One-Punch Man (2015)
Episodes 01- 12 + 6 OVAs
I’m just a guy who’s a hero for fun.
One-Punch Man is the natural conclusion to anime, and, to be frank, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. While hugely versatile (with a plethora of content for almost everyone), the anime/ manga mediums are often characterized and stereotyped by their frequently over-sexualized women, tentacled demons and world destroying martial artists — who are in a constant search for strength and power — and then, of course, there are those widely accessible Studio Ghibli titles. What One-Punch Man does is take the aforementioned demons/ power hungry macho men (and the genres that they inhabit) and basically gives them the finger — lovingly, of course.
Based on an online comic that eventually became a manga series, created by an author who uses the pseudonym ONE, One-Punch Man centers on Saitama, a once disillusioned out-of-work businessman-turned disillusioned all-powerful hero. After a chance and violent encounter with a humanoid crab named Crablante, who’s in search of a boy with a chin that looks like testicles (yep, it’s as weird as it sounds), Saitama finds a fire burning within himself and commits to becoming a hero in Z-City, a metropolis constantly under attack by all manner of beasts and creatures looking to bring a reign of terror over its inhabitants. Cut to three years later and not only has Saitama become a hero, he’s managed to train so hard that he’s lost all of his hair, our almighty conquer having developed powers that turn ‘God Mode’ way the f*ck up. He’s become Superman, only without the Kansas upbringing and yearning need for justice. He just wants to be a hero for, well, the heck of it.
Right out of the gate, this show is hilarious. From the moment Saitama decides to do battle with Mother Earth’s manifestation of a guardian with a simple ‘guess I’ll go,’ I was basically in stitches. Directed by Shingo Natsume — one of the two heads behind the zany Space Dandy (2014) — what One-Punch Man does, and does well, is hold a mirror up to the genres it’s parodying, satirizing and poking fun at, and then asks, ‘you guys know how ridiculous you all are, right?’ Anyone with even a passing knowledge of anime is going to spot the countless references and not-so-subtle nods to series such as Attack on Titan (2013), Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor (2005), Sailor Moon (1992), Dragon Ball Z (1989) and, of course, Anpanman (1988); it’s a show that knows what it is but, more importantly, knows where it’s come from. Animation-wise, One-Punch Man is a richly detailed roll of thunder, the 12-episode entertainer featuring the type of larger-than-life action sequences that others are aspiring to produce.
The character of Saitama is, in essence, a fairly dopey Deus Ex Machina, the dude also a bit of a walking existential crisis. Without the relevant experience and suffering that would’ve normally come from attaining such great power, the deadpan Saitama coasts through his fairly mundane existence without a willingness to learn any lessons that wielding such power would typically teach. He’s long forgotten what the thrill of battle and hardship feel like, and even though he seeks out such challenges, he often comes out the other end more disappointed, this plunging him further into superhero monotony.
Normally, this would probably make for a rather boring show if it weren’t for the fact that One-Punch Man is also populated by a host of supporting characters for Saitama to smash/ bounce off. Anime is often packed to the gills with colorful characters and One-Punch Man is no exception. Our smooth-headed protagonist, while certainly the most powerful, isn’t the only ‘tagged and ranked’ superhero in town, and is often forced to contend with, if not work with, many a grandiose bozo that takes the whole superhero thing far too seriously; most notably, 19-year-old cyborg, Genos. The Luke to Saitama’s Yoda, Genos is the product of deep family tragedy and cybernetic experimentation from a benevolent scientist. We know this because the young android warrior will happily monologue about his past, pouring his heart out in earnest while his would-be sensei struggles to find even a modicum of focus. Of all the characters in this show — i.e. the cycling Mumen Rider, the over-confident A-Class hero Stinger and the petite green-haired vixen Tornado — Genos is probably the most recognizable, the S-Class champion following a familiar archetype of a young fighter desperate to reach the height of his master, much to the bewilderment of Saitama who, himself, is kind of unsure how he acquired such omnipotent powers (he claims it was 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats and a 10km run every day).
One-Punch Man is kind of a rarity in that it has something for anime and non-anime fans alike. Hardcore aficionados of the medium will get a kick out of the satirizing nature of the series, finding recognizable tropes and clichés being bitch slapped into the stratosphere (sometimes literally) by our bored baldy. Non-fans, or those with even a passing interest, will no doubt revel in the point-and-laugh nature of the humor. While your friends are losing their minds over Goku achieving Super Saiyan level 54,609,850,932,049, you can giggle to yourself knowing that there’s a shiny-headed, yellow pajama-wearing weirdo in Z-City that could obliterate him as easily as he picks his nose.
4.5 / 5 – Highly Recommended
Reviewed by Carlo Peritore
One-Punch Man is released through Madman Entertainment Australia