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One Punch Man: A Review

By Christian Pridemore
On February 11, 2016

When today’s generation was growing up back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, anime was hitting its stride in the western world with such classics as “Sailor Moon,” “Inuyasha,” and the “Dragon Ball” and “Gundam” series. Many popular tropes in those shows included such ideals as friendship and betterment of your physical and mental state through rigorous training and multiple battles. So what happens when you take those tropes and turn them on their head? When you turn these common ideals into comedy, you get an anime like “One Punch Man.” Before reading further, please be aware that this review will contain spoilers for the show.

    “One Punch Man” is an anime that was released in November of 2015 and is about a young man named Saitama. The anime makes a point of showing that he’s an average person; he brushes his teeth, deals with the struggles of making a living, shops at the supermarket, etc. However, Saitama is very different from everyone else in the sense that he is, as shown near the end of the series, the strongest man in the universe. After going through a traumatic experience which will remain unexplained, Saitama pledges to become as strong as he possibly can, and begins training soon after. After three years he has become so strong that all enemies he faces can be defeated with one blow of his fists, which is where the anime gets its title. The remaining episodes of this series focus around Saitama dealing with various enemies until, at the end of the series, he faces an alien that claims to be the strongest being in the universe, and promptly deals with him in just one punch. That is all there is to speak of on the plot, so if you’re looking for substance, look elsewhere.

    There is a side story in this anime about what is known as the Heroes Association, where individuals of talent in fighting are registered with the government to become certified heroes. The Heroes Association shows all kinds of characters, from those that are low tier and just your average Good Samaritan to top tier cyborgs and little girls with ESP powers. However, this side plot only serves to give a sense of dramatic tension as, episode after episode, radical monsters absolutely decimate the city and its people. The Heroes Association sends its best heroes to take care of the situation and each one ends up failing miserably before Saitama steps in and takes care of the situation.

    This anime is, without a doubt, extremely satirical. It takes all of the commonly known themes about continually growing in a quest to become the strongest and makes fun of them by showing the viewer what happens when you finally do become the strongest. So we get many different scenes of Saitama getting annoyed by long-winded explanations of back-stories to the monsters he faces, as well as scenes of him trying to use his abilities to take care of everyday tasks such as pest control. This satire is funny for about one episode, and gets very boring for the following eleven.

    One of the worst things that this show does is introduces plot points that could very easily have gotten more elaboration but don’t. This show gives us a myriad of colorful characters that are as flat as paper. None of these characters get any better, or show any kind of emotional development even though we see several of them facing hardships and rejection. One of the top-ranked members of the Heroes Association does absolutely nothing but entertain people on TV; the most we see of his abilities is near the end of the series as they are juxtaposed against Saitama’s while taking on the strongest being in the universe, serving to show that he never truly meant anything. The bigger theme shown here is that the low-ranked heroes in the Heroes Association truly enjoy helping people and don’t care about rank whereas the higher ranked heroes seem to only care about maintaining their rank, and naturally are threatened when they see Saitama’s abilities. This stands as satire because in the end, the monsters that these heroes face are almost always stronger than all of them, whether low- or high-ranked, and it serves as commentary on people in the real world only caring about their status rather than truly caring about other people.

    This anime does have some good things going for it, such as a wonderful soundtrack that will make you want to listen to more hard-core Japanese rock and throw punches just like Saitama. However, if you watch this show for no other reason, watch it for the fighting. This is truly a fighting anime and, as was stated, the show has several characters that all have a different fighting style and unique character attributes, and it’s entertaining to watch them use these fighting styles in a futile effort to defeat the monsters until Saitama shows up.

    All in all, I can’t recommend this anime. The plot is simply too light and too satirical to have anything good to offer. None of the characters are likeable, and none of the monsters are original. If you want a good fighting anime, I recommend any of the Dragon Ball series (whose influence on “One Punch Man” is extremely evident), or a more down to earth fighting anime such as “Yu Yu Hakusho.”

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