One-Punch Man Is Superheroes, Comedy, And Over-the-Top Action

One-Punch Man Is Superheroes, Comedy, And Over-the-Top Action

What if you were the strongest superhero in the world? One-Punch Man comically shows just how boring such a life would be.

One-Punch Man is the story of Saitama — a normal guy who one day decides to be a superhero. However, after training, he finds himself with two problems: hair loss and the fact that he has become so powerful he can defeat any enemy in just one punch.

This comedic setup is the core of One-Punch Man. Saitama is a man who feels he has found his calling in life — only to discover the challenge he sought is non-existent. He dreams of epic battles and finds that no matter the hype, his enemies fall before him as if they were nothing. A lot of the humour in the anime in centered around his frustration with his situation. He wants to be number one by a nose, not by a mile. But while a clever setup, one ripe to be mined for comedy, it is also the series’ greatest weakness.

Thanks to its premise, there is no dramatic tension to be found in One-Punch Man. By definition Saitama is able to beat anyone with just one punch — so of course he never has any chance of losing. The bad guys posture before every fight, explaining how they are the unstoppable (something I — like Saitama himself — found boring). There is no danger and thus no tension to be found when it comes to Saitama’s battles.

Genos — Saitama’s self-appointed disciple (and parody/homage of every robot hero from The Mighty Atom to Mega Man) — is little better in the tension department. He too is among the strongest heroes in the world. And while he is defeated several times over the series, his robotic nature makes him next to immortal — able to come back from nearly utter destruction after a few repairs. Moreover, his cliché tragic backstory is treated as a joke, robbing him of any potential drama in that area.

With no life-or-death stakes surrounding our two heroes, it’s more than a little hard to root for them — to be invested in their struggles. Beyond that, both are selfish to the extreme. Genos is so focused on his need to get stronger and defeat his arch rival that he cares about little else. Saitama could possibly be a sociopath as he cares for nothing or no one beyond how it affects him — passing up heroic opportunities that he deems beneath him and destroying whole cities out of apathy.

Saitama is not alone is this, however. Most of the top heroes are likewise sociopaths at worst or arseholes at best. Though, perhaps that is the point: “absolute power corrupts absolutely” as they say.

The closest we get to a true hero in One-Punch Man is Mumen Rider — a completely normal guy that rides a bike but has the soul of a hero. Perhaps the only scene with any real tension comes when he faces down a monster who utterly destroyed Genos — knowing full well he is about to be killed but is unwilling to simply give up and let massive numbers of civilians die. He is a far more sympathetic character than anyone else in the supporting cast. Sadly, he is just that: a member of the supporting cast with little comparative screen time.

So with little to no drama, it’s up to the comedy and action to carry the story.

Let’s start with the comedy. There are basically three forms of jokes in One-Punch Man: 1) Saitama being ridiculously overpowered, 2) heroes or villains giving long, rambling speeches about their origin stories and/or how strong they are, and 3) humorous situations stemming from Saitama’s limited intelligence and/or selfish tendencies. The first few times these jokes come up, they are quite funny, but (like most humour) become less so with each repetition.

Though, I suppose it’s always funny to see someone punched in the balls, so there’s that.

The action, however, is superb. Not only is it creative in its framing but it simply looks great on an artistic level — especially when it comes to Genos and his robotics. Even if the fight scenes are often pointless because of the premise, they are still a wonder to behold and are easily the best part of the series.

On a side note, what I found most interesting when watching One-Punch Man is what it taught me about my own suspension of disbelief. Telepaths, monsters, robots, aliens, and a man who can kill anything in a single punch — these things I am ok with in a superhero story. A meteor levelling an entire metropolis with only a few minutes’ evacuation warning and not a single person dead? That I am unable to buy.

One-Punch Man is an anime that is appealing depending on how much you personally enjoy the humour and action. The characters and plot are basically one-note comic book parodies mixed with your standard anime tropes. Still, it has an excellent setup that results in a creative world where the superhuman has become the ordinary. When it comes down to it, there are far worse things to do with your time than watch Saitama and Genos play in such a world.

One-Punch Man aired on TV Tokyo in Japan. It is available with English subtitles on AnimeLab in AU/NZ.


  • Worst anime ever: -1/10, ughr, I think is overrated, who cares for crappy dbz cheap copies, is so serious after 2nd arc, character so strong, I know the plot.
    Well… no. Imo it’s a great anime, a visual spectacle with great music and memorable characters. It hits the common tropes while making fun of them,twist them and slap them on your face in a refreshing way.

  • I think there are many layers of character development in which we haven’t got to in the anime, not that I have watched the manga, but I do sense there is more than selfishness in Genos and Saitama. Evidently if he were the Mumen Rider type character with the heart of a hero, and also his insane strength we would just have a normal super hero story which probably wouldn’t have such distinction like OPM has. There are many moments which show the peculiar hero attributes that Saitama has and Genos story may be even a bit comical but its still something that hasn’t been explored.

    I do like it for the action and comedy the most, but story wise I can’t even judge because it seems like the 12 or 13 eps only covered so little of it.

  • Finally Richard Eisenbeis comes out and says he hates One Punch Man. This is why it has been left of the best anime lists and what to watch this season lists.
    This site really needs more than one anime reviewer because having the guy that hates One Punch Man and Cowboy Bebop writing all the content just isn’t right.

    • I don’t mind when the author/s write their personal opinion about certain content. It’s natural, people will always have different taste in movies.
      But … OPM can be described as the “Cinderella” of anime, starting with a poor’s man effort to break through and finally succeeding the impossible, creating the (arguably) most influential parody in the last couple of years, screaming that the super-hero and fighting action genre is coming closer into saturation.
      In IMDb it was listed as no#1 for several weeks above GameOfThrones, plethora of reviewers are giving top score and you can find there is a fan wave supporting OPM.
      At least give it some credit.

      • Agreed, it’s fine if something isn’t your cup of tea but this article read more like “This is why OPM is bad, stop telling me it’s good you’re wrong.”

        Not to mention some points are just weirdly aggressive, Saitama is a sociopath? I’ll agree he’s pretty self absorbed and can get tunnel vision but huge turning points in the series rely on him putting himself out there or truly bonding with others, Genos and Mumen especially.

        Oh well, for anyone else reading this the series is well worth checking out.

  • Watching it as I right this. Bloody amazing. Shame only the 12 episodes and some OVAs so far. Will have to read it as well I think.

  • Sorry, but this reviewer must be the most tragic weeaboo.

    An anime with zero fan-service? That’s no good.
    With a unique plot that plays on typical tropes? No. It has to be the same as every other anime this season.
    Gags that don’t revolve around perverts? My misogyny entitles me to these jokes, I don’t like it when I don’t get what I’m entitled to.

    Seriously. This guy doesn’t have his finger on the pulse, he must have it firmly placed elsewhere.

    I’ve already started buying up the manga. Kotaku definitely needs another anime reviewer – because not all of us thrive from child harem animes.

  • I loved the first episode, but after that the show felt more like one punchline man than the clever parody it had the potential to be. To be fair I only made it halfway through, but I feel it’s probably too much work sticking with it after every episode felt kind of dull after the first. I can see the appeal, but I can’t feel it I suppose.

  • We all have different tastes, I quite enjoyed this.

    The biggest disagreement I have with the review is while the main character is an idiot, and often too self absorbed to notice things he does care about things.

    When they face off against the Sea King and Heroes are getting owned easily, Saitama beats him with a Single Punch, a Heckler in the crowd starts calling all the other Heroes useless because Saitama beats him with one Punch, Saitama than claims all the other Heroes did all the work and he got the finishing blow, making himself hated but saving the Heckler from getting beat up, and protecting the other Heroes reputations. Only a few Heroes like Mumen Rider realise this. I guess it sailed over the reviewers head too

    Another example is when he destroys the city, everybody else had failed to stop the asteroid, He breaks it up preventing the continent being destroyed but decimating the city. Despite the damages he did the best thing he could of at the time, and he wore the blame for it and let people hate him.

    As for the tension thing it’s like Superman, how do you threaten Superman? By having an equal in the fight like Zod or by giving people Kryptonite.

    • Agreed… actually if you read the manga whilst Saitama is “portrayed” as an uncaring/bored idiot he actually acts as a *real* hero compared to a majority of the Association..

      The whole “for fun” schtick got him started on it but he actually has moments where he chastises/teaches other folks about being a “real” hero as well as… he literally gets his own league of followers just because of the oxymoron of his personality like how Genos follows him.

      And lets be honest here.. you could be the most well meaning super hero in the world but if everything you fought you killed in one punch you’d be pretty damned bored w/ life as well =P

      • not to mention when people like Silver Fang start taking notice too.
        and the episode with the fan mail where Genos is trying to protect Saitama from being hurt but he just sees what he wants to see in the good of others.

        he might be over powered, but his sets a good example for people. i think by him being OP, people cant compare them selves to him on a physical level, so they are left looking at the example he sets in not giving a single fuck about how people view him. and his ultimately puts peoples well being a head of his own.

  • I agree with a few of the posters. At first this show seems like a one punch line type of show (and I wondered myself whether I’d get bored or not) but then you realise there is actual depth to Saitama and his struggles. Episodes where he takes the blame and gives other people the credit show what kind of person he is. Even though sometimes he comes across as lazy and non caring, you see his character arc evolve over the show. Plus watching him and Genos together is pure comedy.

  • Man I absolutely fell in love with this show. It’s so damn good. The humour is spot on, the animation is amazing, the themes (when they have them) are strong. So awesome

  • Honestly… I think the beginning of the review already misses the point somewhat.

    This isn’t the “beginning” of Saitama’s adventures per se. He’s been there and done that. The story is what happened *after* those “epic battles” he’s had. Saitama has trained and fought many a villains and associations… and at one point he just got TOO strong.

    So what’s a hero to do when you’re “too strong” for everything else around you? You go bald and get bored =P

    If your after epic, high tensions fights then you’re looking at this the wrong way. It’s satirical deconstruction and IMHO works very damn well at what it does. The “epic” fights aren’t w/ Saitama it’s w/ Genos and the rest of the cast trying to live up to being a hero and their evolving characters and very human flaws and limitations… Saitama is just the comedic foil to bring everyone back down to earth both in the “action” and when someone takes the “I’m a hero/villain!” thing too seriously or misses the point of being one…. especially with his very mundane priorities.

  • @kotakuinternational time for a new reviewer.
    @gehirn and @chedruid and @zimmy nail it in their first comments. and @rock_m gets it too just above.
    i swear its people that have an educated and well rounded sense of humour are the only ones that get OPM and why its funny in all its subtleties. from its constant fun-poking at other animes and ripping off of characters, to Saitamas thick-headedness and bizarre outlook on life, to Genos’ eagerness to prove his strength, even Sonic constantly coming back again and again with his smug attitude.
    Richard goes on about no dramatic tension, what the fuck is he watching – or he clearly hasnt bothered to pick up the manga. sure the tension isnt your run of the mill type where the main character is facing down the barrel of a gun, held by a trigger happy psychopath with parkinsons. but its definitely there in all the other characters that surround Saitama.
    i think that is why OPM is so charming and funny. because it doesnt follow the same, over-regurgitated formula that a lot of the really popular manga/animes do. just look at One Piece, Bleach, Naruto, DBZ etc etc. strong main character, comes up against overwhelming odds, digs deep, beats odds, finds bigger badder odd, fails, digs deep, overcomes – rinse repeat, rinse repeat.

    im glued to my phone every week waiting for the new chapter in the manga, but shit the authors are tardy with meeting their deadlines. doesnt mean i hate it though.
    OPM is the most exciting series ive seen/read in a long long time.

    • Richard usually do some great reviews, but I think with this one he stepped on my “fan-boy” toe. The phrase: “When it comes down to it, there are far worse things to do with your time than watch Saitama and Genos play in such a world.” was the cherry on the top of the cake.
      I think he did it on purpose though, just to giggle together with Luke. xD

      • I agree, often our tastes don’t always quite line up but he does decent reviews.

        This reeks of an anime he avoided talking about because he didn’t like, until he was forced to due to its popularity.

        The main issue is that instead of front loading and admitting his bias/taste he tried to analytically break down why it was bad… Which doesn’t work because it doesn’t do that much wrong.

        • It’s ok if you miss the joke/point of a satrical piece, it’s also fine if it’s not your cup of tea as a gag either. You can always write about what the show didn’t get in your experience.

          But trying to frame this as an “comedy action anime” by saying it’s lacking all the tropes of what it’s trying to subvert and blowing up those short comings isn’t exactly great review work either..

          Basically the review boils down to nitpicking at what the show ISN’T trying to do and blow it up as something terrible about the series…

          Which will get on people’s nerves =P

          • Yup not disagreeing with any of what you said, I was just agreeing that usually Esenbeis’ work is better than this.

            This review definitely leaves a lot to be desired… But then again it’s got us all debating in the comments and slapping each other on the backs for basically all agreeing with each other so…

  • i see Saitama as the dues ex that all hero anime has, theres always the supporting cast struggling to beat the evil, while waiting for the strongest character who is training somewhere to arrive. then defeats the enemy with ease, or some secret move hes learnt, or harnessed the power of friendship.
    theres so much more than just the action, and the comedy, to carry the story. I want to know how Saitama has flown under the radar for so long, how his ability to defeat everything with ease hasnt been noticed before, i want to know what the prophecy is, i want to see Saitama receive some recognition for his heroics. i want to know what Speed of Sound Sonics deal is, will Genos become the strongest s class hero, will any of the s class heros get over their egos.
    Theres so much more to him than “he’s a sociopath” i see him more as jaded and naive. same as how famous people are portrayed as unable to function as normal humans without their aides and money.
    coming into OPM with the idea that its another action anime, and it will deliver great suspense and drama is the wrong approach. the action is just the backdrop to the story, and the interest lies in the characters.

    • *cough*

      That little question of why Saitama got overlooked happens in the next story arc after the Boros one ended actually =P

    • yeah, if you havnt got into the manga, it goes on more about Saitamas lack of recognition. its quite good actually.
      but you nailed it with the description.

      • only kept up with the anime, with the manga online. its an internal dilemma of wanting to know more but not spoiling the anime haha. i did see Madman has released some books, and the idea of physical media excites me.

        • yeah, ive seen those too with wanting eyes….
          to be honest, i read the manga first, then saw the anime and im that excited by it im about to re-watch the anime on animelabs because i miss it… ha ha

          • oooh, thats on my list to watch, i havnt started it yet.
            ive alos go assination classroom and gangsta lined up to go. a few episode in on Prison school, but not really doing it for me. and kill la kill provides some pretty cheap laughs, but i can only do one or two episodes at a time.
            the main reason i actually use it is to watch Fairy Tail which i really enjoy at the moment. good escape material with solid enough story and characters to keep me coming back.

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