This anime is one which is a stark departure from how typical anime, or indeed superhero stories, usually are and that is a completely good thing. The biggest quality of this show is that it feels fresh and new. It was originally a webcomic which was so popular it got its own animated adaption, and it is not hard to see why. The show features Saitama, our protagonist, who is so strong he can defeat all his enemies with, as the title suggests, one punch. What follows are episodes filled with intense action, outlandish hilarity, and just some plain, crazy fun.
The standard trope we see or experience is usually that of a chosen or gifted hero, who must learn all the skills necessary to defeat the villain. This show flips that trope on its head in an awesome parody kind of way. Our hero is so strong that all his battles end with one punch, and because of this, he is literally bored and just wants to find a worthy opponent (along with some fans). The reason he got that way? He trained on his own so hard he went bald (I’m not making this up). Despite all his immense power, the best you can describe his personality as is stoic, humble and a little unremarkable.
The mostly standalone episodes feature our hero meeting, and defeating, different villains and monsters as well as meeting other heroes along the way. Everyone reacts in differing and amusing ways when seeing Saitama’s attitude as well as his strength. There is also a simple ongoing plot thread about Saitama trying to become a more professional hero and wanting to be treated with more respect from everyone else. The succession of battles all pile up, ultimately culminating in the final showdown towards the last few episodes. The plot, although simple and minimalist, has made this anime one of the best to ever hit the world. One Punch Man has shown that you do not need an over-the-top protagonist, someone hell bent on taking over the world or a grand adventure to be entertaining.
This show doesn’t try to be funny yet it is a large bundle of laughs. A lot of hilarity comes from seeing the villains and monsters (and sometimes heroes) scoff at Saitama’s appearance and brag about their own strength, only to be promptly dealt with in one hit. It also helps that Saitama almost always has a bored expression and is completely non-plussed about anything happening around him and everyone he confronts. For example, in one awesome encounter, a monster states he’s going to go on a rampage for one week, all the way to Saturday, and Saitama is shocked because it means he missed the Saturday supermarket sale, leading him to punch out the monster’s guts in frustration.
Obviously just seeing countless monsters get defeated would get old rather quickly, so to add something different, other heroes show up as the show progresses with some of them having recurring or supporting roles. A plot point is that all the heroes are divided into different ranks, set by the Hero Association, and their power set and attitudes usually reflects their status. It’s refreshing to see new players enter the playing field and see what they bring to the table. They approach problems and other characters in unique ways and it’s entertaining to see the interplay between them.
One of the problems of the show, however, is that some of these heroes aren’t developed enough and come off as one dimensional. In particular, the S-rank hero Tornado suffers the most as she comes off as a bratty girl with a lot of power and an unlikable personality. The same problem could be extended to the villains and monsters, but as they are usually taken out in the episode they appear in, it’s not so much an issue with them. Honestly, this is a relatively small issue and I’m basically nitpicking here.
The animation quality of the show is top-notch. All the monsters are animated with great detail and each episode is a visual delight. The fight scenes are also all wonderfully rendered; you can see and feel every impact and force behind all the punches and attacks. There are also subtle touches in the animation which are much appreciated. For example, seeing Saitama’s eyes changing expression depending on the intensity of the situation as well as the monsters’ faces going from deadly and full of rage to glassy eyed and dead.
One Punch Man deserves all the popularity and praise it has considering what it has accomplished. It might not be a great battle series with an original story but it is an excellent parody and action series. This anime is entertaining, unique and definitely a fun watch and with only 12 episodes out so far, there is little reason for you not to watch. It is with eager anticipation, that we all wait for season two.
One Punch Man is available on Daisuki and Hulu