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One Punch Man

Entry updated 15 November 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2015); original title Wanpanman. Madhouse, J.C. Staff. Based on the Japanese web-Comic and Manga by ONE. Directors include Shingo Natsume and Chikara Sakurai. Writers: ONE and Tomohiro Suzuki. Voice cast includes Makoto Furukawa and Kaito Ishikawa. 24 24-minute episodes, plus six "original video animation" pieces on DVD/Blue Ray releases. Colour.

Set on a continent where the habitual devastation of its Cities by Monsters leaves one doubting the civilization's sustainability, this Anime centres on Saitama (Furukawa), an unemployed young man and a Superhero "for fun". However, he is starting to find his hobby boring since he is capable of disposing of any opponent with one punch – including a sizable meteor and an Alien claiming to be the most powerful creature in the universe (who proves to be the second). Early on, Saitama explains how he became so strong: "I trained so hard, I went bald"; his self-appointed disciple and friend, Genos (Ishikawa), a Cyborg, is surprised by this – particularly as Saitama goes on to describe a fairly routine training regimen.

Though not vain, Saitama is disappointed by the lack of recognition for the pair's efforts, so they join the Hero Association. Taking the entrance examination, Genos achieves 100% and goes into the top class of Hero, but Saitama only scores enough to qualify as a member of the lowest class – as, though he breaks all the records for the physical test, this only counts for 50% and he does rather poorly on the written examination. The Hero Association is a bureaucracy with issues between the grades and varying levels of integrity displayed by its members. There is also suspicion of Saitama: how can such a low-class superhero be defeating such powerful monsters?

This is an entertaining series, guying the Clichés of the superhero/monster genre, but engaging as a story too. A lot of One Punch Man's appeal comes from Saitama's guileless character: he is uninterested in adopting superhero airs and (usually) oblivious of how others see him. Though normally polite to villains, he can become irritated if they delay combat by insisting on a pre-fight monologue ("blah-blah-blah").

The show seems aware of the diminishing returns from having Saitama easily defeat ridiculous monsters, with the latter half of the first season laying in potential future storylines and character conflict – though hopefully this will not mean less silliness, such as Saitama being punched to the Moon; pausing only to pinch his nose and hold his breath, he jumps back to Earth. Also there is still the mystery of how Saitama really gained his powers and lost his hair.

The second season, though enjoyable, was not as impressive as the first. Partially because it leaves the main plot unresolved until the next season, but also because a change of studio meant that the animation style, though more polished, lost some of its charm. This season also dealt with the problem of Saitama's overwhelming power by clumsily side-lining him to a subplot. However, one of its themes, that in school it is the popular kids who get to play the heroes and the unpopular ones who find themselves forced into the role of beaten-up villain, is a point well made. [SP]


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