This anime is garnering quite the attention across the internet. It’s currently ranked at #10 overall in score and has been voted on by nearly 100,000 people, according to MyAnimeList. With numbers like this, I couldn’t help but see what the fuss was all about, and picked this up mid-season.
For a slight change of pace, I’m gonna speak of everything this anime does well, no matter the subject. I’ll begin with the most apparent and debatably its greatest strength: animation. There is clearly every intention to dazzle the viewer with every confine of color, line, ability, superpowers, bright lights, elements, creatures, and whatever else the mind could possibly conceive. Everything is beautifully pieced together with the utmost care. The action scenes are beautiful to look at and the characters all look and present themselves in an appealing way, almost within the realm of guilty pleasure.
It’s also important to note that One Punch Man is a parody. It’s a parody of shounen cliches and superhero manga with all things talkative, transformative, and millions of characters with one or two superpowers bustling from nowhere only to leave until the next danger arrives. This includes the hero Saitama himself, who is so overpowered that nothing is a threat to him, taking out anything in a single punch, hence the anime’s title. This, in turn, makes Saitama as unlike a hero in any sense of traditional shounen form, casually remarking at bad guys and worrying over trivial things like market sales and the foundation of his home. But it’s not this representation that the anime gains from, rather it’s his sidekick that shines brightest.
The one character I enjoyed seeing the most on screen was Genos, a cyborg-human hybrid who takes up the position of student under Saitama’s great and powerful wisdom. His serious personality blends well with Saitama’s personality and is the only character within the show I feel develops some as a character based on the situations that transpire and “learning” under Saitama’s “teachings.” It also makes the show funnier with him in it, as opposed to Saitama simply making gif-able reaction faces to horrifying enemies.
Unfortunately, these are the only two aspects of the show that I thought were a cut above the rest, excluding overall enjoyment. In terms of story, the entire thing is fucked by Saitama being a Mary Sue, someone who’s overpowered without any justifiable means and destroys anyone without batting an eye. If you enjoy a show that points out how absurd the foundations of shounen tropes are, without the desire to feel any tension or suspense from anything that happens to anyone or anything, this is the show for you. Know that One Punch Man doesn’t stray from this formula… episode after episode after episode, until it’s over. It may be my deep love for context or meaning, but something about one running joke over the span of twelve episodes makes everything that they try to portray seriously, like an evildoer’s master plan or a flashy, drawn-out fight scene, seem all the more dull and monotone.
It doesn’t end there, however. Saitama being OP (Get it? One Punch? Overpowered? OP?) also destroys much of the development he could receive if the story so chooses. It builds the foundation of why he wanted to become a hero in the first episode, and it looked good to serve the rest of the story. However, almost everything afterwards is him reacting aloofly or slightly irritated, like regarding a mosquito, to everything around him. Once again, this one running joke kills him as a character, as he, himself, becomes the joke. He is OP. He’s bored of everything because he’s so OP. It’s hard to really care about a joke, as he becomes predictable and old after three or so episodes of doing the same thing. Only a few times he breaks the mold and acts as a true hero (in terms of humility) in the later episodes, but those cases are typically instigated by unimportant characters who appear randomly to cause conflict for no god damn reason. It seems forced to put Saitama in a good light. It’s gross.
This also goes for the other characters, too, who are mostly made up of episode-to-episode villains or other heroes within the story. They, like the show in general, are simply parodies of shounen tropes. Some feel smoother than others, but with as huge as a cast as this show gets (upwards of at least twenty characters by the end), it’s hard to take any of them seriously. Hell, one guy’s superpower is becoming super buff and naked, and is also super gay. Isn’t that hilarious? Genos is also subject to this, but at least he changes by the end of the series. I can’t say the same for everyone else.
Perhaps it’s more subjective than not, but to have an entire show be a parody is tricky business. The way it’s presented in One Punch Man I feel works against it, as not only is it parodying shounen tropes, but is also playing them precisely by the book, only with a few minor observations and jokes thrown in. Never at any point during the anime did I once go “Ha, that’s a clever play on shounen tropes.” It always seems like it just showcases it, like “Hey, shounen anime do this a lot. Laugh as we make Saitama react with a blank face.” It doesn’t really feel inspired to mock it as much as it feels inspired to embellish it. Like using it to satisfy the conditions of a project at face value, never really invoking any sense of discussion or innovation from it.
It’s enjoyable, it’s fun to look at, and the characters look interesting in their own, one-dimensional way. The only thing is that the entire series is one big joke. It’s hard to take the characters, the story, or the conflict seriously when OP is just going to OP everything in sight with ease. Watch as everyone reacts like a baby to OP being OP. Some say that because it is a parody that you aren’t supposed to take it seriously, and should only enjoy what is being given to you. To which I highly disagree, and anyone could use this concept to take advantage of people. Pro tip: never make anything serious, so no one will take it seriously and rate it a 10/10. Watch as the parody genre slowly takes over the anime world, so much so that parodies will begin to parody the parodies of other parodies. A parody within a parody of other parodies. One Punch Man will eventually pave the way for One Kick Woman.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.