Tentacle-Free Anime: "One Punch Man" (2015) Review
- by Kazekun, 4 January 2016
ONE PUUUUUUUNCH!!!! Happy New Years, everybody! We're starting off 2016 with a bang, a single bang. And in what better way than to talk about one of the most talked about anime of 2015? A show which attempts to marry super heroism of the west and the animated tropes of the east. Of course, I'm talking about One Punch Man. Let's get this show on the road, this year's gonna be a good one!
If you read the description, you might find yourself asking “Wait, so how can this show be interesting if he defeats his enemies in one punch? Wouldn't that make for a very short story?” To many creatives – if anyone else had this idea first – I'm sure that's the very thought that would cross their minds and they'd then just tuck the story away to never see light again.
However, there's a hidden element in the description that many would probably miss that propels the story into what is, understandably, one of the most talked about series of 2015. Saitama, the main character – our One Punch Man – is flat out frustrated with the fact that he is so strong that he can defeat all of his enemies with one punch. It leads Saitama on a journey to discover an opponent that will give him an actual fight. Along the way he gathers the most peculiar, the most enigmatic, and the most fun supporting cast I've seen in an anime in a long time.
It's this literal class system that continues to make One Punch Man interesting because it allows for us to meet a plethora of different characters; some of which treat Class C as the epitome of superheroism to those who spit upon Class C heroes because they're weaker than them. Obviously there is a lot I could say in terms of this show of how it portrays class systems and what that says about society as a whole, but considering this show is meant first and foremost to be fun, I doubt ONE – the creator – really had any true social commentary in mind upon creating this.
The villains are rather interesting as well, because most of the ones we see in this series are really strong. Sadly we don't get see a lot of low power villains that Class C heroes can take on properly, which means we get a lot Class B, Class A, and Class S action, but the reason for this is because this show is about Saitama and his journey to find someone strong. And trust me, this series is not low on action in any way as we see many characters kicking ass and getting their asses kicked throughout.
One of the other truly interesting things about this show is how everyone treats Saitama. This is a man who doesn't generally care about others, he wants to meet someone strong and that's about it. He doesn't care about fame and he sure as hell doesn't care about whether his fellow heroes like him or not. But he does make a few friends here and there, and the bonds he forms are stronger than even his one punch can deliver. But because he sort of just appears, those who have been heroing for a long time never truly recognize him for the power he displays and many put him in the spotlight as a cheat and a fake who can't possibly be as strong as he claims.
When Saitama joins the hero association, it's this “false god ability” that others in power claim that places him low in Class C and forces him to work his way up the ranks of the Association, though we the viewers know he's literally more powerful than anyone else on the show. There's a sort of surrealism in watching the main character, the strongest character, have to work his way up the ranks because no one believes he's actually as strong as he is. And throughout the show, as luck would have it, Saitama continues to find himself displaying his abilities away from the prying eyes of the public, where no one can see exactly how powerful he really is.
If you're a fan of shonen series, and you're a fan of western comics, you're probably more used to the main character being the one who always saves the day and reaps the praise for it. But as I've clearly been stating, that just isn't the case with One Punch Man, and I love it. It's very different and even reminds me of Dragon Ball Z, in the sense that Goku never got the praise from the public for saving the Earth countless times. The honor always went to Hercule. The difference here is that in DBZ, Goku had plenty of friends who knew exactly how strong he is. In One Punch Man, Saitama has exactly one friend who knows how strong he is. The cyborg Genos who takes Saitama on as his master, and whom Saitama sees more as a sidekick than anything remotely resembling a pupil.
Thankfully, although Saitama is basically what a lesser civilization would call a God, we are rewarded in the end by getting to see our wayward idiot actually get to take on someone who doesn't end up going down in one punch. Although the villain, the Great Lord Boros, does have some cheats for how he can survive Saitama's barrage of punches, the most important thing is that we the viewers and Saitama himself finally get the fight he's been looking for. And what a fight it is. The action in this series is great and never boring to watch.
In true Madhouse fashion however, 12 episodes is not enough to tell the entire saga of Saitama and his journey to not only find villains which can last longer than one punch against him, but also his bid to earn the title of One Punch Man. Oh yeah, Saitama is never named by that title at any point in the show, the Hero Association gifts you with a name after you've proven yourself a number of times and that becomes the hero moniker you're known by from then on. The title of the show is like a look into the future, to the name Saitama will one day have when he is finally recognized as the hero he actually is.
The manga is ongoing, as is the original webcomic that the manga is based on (there are many levels to One Punch Man), and so we sadly don't get a complete story in these 12 episodes. The ending sure does feel like you could watch this anime and let that be it, but there are dangling plot threads and mysteries that have yet to be animated and explored. By the end, you definitely want to know more, and we're still never informed of how Saitama – or many of the characters – actually got their powers. Of course, to Saitama, he just did a bunch of weight training and exercising for 3 years and suddenly he was godlike. Which leaves the true origin of his powers a mystery even to our main character. Which I find fascinating.
I hope we one day get a second season to One Punch Man, but in the last several years Madhouse has become well-known for making one season of a show to get you interested, and then pointing you in the direction of its source material in order to get the rest. Very few shows they've made for a good while have gotten second seasons if they've needed one. And while I will personally be checking out the manga to see what happens next, for those who don't having a non-complete story really does hurt this show more than it helps.
There are also several OVA specials that accompany the main story, but since those are still being released, I figure it will be better to wait until they're over before I talk about them. So look for a One Punch Man OVAs Special sometime in the future.
This is a wonderful series, filled with great action, great comedy, and great jests at shonen and comic tropes. It's definitely something you can throw on and just be entertained from the opening to the closing. Unfortunately this anime isn't a complete story nor can I guarantee it will ever be completed on screen, but in the 12 episodes we do have, we get a helluva a lot of fun. And for many people, that's a-okay. It's heightened because it's also a very intelligent series and you never feel stupid for watching it. And to me, that's really a-okay.
One Punch Man gets a clear recommendation from me and I can't think of any better way to start out the new year than that. Go watch this series. Just... go watch it. Seriously. Go watch it.
Final Score: 5 Consecutive Normal Punches out of 5
Have you seen "One Punch Man"? Was it a knockout? Let us know below!