One Punch Man Made Me Care About Anime Again

One Punch Man is an anime/manga/web-comic about a superhero so powerful he can end any fight with one punch. It's the best. I am going to try my best to explain why. But the truth is — I don't really understand it myself.

Like any good anime hero, I'll do my best. Ganbare Yo!

Halfway through the second episode of One Punch Man there's a pivotal scene.

Our bald protagonist Saitama listens to Genos, his Cyborg sidekick, reveal his reasons for becoming a superhero. Exposition central. The swirling music spirals, his tragic backstory is revealed: line after line after line of cliche-ridden dialogue.

I've watched scenes like this before, we all have — in Bleach, in Naruto, in Hajime No Ippo, in... well, take your pick really. Every Shonen manga/anime ever made has a scene like this. But in One Punch Man it's different.

This time the protagonist isn't sombre, understanding. Quite the opposite. Saitama's face contorts into a grimace. He is bored, much like the audience. Stop talking. Stop talking. Bloody hell, stop talking!

Genos will not stop talking. Saitama's face gets worse. The exposition gets worse.

Eventually Saitama explodes! Enough is enough, no more of this backstory bullshit. 20 words or less!

20 words or less goddammit!

This is the joke — this One Punch Man's one joke, essentially. But holy shit is it a good joke.

If, like me, you've read a bunch of manga or watched way too much anime, you understand the satire. You've watched many a sidekick, many a super villain spend 50% of an episode bearing his soul. "I'm only evil/powerful because a ninja/robot/pirate/monster killed my parents/brother/family and now I'm out to be strong/get revenge/kill bad guys." You understand how deep rooted that cliche really is.

One Punch Man says no. One Punch Man says 20 words or less.

One Punch Man's joke is that it subverts everything. Nothing else is important. Kotaku Australia ran a review of One Punch Man, it was a very good review — a positive review in fact — but it kinda missed the point. It broke One Punch Man down into different parts, criticised the lack of drama, the fact that the battles have no tension because the protagonist can end all battles — as the title informs us — with One Punch.

But um... that's the joke!

That's the joke. That's arguably the one joke, but One Punch Man is utterly incredible at telling that one joke and continually finds new ways to tell that joke.

Here's how the joke works: Saitama approaches an enemy. That enemy discusses his power, his years of training, his reasons for going down the path of evil. Oh my God, could this be the one, the audience asks — the enemy that finally cause Saitama to break a sweat.

Bam. One Punch. Nope.

Next!

How many times have we watched mangas and anime develop a weird obsession with that same old shit: power levels, endless training arcs, endless fights with zero consequence that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Fights that end in stalemates, fights that drag out for episode after episode, fights with flashbacks. Jesus wept...

Bam. One Punch. Nope.

Next.

It's incredible. It's an incredible joke, and it has layers.

Shonen Manga — you know the story, you know the drill. The hero has to work hard. Hard work beats talent. "I WILL NEVER GIVE UP." "GANBARE YO!" Success comes from training, from training arcs to be more specific. Naruto, for example, learns his Rasengan through the force of sheer will and uses it to defeat a previously unbeatable enemy. That's not how One Punch Man works.

Another perfect scene:

Saitama's sidekick Genos watches as another seemingly unbeatable enemy falls with one punch. Genos begs Saitama — how did he acquire this power, this strength? Dramatic pause, I will finally reveal to you my secret training, says Saitama.

100 push ups, 100 sit ups, 100 squats, 10 kilometre run. Every single day!

The sheer beauty of it — Saitama thinks this regime is super hard. He thinks he is undergoing the type of training you might see in Naruto, Dragon Ball Z or Bleach, but it's just a... regular training session. Pure genius.

It's just a joke that sort of rips the carpet from underneath and I don't know why, but it never really stops being funny.

One Punch Man is funny I think, because of how cliche-ridden Shonen manga is — how dependent it is on certain plot structures, certain character types. Place a truly original character like Saitama into that universe and literally everything he does is funny. His mere presence in this space is satirical. It's incredible because it's so simple, but it works.

The joke — Saitama's overwhelming, stupid strength levels — it just works. And after years of being completely bored with anime, its just so much fun to watch as One Punch Man tears it all to shreds.


Comments

    THANK FUCK! a reviewer gets it, actually gets it! thank you mr serrels for getting it.
    next time you run into the bloke that wrote this trollop - slap him please
    http://www.kotaku.com.au/2016/01/one-punch-man-is-superheroes-comedy-and-over-the-top-action

      You've been petulantly arrogant across both reviews, it's unnecessary and makes you look like a nutsack. It should be okay for someone to write a review you don't agree with, or have a perspective different to yours, without the need for a tantrum.

      Just chill.

        im being passionate about it because of how much this anime gets spat on on these websites. so when someone comes through with a review that actually understands the anime, i celebrate.
        you can call it arrogance, i dont give a shit. im not ashamed.
        its hard to chill when things get you riled. i get your point though, so dont think im disregarding what you are saying.

        ive just watched an episode of it, and i can feel the chill settling in.
        until next time i need to defend its honour...
        soz cuz.

    Local reviewer saves anime!! lololol
    -
    The creators did a good job taking a vast cast of different characters and anime, slapping them with a cucumber and then twist them upside down. From the first episode you see Piccolo with Freezer's voice attacking everything, Xie (the crab dude) from "Hokuto no Ken" getting his generic appearance he had in his console version of Genesis/Mega Drive and then "Shingeki no Kyojin" colossal titan getting K.O.

    Last edited 25/01/16 1:17 pm

    Are you Saitama, Mark?
    Because you just knocked it out of the park in one.

    I was hoping it was going to go to 26 eps, but it has all the makings of a classic anime.

      There's always that prayer for a season 2! :D

    +1 for this article. Someone that gets it.

    You know, I kind of want to see more... but that would possibly ruin the joke.

    It really is great, though. So uncomplicated.

    Where are the anime's for adults, Japan has one of the worst aging population problems yet most of the anime's we get seem to be aimed at teenagers. I'm just sad because I want something like Ninja Scroll, but scrolling through netflix or AnimeLab there are sooo many anime's set in high school or some variation of schooling teenagers. I haven't tried one-punch man but I fear I would give up after a couple of episodes not from any lack of understanding, I get the jokes described in the article I just don't find them that funny, I would have when I was thirteen when i was reading stuff by Harry Harrison and Robert Asprin, now they just seem too obvious, humor is subjective and differs due to culture, age and many other factor's not just the ability to understand the material

      It's an enjoyable satire, and in my opinion, for adults, not the teens who still think the shonen stuff is the epitome of cool.

    I'm really interested in how the author is going to eventually address the origin of Saitama's strength. Most times it feels as though its sheer absurdity is just a joke that will remain a joke until the end. But there has been a couple times when the question has been raised with a degree of gravitas that makes you wonder... only to be disregarded with a random interruption or joke, of course. And yet...

      I doubt they'll ever explain his origin, because every antagonist has a ludicrous/non explained origin. The first monster Saitama defeated, the crab monster? He became a crab monster by eating too much crab. The Picollo/Frieza guy from the first episode? He was born out of pollution.

      I've wondered whether Saitama himself is a monster who just so happens to want to be a superhero. He's motivated by "defeating" (i.e. killing) powerful villains, and his training origin is as ridiculous as a monster's origin. It's made clear that combat with a worthy opponent is his passion. It's as if Godzilla decided to be Superman.

      I imagine that if it ever did happen, and I don't even know that it should, it would be Genos meeting his mother who is describing Saitama's heritage and line of heroic blood in the background while the camera is focused on Saitama raiding the fridge, maybe picking a beer before just interrupting the conversation that's going on in the background by sitting at the table and changing the topic out of boredom.

      As much as I would love to find out the reason, finding out the reason wouldn't really fit in with the anime that well unless it's played out as a "Stop talking about my backstory, it's boring!" kind of way, like the way it was done with Genos.

      OR! Maybe it really was just the push ups and sit ups and running

        Pfft! it's obviously the push ups! XD

        Honestly... I don't think the author will EVER touch on how Saitama really got that powerful. It would really just detract from what the series is doing on a whole... and let's be honest part of the fun of the series is seeing just how someone so stupidly average as Saitama just suddenly gets the chance to One Punch everything =P

          I'm not so sure. The manga has slowly but surely moved away from the comedic one-shot kind of stories to the worldbuilding linear narrative that could make Saitama's powers' origin a point of interest. What if, for example, someone or something granted him his strength (and he doesn't know) and at some point it takes it away?

            I've only kept up w/ the manga myself.. although the more recent stuff are really hitting standard shounen territory again the Saitama stuff is still the same though... the world is ending and he's still doing mundane stuff =P

            As I mentioned on the previous review Saitama's basically the comedic foil for the entire series due to the absurdity of his situation/power if at any time that absurdity is broken (ie. he starts being "Serious" or even the real source of his power gets revealed) you loose a lot of the absurdity.

            I should check up on the webcomic version though..

      The reason? It's probably something super-shounen like the kid he saved in episode 1 having absolute faith in him, or it could be that doing those exercises and never cheating is the THE KEY (because I mean seriously, we all skip days with exercise... BUT WHAT IF WE DIDN'T?!).

      But then most training doesn't make you bald, so... maybe it's radioactive cancer? :-x

    I've given this show a watch, not finished yet, but about 80% of the way through.

    It's been average so far, but that's not a bad thing, especially when shows constantly fall below what should be average. I'm not finding myself all that interested in what will happen in the next episode since its mostly been a rinse and repeat cycle. Most of the time anything new does show up, it has little to no actual impact on the story, on character development, or my interest.

    Yes, I do understand what the show is trying to do, but... that just doesn't make it interesting or entertaining for me.... Maybe I went in expecting too much from the show?

    I think it's worth a watch, just don't go in expecting it to be the most amazing thing ever. It's average, but that doesn't mean it's bad.

    Sounds a lot like Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. (Yes, that's the name) It's a very silly manga which pokes fun at the entire Shonen genre, especially the kinds where everyone seems to have some hidden move that suddenly negates the other person's attack.

    i think Saitama is a kind of 'Baby God' or a young god who doesn't even realise the potential of his powers yet.

    I like the part where you explained about Saitama not caring abou the "this is why I'm evil/powerful" monologues.

    Later on in the webcomic, he gets really good at this, and even convinces certain heroes and villians to see how ridiculous and misguided their backstories actually are, making them rethink their whole lives. Also, one punch fights are never not fun.

    I have a theory about his powers after reading the manga for over a year. The little snippet I refer too isn't covered by the manga so just beware!
    There is a scene when Saitama is still weak, has his hair, and struggles to fight an "Octopus Monster". This Octopus monster has a striking similarity to Bald Saitama. Some things happen... And it is insinuated that this is a catalyst for his strength.....I will say no more.

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