One Punch Man is an anime show featuring and following superheroes. However, it does so in a way so unique, intriguing, and entertaining that I can honestly say I’ve never seen another one quite like it. It tells a quality superhero story, complete with social commentary, while simultaneously poking fun at the usual genre tropes.
In the lead role, we have Saitama, the strongest in the world. He is so powerful that he not only defeats but absolutely destroys his enemies with only one punch. (thus the title) I remember how that idea turned me off a little, because how can things stay entertaining with a setup like that? It turns out, it can be plenty entertaining with just a bit of imagination!
It was definitely the humor which first hooked me. Saitama’s perspective on strength and heroism are both entertaining and unique, as he’s indisputably the strongest of them all, yet not all-powerful. He barely even notices his enemies sometimes, and he blows straight through all of their overblown, overly-complicated origin stories. Everything about him, in fact, defies the usual, the normal, the orthodox, academic, established patterns of heroism his society has dictated. And that makes for some hilarious jokes.
Alongside Saitama comes Genos the Cyborg, much more of a straight man, a strong and handsome hero filled with nobility. He is more typical of a superhero, if also an outstanding example of such, but he also sees, in Saitama, something much better than the normal. He cares less for outside pressures and the opinions of others. He cares more for the genuine and real that lies beneath, and which he finds in spades in Saitama, who, for his physical strength and his strength of character, Genos appoints himself as a disciple to.
Between various villains and other heroes as well, Saitama and Genos take us on a journey through a world filled with both. Heroism is given a new meaning, and power a new purpose, as they meet challenge after challenge, protecting the weak and annihilating the wicked. They meet comrades and make friends, many of them highly unusual or obstinately set in their ways, all of them entertaining in their antics. They barely know what hits them as Saitama comes crashing through their preconceptions, and those of society, as easily as he blows straight through the villains.
One Punch Man flows in turns between being hilarious, gripping, emotional, and just plain old fun. It’s an excellent story in that way, enfolding a variety of stories into one. Nothing feels forced or rushed, and we’re able to feel everything we’re supposed to while naturally moving on to feel other things. I particularly love the humor, which is both witty and irreverent, and holds very little as sacred.
That also goes into one downside of this anime. As I have to subtract points for content that is a bit less child friendly, I have to mention that they do not hold back on the blood and gore. Easily the most jarring moment for me was in the very first episode, involving the graphic demise of a crab-based villain. The annihilation of villains is not a bloodless process, and while it’s not usually what I would call “over the top,” it’s certainly something to keep in mind.
There’s also… ah, we shall say moments of “humorous” male nudity. I wonder if that was meant as a jab at the gratuitous sexual fan service which is so prevalent in our culture, and which anime is particularly famous for. It would not surprise me, but either way, it was a bit disconcerting.
Parental advisory notwithstanding, for myself, I largely enjoyed this anime. We only have one season thus far, but I await a second season with eager anticipation.
One Punch Man is, basically, another superhero anime, but one that turns the entire genre on it head. The characters are lovable, the humor fantastic, the plot intriguing, the emotions genuine, the commentary interesting, the music, animation, and fights phenomenal, and all this while simply telling a good, quality story, written and executed exceptionally well. It’s not your typical superhero show or your typical anime, but that just makes it stand apart from the crowd.
Rating: 9 stars out of 10.
Whenever I get around to that list of favorite anime, this one will most likely make the list.