You know when you win a game – and you win again, again, and again, and you can’t lose because you are so good at it? Well, then it just becomes a chore. That’s what life is like for Saitama, the epic protagonist of One Punch Man.
Rumours had been surfacing about a web comic that was being adapted into what was expected to be the best anime of the year – about the man who can defeat any enemy with a single punch. Before we knew it, studio Madhouse had released another show in its long line of breakout successes, and we were all leaping on for the ride.
For those of us starved of the good old-fashioned kill-or-be-killed excitement of shounen anime, One Punch Man has filled a hole. The ridiculous multi-coloured opponents, completely overpowered characters, and punches that have more force than an atomic bomb… The triumphant return of the old era may be upon us.
But as with anything new, it has a fantastic selling point to get us going. This show does not take itself seriously. At all.
Almost making a mockery of the tropes we see in shounen anime, One Punch Man is a parody of itself. We’re used to new characters trailing off their endless backstories while the scene becomes trapped in some timeless abyss while they speak. Well, not here. As Saitama himself says, you must shorten your monologues to under twenty words. A hero cannot waste his time on pointless conversation! He needs to go and beat some monsters to a pulp.
As well as that, small things like his move: ‘normal punches’ exploding villains into hundreds of tiny pieces bring laughter to anyone who tires of the stereotypes we often see.
The last thing the anime community needed was another long-running, generic shounen about an unfortunate protagonist working hard and achieving his ultimate goal of being the strongest. All Saitama wants is to find an enemy that really makes him work. His downplayed, oh-so-humble character is one of the most endearing parts of the show. One Punch Man has a great sense of humour towards itself, and is the perfect example of a show that knows its genre inside out, and has the audience down to a T.
Of course, they couldn’t completely deconstruct the shounen genre without meeting some kind of controversy.
When you create a show that so boldly declares how unbeatable its protagonist is, one of two names is going to be dragged from the relics: Goku or Superman. In the old days, it was Goku versus Superman. These days, it’s Saitama versus Goku, and Saitama versus Superman. Since each character is the strongest in their respective universes, the debate should be redundant. Still, that hasn’t stopped people from going so far as to draw up physics equations in an attempt to name the champ.
This goes to show the amount of attention One Punch Man has garnered in its short run of twelve episodes. Saitama has been thrusted into prominence alongside all-time anime greats. No-one can deny the amount of laughs that this show will provide, but what’s so striking about One Punch Man is the tidal wave of impact it’s had on the anime community as a whole. Some people have even copied Saitama’s workout in an attempt to become a hero themselves.
It’s easy to be deterred from watching the most popular anime of the season. Sword Art Online struggled to live up to the hype it created, as well as Attack on Titan. In this case, I urge you to give One Punch Man a try. If anything, it is a good romp with entertaining characters and excellent genre awareness.
Hype is there for a reason. Whether the show lives up to it or not is your decision.