story feels like it has more direction this season with a building threat rather than just seeing Saitama go about his daily business before a large threat comes to the city seemingly out of nowhere.

Is a slightly more plot driven season enough to overcome the disappointments that season two has brought?

Most viewers would apparently say no if the online chatter is to be believed. It isn’t as though they were watching One Punch Man for the plot.

However, I’ll throw this one over to the readers and ask you: “Has season two of One Punch Man been disappointing?”


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Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


One Punch Man Review Season 2 Episode 5

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The monsters attack!

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Episode 5

Metal Bat versus Garou; heroes of all shapes and sizes versus monsters who have suddenly started thinking and planning; Saitama versus random guy that we’ll probably never see again… One Punch Man season 2 really decided to go for some fighting this episode and it isn’t just the tournament Saitama has entered that is heating up.

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The ridiculous hero and villain names come thick and fast while watching this episode and largely it doesn’t really matter. The crux is that in every city the heroes are fighting the sudden appearance of monsters but through some plan or design the monsters they are facing are the worst possible match up for the hero in question. This leads to more than one hero biting the bitumen and the monsters largely gloating that they are in fact strong.

Possibly this would be a more interesting development except for the part where I’m thinking that if Saitama ever leaves the fighting tournament he’d just end them all in a single punch and things would go right back to normal. It is the fundamental problem with the premise of this anime in that you know no matter how dire things look you really just can’t take it seriously as a threat.

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As for Saitama, he takes on his first opponent in the martial arts tournament and ends it with a backhanded slap. It is as underwhelming as any of his previous fights have been and you can tell even he is disappointed. It will be interesting to see if any of the contestants end up giving him even a moments trouble.

However, as usual, this anime knows how to over use a joke. They begin introducing the fighters of the tournament and you start being worried they are going to individually introduce each one. Then they comment that there are many others and you breathe a sigh of relief, right before they launch into a rapid introduction of every fighter. Sigh.

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This episode did leave me feeling bad for Metal Bat. All that effort and then his little sister knocks him out cold.

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Karandi James


One Punch Man Review Season 2 Episode 4

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Meet Metal Bat – He Hits Things With His Bat

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Episode 4

While there’s a little of the Saitama joining the martial arts tournament in this episode, he’s decidedly in the background, as this episode focuses on S Class Hero Metal Bat (they really need to fire the guys who come up with these idiotic names). Anyway, Metal Bat is stuck babysitting some executive from the Hero Association and his son when some centipedes attack.

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It’s exactly the kind of silliness I came to expect from One Punch Man in season one after the mosquito attack. Really you have one centipede, than a bigger one, before a giant one attacks. Through it all Metal Bat does his hero thing but before he manages to take down the massive one (if he even can), Garou shows up.

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See, even as a little kid Garou just wanted monsters to succeed. He has a goal. In any other show he’d be the protagonist.

For those who have enjoyed One Punch Man up until this point, there’s nothing in this episode that will disappoint. Between the ironic humour of Mumen Rider trying to convince Charanko that Saitama would never enter a tournament under a false name because he is a hero to the eye-roll inducing display of ignorance by the executive and his son at a train sushi restaurant, it hits all the right marks to leave you with a smile, particularly when Metal Bat thinks to himself he’s going to kill the executive if one more plate gets put back on the train.

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The fight is also interesting enough if standard fare of keep making the enemy bigger. While Metal Bat doesn’t have the most interesting fighting style, I mean he hits things with a bat, they certainly kept him moving and managed to keep each section of the fight fresh as we moved from the restaurant to the street, to seeing the impact across the city.

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My only actual complaint would be the decided lack of Genos this episode.


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Karandi James


One Punch Man Season 2 Review Episodes 1 + 2

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One Punch returns with less impact.

One Punch Man Season 2 Episode 1 - Saitama and King

Episode 1

Probably my least anticipated sequel ever, here is One Punch Man and its second season. New studio behind the wheel and the question becomes whether or not lightning can strike twice for a story that has one joke and almost no point. Season one overcame this by being a bombastic good time with a killer sound track and while a subsequent attempt to rewatch left me feeling that it was light on any substance, I had a good time the first time through at least even if I began to find it wearing a bit thin by the end of the season.

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Generic villain number 1.

Season two so far is best described as average. It isn’t as visually dynamic as its predecessor, something that is incredibly noteworthy during Genos’ fight with another robot. Season one had some incredibly fluid movement and interesting direction in the vast majority of fight sequences that elevated them despite the scale of the fight. Here, the fight works, and Genos looks great, but there isn’t really much sense of excitement that comes with it.

Where it falls down particularly far though is the sound track with the music so far being adequate but not a driving force of thrills or a hook. That is perhaps the weakest part of this first entry into the second season.

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Genos however remains awesome.

However, none of that has anything to do with plot and whether or not there’s a reason for a sequel to the story of a guy who became a super-hero for fun. Here I’ll have to praise season two for giving a few interesting hooks in terms of progressing the story.

We meet King, a guy who isn’t a hero who, do to incredibly bad luck has been at the scene of a huge number of monster attacks and has become known as one of the strongest heroes (almost the direct opposite of Saitama who fights all the monsters but gets almost no credit). We have the hero association trying to recruit more fighters in response to a potential world ending prophecy. We have heroes and villains planning to target Saitama. Then there is Genos and his ongoing quest to become stronger and defeat the cyborg that destroyed his home. That seems like more than enough to push us through a season and we’re only at episode one.

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For those who came for the spectacle and excitement of season one, One Punch Man Season Two doesn’t really deliver in its first episode, however, I feel more optimistic about a second season now that I can see that they intend to develop the narrative a bit more. Whether that optimism is misplaced I guess we’ll find out and whether or not it matters that the story is progressing if the rest of the production isn’t quite up to speed is something only time will tell.

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Episode 2

There’s a bit more going on in the second episode. Certainly a smack down between Genos and Speed o’ sound Sonic, even if the majority of it is off-screen is entertaining enough and when we add in a villain slaughtering his way through heroes and villains alike we end up with a fairly action packed episode even with Saitama being his usual laid-back self.

One Punch Man Season 2 Episode 2 - Genos

I kind of wanted more from the whole hero recruiting a faction plot line, but I guess expecting much from a show that really is happy to go with the obvious joke was my bad. They did enough with it and the amusement of watching her hopes and illusions getting shattered worked well enough even if it kind of lets that plot line come to a natural conclusion fairly early on.

One Punch Man - Season 2 Episode 2 - Saitama

The meeting at the hero association where they come up with Genos and Saitama’s hero names is down-played to the point where it is almost forgettable and the joke name they given Saitama is lame even by the comedy standards of One Punch man. Kind of glad they didn’t linger on this but it is given so little attention it may as well have not existed as it really didn’t contribute much from either a plot or comedy point of view. I guess it helps us fully realise the hero association is mostly a bureaucratic  joke, but we kind of already knew that.

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Basically, this continues to do enough while at the same time hasn’t had any real standout moment yet. I’m still very much a Genos fan-girl so as long as we keep getting sections of Genos fighting I’ll probably be happy enough and I’m kind of glad they didn’t feel the need to destroy him in the second episode again given how many times they broke him in season one. While I will admit this does feel lacking compared to the first season, it is meeting my expectations of a season two, given I expected very little feeling this one had already run its course. It remains entertaining enough provided you don’t expect anything exceptional.


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Karandi James


One Punch Man Series Review: One Punch – One Joke

One Punch Man Saitama Flying

This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in August 2016 and can be found here.

I’ve not made all that many changes to this one as my opinion really hasn’t changed. I did however, get rid of the plus/minus format. Still, if you read the original post, that kind of covers it.

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. And in honesty, rewatching this one was kind of dull. While there are a few moments that still really shining, without the novelty factor there just isn’t much here.

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At the centre of the story is Saitama. He 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.

Basically, this character has toed the line and managed to make us not hate him, even while he plays up some of the less desirable traits of the modern culture. Its an interesting mix and one handled more deftly than you might at first assume, but a lot of that gets lost under a fairly one note plot.

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Sticking with characters though, I want to give a shout out to Genos. My favourite character from the show (and someone who deserves some kind of award for the sheer amount of determination he has and how little it actually gets him). 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 to 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.

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However, that one note plot is a problem as is the inability to escalate tension throughout the story. 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.

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And so our plot line boils down to a single manta. “Saitama is strong. Saitama is good. Saitama hits things and kills them in one punch.” 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 collection 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.

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But the weak plot isn’t enough to take away from the fact that this show knew what it wanted to bring. 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.

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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 (and a third viewing for this review just killed it – there’s almost nothing left that sticks when you have already seen it and you know where its going). 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 amusement and entertainment and for the most part it succeeds.

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After all of this, I’m still going to recommend this one to people who haven’t tried it. The first watch is great fun and you’ll have some great laughs with it. However, I don’t see myself ever wanting to buy this one on disc and I probably won’t go for another watch of it anytime soon.

What did you think of One Punch Man?


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Karandi James