Merry Days of Anime: One Punch Man (Season Two)

one punch man 2 cover

Merry (late) Christmas Eve, everyone! End the pre-holiday holiday with some spicy opinions that are sure to get animation junkies’ skin crawling!

To provide some context, I was not huge on One Punch Man‘s first season. From what I recall (I didn’t re-read my own entry to re-familiarize myself), I felt it took itself a little too seriously and spammed the same joke of Saitama being overpowered way too frequently for me to find much enjoyment in it. Looking back, though, I would like to re-watch it after giving its second season a try to see if I may have been too cynical. After all, One Punch Man was everywhere when it first released, even being discussed by people who didn’t really care for anime generally. And when something’s popular beyond belief, my contrarian side grows ever stronger. I’ve tried to work on that.

one punch man 2 three
We can talk this out.

To address the obvious, this series’s second season was given to another studio this time around: J.C. Staff, which tends to be associated with garbage quality series and mediocre animation (recently). The results are obvious, and it cannot be overstated that the animation of the second season doesn’t even compare to the first. What Madhouse managed to do with the visual aesthetic was really captivating, and J.C. Staff were faced with enormous expectations to either match it or exceed it. They didn’t, and people were pissed. Combine this with a different director and the entire “feel” of the second season is completely abnormal.

Here’s where the spicy part comes in: I like the second season better.

One reason I want to re-watch the first season is that I think I’ve become more lax on the expectation of entertainment. Still cynical, to be sure, but I found myself enjoying the second season from practically the very beginning. The original season debuted in late 2015, back when I was still in the stages of “I-must-be-harsh-on-everything-that-is-not-100%-logical-and-substantial.” While I think the criticisms I gave at the time are still valid, I don’t think I’d be as harsh in my current mindset.

one punch man 2 one

This said, I was pretty non-critical of the second season for quite a while. Of all the anime I’ve watched this month, this was the easiest to watch, even more than Natsume Yuujinchou. Its content varied throughout each episode, it focused on a large assortment of characters (and attempted to develop them), and it was, frankly, very chaotic. Even the animation, which everyone enjoys shitting on, was fine. Again, not anywhere close to what Madhouse accomplished prior. Even so, I was pleasantly immersed the whole time, and while I did point out some easy animation shortcuts, I still thought it was decent… at least from a J.C. Staff series. Energetic, subtly amusing, and never completely serious. I also love Genos.

Intentional or not, it was odd to see Saitama away from the spotlight for a sizable chunk of the season, which may add to the irony of various situations. It may have been precisely this that made things more immersive for me, to not always have the looming thought that with Saitama present, there is no tension. Providing time for other characters to shine supplied reason for every situation to be sustainably fun. Some could find this repetitive, though I found it admirable for the series to prioritize making each character at least somewhat multi-dimensional. Well, it could just be that it’s the complete opposite of what they’re doing with My Hero Academia right now… so…

one punch man 2 four
He may have a problem, but I don’t.

Mentioned before, the focus of the series is very chaotic. I applauded its dedication to its characters, only said characters remain important for varying lengths. There are characters introduced in certain episodes, remain important enough to receive lots of exposure over the course of 1-3 episodes, and are never referred to again. “Messy” is one word, I would almost call it bipolar. It’s either on or off with its characters or central plot. Hundreds of different plotlines occur within a one-cour season that can be hard to follow and harder to take seriously. A looming monster threat, a dude who wants to defeat all heroes, Saitama looking for meaning in his life, Genos wanting to be stronger, Speed-o’-Sound Sonic desiring revenge; all are valid here, but should they be? Muddling any semblance of a primary goal, it tends to mesh together whatever works for the moment, then tries to mix all the different colors together to make a rainbow, only to end up with brown.

I’ve seen a lot of criticism directed at this season for not being funny. I didn’t think the first season was very funny, either, so again, I had little problem with this. Rather than “not funny,” it’s just a different type of humor: dry. One Punch Man 2 is not going to punch you in the gut with wacky faces or excitable reactions. The humor is more of a subtle background snickering from those placing the ironic bits together. Saitama never being present while serious consequences to the safety of humanity is occurring is the primary joke here, and it happens often. While monsters grow in strength, Saitama’s off in a martial arts tournament, enticed by a large cash prize. While a presumed threat to Saitama is being built towards, he’s spending time in the bathroom, oblivious to everything. Less pronounced could be perceived as “not funny”; I simply saw it as being different. More amusing than funny, which suits me fine.

one punch man 2 two
This wasn’t very subtle.

[WARNING: Minor Spoilers Ahead]

Aside from Genos, who has always been great, I was very fond of Garo. Many moments displayed him as a flawed character, beaten by constant mistreatment as a child. Yet he’s also regarded as a monster, with little regard for humanity. Likely the most complex character in the series thus far, as many others just come across as jokes or somewhat straightforward, he remained a gravitating presence while onscreen, no matter the context. His strength makes him beastly, but he seems to harbor a gentleness for children, or those within an unfair situation (kind of like he was). This human empathy is what makes him so interesting to me, despite his odd tendency to love monsters and a violent bravado. He’s the most prominent character in the series (outside Saitama), which I think heightened the intrigue sitting just outside the joke-y atmosphere.

[End Spoilers]

Some will read this entry and may never take my opinion seriously again. The complete spite many fans of the series have for this season is potent, with its average rating on MyAnimeList veering near the 2000’s, when the original season is in the top 50. Three of the four top reviews are negative, and everything I hear about this season is how vast of a disappointment it was and how it deserved so much better. I expected it, too, which is why my enjoyment of One Punch Man 2 is so surprising. In the end, it was never really about the animation for me, though that helps. If the characters and stories improve and continue to interest me, than that’s all that matters. It did, and that became the difference. I’d be hyped for a third season.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

If you’d like to see more reviews like this, feel free to look at my full list of anime reviews!

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

One thought on “Merry Days of Anime: One Punch Man (Season Two)

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