Listening to: THE HERO!! – JAM Project (One Punch Man Opening)
This review is free of major spoilers, in the interests of being helpful to those who are considering watching the show in question.
“I’m just a guy who’s a hero for fun.”
The quest to become a hero is a common trope in anime, whether your goal is to be a better fighter, a better cook, or simply “the very best, like no one ever was.” But while most anime focus on the journey, there aren’t many that show what happens at the destination. Enter One Punch Man: an alternately hilarious and melancholy look into the life of a hero at the top of his game.
In the mega-cities of the future, battles between superheroes and supervillains are an almost commonplace occurrence. The Heroes’ Association employs hundreds of costumed vigilantes with varying levels of power, but not every hero is under their jurisdiction. Saitama, a young man who claims to be “a hero for fun,” is one such freelancer, whose incredible strength allows him to end any battle with one punch.
While his power is considerable, however, it doesn’t seem to bring him very much happiness. Bored out of his mind and frustrated at his inability to find a worthy opponent, Saitama lives an uneventful life until the arrival of Genos, a young cyborg who witnesses his strength and begs Saitama to take him on as a disciple.
Much of the story centers around the developing master-student relationship of Genos and Saitama, who play off each other extraordinarily well. Saitama’s easygoing and somewhat ditzy personality makes for a lot of comedic moments, especially when Genos views everything that his master says as brilliant wisdom. The inclusion of Genos also adds to the tension of the show: while we as an audience know that Saitama’s incredible strength will be able to see him through most situations with the greatest of ease, Genos has much more of a struggle to undergo.
The supporting cast is a colorful and entertaining lot, ranging from the serious to the ridiculous. My personal favorite was Mumen Rider, a low-ranking hero known as the Cyclist for Justice. Despite his relative weakness compared to the rest of the cast, his unstoppable determination and commitment to heroism make him one of the most admirable. The diminutive psychic Tornado, one of the highest-ranking heroes in the Association, is also fun to watch, whether she’s being mistaken for a child or throwing buildings at her enemies.
Although the plot starts off fairly slow, things pick up when Saitama and Genos decide to join the Heroes’ Association as professionals. The combination of superhero “office politics,” the need to meet weekly quotas of heroism, and the petty disputes over ranking (featuring such high-level heroes as Amai Mask, Snek, and Metal Bat) make for an entertaining watch.
My one gripe with the plot was the treatement of Puri-Puri Prisoner, an S-class hero who is characterized as little more than a stereotype of homosexuality. While he is ultimately a heroic character, he’s the butt of more than a few insensitive jokes, and the treatment of his character mars what would otherwise be a perfectly enjoyable show.
One Punch Man is especially impressive considering its origins: originally a webcomic, then a manga, and now a high-quality animated production. The fight scenes are incredibly animated (and, at times, surprisingly gory). Saitama’s rapidly changing facial expressions, especially in moments of irritation, are also fantastically put together, giving a lot of insight into his character.
The music, composed by Makoto Miyazaki, is at its best during the most dramatic moments of the show, especially when juxtaposed with Saitama’s underreactions and the generally anticlimactic nature of the fights. The opening is also quite catchy, and the occasional English lyrics give viewers like me something to scream along to.
I loved this show, overall. It had just the right mix of comedy and drama, and Saitama was a surprisingly relatable character, given his power level. While I’m not saying that One Punch Man single-handedly saved anime, it certainly did quite a lot “single-handedly.”
…ending the review with a pun. I deserve to be punched [by someone who isn’t Saitama].
In order to rate this anime, I gained superhuman strength from an apparently standard training regimen. No explanation is forthcoming.
Rating: 4.3 out of 5
Ruling: One Punch Man is a solidly entertaining show with keen comedic timing and plenty of entertaining visuals. Whether you’re looking for fight scenes or amusement, you’ll find both here.