I am so very tired of superheroes. Everywhere you turn around, another superhero pops up, having epic fights with epic villains or the Old Guard is trotted out to battle yet another implacable foe, bent on world conquest or world destruction or world series. I had some resistance to “One-Punch Man” (“Wanpanman”), as I felt it was more of the same. Well, it IS more of the same, but it is done in such a cavalier, toss-off, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot kind of approach, you are drawn into it, like a cheese log at the company party.
We tell the story of Saitama. And, yes, he is drawn in this flat, cartoony style. Everything about him is drab and bland. Where are the rippling muscles? Where are the anger lines when he scowls? Why is that costume so generic? (That does get explained in a kooky special episode). He lives in City Z. This alternate world-of-the-future has 26 Cities. Yeah, the hoppin’, boppin’ action goes down in City A. City Z is cursed by some kind of monster or demon (and THAT gets told in an episode as well), so it has been abandoned. He lives in a modest apartment and does superheroing as a lark.
One-Punch Man? Yeah, he IS that strong, as all villains are dispatched with a single wallop. And I don’t mean knocked out or whatnot. I mean killed dead. He hits them, they die. This causes some consternation in his life, as he has no rival to give him a good fight so things are drab and bland in his day-to-day existence. Potentially, the most exciting things are those timed sales at the local supermarket. He then meets Genos (a caliber of cyborg), who is impressed with Saitama’s abilities. Genos convinces him to join the Hero Association and give meaning to his life. Sadly, anyone who has even marginal ‘abilities’ tries to join, so the office is flooded all the time. It is a two part test, mental and physical. Saitama destroys the physical, but does so-so on the written test (which is given more point-weight) and he is a C-Rank Hero. Genos aces the test fully and is propelled into the S-Ranks.
Here is where it gets really fun and crazy: as a lower-rank hero, you have to do good deeds or lose your ranking altogether and you are no longer an official hero. But since everyone else is doing the same thing, it’s hard to move ahead, much less stay even. There are not enough bad guys to go around. The trick is that he is able to render assistance when things go off the rails, which they do quite often. It kind of reminded me of the City of Townsville from “Powerpuff Girls”, which was attacked by every degree and caliber of monster on a regular basis, so people, more or less, shrug it off. This gives the impression that he is an opportunist, delivering the final blow that defeats the enemy, but everyone else did all the heavy lifting and he swoops in and takes the cake…or the last slice of cheese log.
The story goes through all the trials and tribulations that Saitama must endure to move up, especially with the overweening nimrods that make up the S-Class. They are everything you hate in a person: conceited, self-serving, arrogant and dismissive. Needless to say, Saitama is marginalized, so no one knows who he really is and what he can really do, save Genos. The ending of the first season guarantees a second season.
If you are the kind of person that wants something else or more from super heroes than bulging biceps and rippling abs, you will really enjoy this show. Saitama is so deadpan and nonchalant, almost nothing gets to him. And when you learn how he got to be this powerful, you will completely lose it. This is a perfect take on superheroes, and with the season concluded, you can really link the whole show together for a hoot fest. There are also various smallish OVAs and it is really hard to place them properly, but I would view them around the last episode or so of the real run and plop all of the extras in. It does give a better sense as to what Saitama is like.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 9 (A great mixture of real and cartoon)
Plot 9 (Surprisingly subversive)
Pacing 8 (A few too many fights)
Effectiveness 8 (Does get a tad too ‘monologuing’)
Conclusion 7 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 1 (A similar show would be “Ouran High School”)
Overall 9 (Nearly perfect)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Awwww, not again!??!