|Original run||2015 – 2017|
|Number of episodes||12 (+ 7 OVAs)|
|Purchase Blu-Ray Box Set||Click here to purchase from Amazon.|
Ever since its debut, One-Punch Man took the world by storm with its straightforward craziness. The series originated as a cult classic webcomic from 2009 that continues to run to this day, followed by a manga in 2012. Despite being around for a short time, One-Punch Man ended up being one of the most popular anime to date.
So I thought to myself, “Well, shit. That’s impressive. Just what’s in it that could be so great?” And that is what we’re about to find out.
The Apathetic Hero
One-Punch Man stars Saitama, a hapless superhero who had grown so powerful that he defeats his enemies in a single punch. As shown in his backstory, he was an average man who became the hero that he dreamed of becoming. However, he had grown deeply unsatisfied with his work because of how overpowered he is. Unlike your typical superhero, Saitama isn’t motivated by a complex reason such as fame, moral responsibility or vengeance. He is a simple man who plays the hero… just for fun.
You would think a character like Saitama, a man too powerful for his own good, wouldn’t be that interesting. Well, oddly enough, his godlike strength and endurance are played for laughs, really.
A big part of what makes One-Punch Man into an enjoyable comedy is how it pokes fun at superhero tropes, just from one character alone. Much of the anime is played out seriously, like it’s real superhero drama. But by making a GOD into the main protagonist, the drama gets massacred pretty quickly. And the results are hilarious.
Saitama’s reactions in general are pure gold. His default expression in nearly any situation is one of utter stupor. Saitama wants nothing more than the thrill and passion of a good battle against a powerful villain—usually represented by a significantly fiercer expression from him. But most of the time, he is always faced against an opponent, who seems intimidating at first but has no chance against him at all. And sometimes, those villains can be talkative… and he doesn’t give a shit what their motives, backstories and goals are. Like, all he cares about is the fight.
Seriously. Saitama has no patience to sit through long monologues and walls of exposition. He wants his opponents to shut up and fight.
Another chunk of the humor owes to the visual gags. Just when you think the story begins to take itself seriously, it gives you a bizarre image to remind you to NOT take any of it seriously. This isn’t like a cutaway gag or madness for the pure sake of madness like in the anime Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. It’s a joke that rears its head during the story progression.
Later on, a young cyborg named Genos had witnessed Saitama’s abilities firsthand. While Genos himself is a competent fighter, Saitama easily surpasses him in combat ability. Overcome by the desire to be a great hero himself, Genos volunteered to be a disciple to Saitama, to which Saitama reluctantly agreed to.
And what we got out of it is a truly entertaining dynamic duo. Genos is a sincere and diligent man with a strong sense of duty and justice. Whereas, Saitama is laidback as can be and often doesn’t take things seriously. Despite that, their disagreements never seem to become a true conflict of interest. No matter where Genos ends up, he is highly aware of Saitama’s amazing gifts and is proud enough to call him his sensei. Saitama simply goes with the flow no matter what situation he ends up in, in hopes that it becomes interesting enough to rekindle his passion for heroism.
Everything Goes Wrong in this World
Like, no kidding. This is a crazy ass setting. Much of the events take place in one gigantic metropolis, with multiple urban cities connecting to one another. But in pretty much every episode, some crazy powerful monster surfaces in order to annihilate mankind—probably motivated by the overused Humans are Bastards trope.
And in a true godlike fashion, Saitama comes in and saves the day by turning monsters into battered corpses with a single punch. The monsters themselves have great designs (both in intimidating and goofy varieties), with some even parodying monsters from popular anime (Piccolo from the Dragon Ball series and Colossal Titan from Attack on Titan). The fight scenes are well-animated and choreographed, with a high level of exaggeration in the movement and the violence. Dear god, the violence. It’s very reminiscent of the hyper violent anime from the ’80s and ’90s. And I love it.
But despite Saitama’s good deeds, he almost never gets noticed for them. Because of his plain appearance and lack of charisma, Saitama gets a lot of undeserved scorn and jealousy. Instead, he gains little recognition compared to his peers and even infamy as someone who steals victories from other heroes.
So later on, Saitama and Genos join the Hero Association, a bureaucratic system that recruits and manages heroes from all over the world. Genos became a top-ranked hero due to his perfect scores in the hero assessments, while his master got stuck at the lowest rank because Saitama performed poorly in the academic side of things.
As a result, things get even more hectic now that they’re official heroes. Because of the nature of the Hero Association, many of the heroes are arrogant, self-serving, unethical, and elitist. And because some of the heroes can’t believe that a C-rank hero has strength that far surpasses that of a S-rank hero, Saitama receives even more unwanted attention.
It should also be known that the Hero Association reduced the heroes into mere statistics. It’s to the point where even high-ranked heroes meet their match against a seemingly non-threatening monster. For example, a character like Mumen Rider (a bike rider with some physical strength) is comparatively much more mundane and average than most heroes despite being the highest C-rank hero. While Mumen Rider is very popular among the citizens, he is easily outmatched by most monsters that threaten the metropolis. Despite this, his passion for justice was hard to match.
And yes, popularity alone can determine ranking. And because Saitama is not the most sightly hero, his popularity is much lower than he really deserved. This is why a character like Sweet Mask is very dangerous. Not only is he a very powerful hero himself, but he values both beauty and popularity. And any hero he considers to not meet those standards, he would prevent them from advancing to S-rank.
So rising up in the ranks of the Hero Association may become impossible for some, since there can be heroes with very poor ethics but can be absurdly powerful, which is enough to grant them the S-rank.
This leads to an open world full of possibilities. By default, all of the heroes are allies to one another. But in later seasons, I can definitely see some of the heroes abusing their gifts and eventually turning into outright villains. There seems to be a fine line between justice and ambition, with a few heroes lacking justice. Furthermore, the Hero Association wasn’t directly managed by heroes, but rather ordinary business people. The potential is there. I hope season 2 and onward take it.
Overall, One-Punch Man season 1 is a very enjoyable watch. If I were to find any criticism with it, it would be that the pacing of show moves pretty damn fast at times. A whole story arc in the manga (some of which can have more than four chapters) gets covered for only one or two episodes in the anime. Is it too fast to lose understanding of the show? Nah. I guess it’s just a matter of how much content you want packed in a whole anime season. And season 1 really does feel like so much shit happened. But this is a very minor thing to me since it doesn’t hurt the show.
So I’m calling it: One-Punch Man is one of the most essential anime to watch, even if you’re not that big of a fan of superhero shows. It’s one of those shows that come with a unique premise, some entertaining action sequences and some really good comedy (which is usually hard to pull off). There’s no reason NOT to watch it and it’s easy to snack on popcorn while watching it, so why not.
And don’t just watch the episodes either. Watch the OVAs too, so you can get more character interactions and backstories.
- The story and characters are a lot of fun, even balancing out the more serious characters traits with some funny ones.
- As a satire for superhero shows and movies, it's spot on and comes off as hysterical.
- The visual gags never feel cheap and are always around for a good laugh.
- A lot of strong potential for great story arcs in future seasons.
- Some good commentary about the dangers of bureaucracy and elitism.
- A minor one: the fast pacing, which turns whole story arcs in the manga to one or two episodes.