Sunday, January 31, 2016

Anime Review: One-Punch Man

One-Punch Man had been on my radar for a couple of years now. It has one of the weirder journeys from original material to anime adaptation, as well as being one of the more curious success stories that I’ve heard. It was originally a web comic created by an amateur manga artist going by the handle “ONE” in 2009. Though not exactly the prettiest comic ever created (ONE was literally just messing around with manga software for fun when making this comic) it ended up striking a chord with fans and soon went viral. It eventually came to the attention of professional manga artist Yusuke Murata, probably most famous to Americans as the artist for Eyeshield 21. Murata offered to redraw the web comic and publish it on Young Jump Web Comics in 2012. Since then the popularity of One-Punch Man has skyrocketed and millions of copies of the collected volumes have sold in Japan. As someone who has seen the original web comic believe me when I say how flipping crazy it is that One-Punch Man has gotten so big.

In 2015 an anime seemingly based more on the remake by Murata began airing. Produced by big time studio Madhouse and licensed by Viz Media in America One-Punch Man was actually simulcast in the US as it was debuting in Japan, which is something that has become more and more common in the last three years. I accidentally came across it on Hulu last Fall and nearly lost my mind, as I had no idea watching this show legally in this country was an option.

I’ll get more into this in the review itself but it’s important to note that One-Punch Man is a parody and there’s a lot of jokes and puns involved. But since I’m a dumb American (as are a lot of you, according to this blog’s stats) a lot of these go right over my head. One outstanding example we should all be aware of is that the name “One-Punch Man” is itself a pun based off the long running children’s picture book series Anpanman. This is apparently hilarious. If nothing else it automatically tells you exactly what tone you should expect when going into this one.

Anpanman's head is filled with bean paste or something?
I'm not sure because I'm not a Japanese child
Full review after the jump.

He'll save you because there's nothing good on TV right now
Saitama is just a normal and unassuming ex-salary man, except that he’s the strongest person on Earth. He uses his incredible physical abilities as a superhero for fun, defending people from monsters. However Saitama is so ridiculously overpowered that he can obliterate any enemy, no matter how fearsome, with a single punch. Fighting monsters has become so easy for him that he’s become incredibly bored and is thinking maybe he should just quit the superhero game. Saitama’s life takes a different direction with the arrival of Genos, a young and heroic cyborg. Impressed with the Saitama’s insane strength Genos tries to convince the hero-for-fun to take him on as his student.

As I mentioned in the intro we all must remember when watching this anime that it is a satire. It’s parodying both superheroes and shonen fighting series. Saitama’s character being unbeatable is basically making fun of characters like Superman and Son Goku from Dragon Ball. The show is a comedy and any issue with the lack of tension due to the main character’s unbeatable nature doesn’t bother me. This is not a drama nor is it an action cartoon, despite that it indeed has a lot of action. It’s supposed to make you laugh and the joke is the ridiculousness of jacked up monsters and aliens, capable of destroying whole cities, being punched into oblivion by a plain looking bald dude who mostly just looks bored. And it works.

This show is very aware how hot you think Genos is
One-Punch Man is funny and it’s entertaining and that’s all it really tries to be. It’s not really all that deep and it’s certainly not high art but at no point did it ever try to pitch that it was.

The animation looks good, especially when a serious fight starts. Clearly a lot of budget went into making those fight scenes look crisp. There are dips of quality outside of those fights here and there but overall it’s decent. This likely has a lot to do with the episode count of twelve compared to the twenty-six I’m used to seeing from when I was a kid. There’s less a need to spread that money out. It being shorter also helps with the pacing of the show. The show never feels like its dragging or trying to fill time, which is very different from the genre it’s parodying. Also, despite the fact the comic it’s based on is still ongoing, I found the ending to be fairly satisfying. Not everything was answered but if they never made another episode of the series I wouldn’t feel as betrayed as I did when I reached the end of some other shows (Black Blood Brothers, Kaze no Stigma, The Sacred Blacksmith, among others).

"Saitama punching shit" is about 84% of the series
I like the various character designs, which range from the “badass” to the “ridiculous” to the “straight up making fun of something”. From a visual standpoint it’s cool…and on the flip side every single character, with perhaps the exception of Saitama, is pretty dull. At best they are two-dimensional and not very interesting. At worst they are one-dimensional, one-note characters who are as flat as a deflated balloon. Now the reason for this is simple; this is a comedy and the characters are really just there to be jokes, whether because of their appearance or personality or because they were (purposely, for humor’s sake) blatantly clich├ęs. That’s all fine and good except when all the characters are underdeveloped you tend to not give a shit about them while you watch. Saitama is basically never in physical danger; that’s his deal. But I had a hard time managing to care about any of the other characters even a little when the tension rose. Even Genos, who gets beaten to hell over the course of the show, barely got a reaction out of me. Obviously this is the result of the tone of the show and the fact that it’s playing for humor. But the show isn’t “wacky,” or at least not nearly as much as a lot of anime where underdeveloped characters work fine. Some of the people on this show seem like they should be more interesting, and maybe they end up being developed more in the manga (which obviously is a lot longer and is still being worked on). But for this twelve episode show it kind of sucked.

I liked One-Punch Man though I think it would be difficult for me to say I “loved it”. It was a fun and I would be really interested in seeing more but I think I ultimately was underwhelmed by it compared to what I had been picturing in my head for the last two years or so. Also, not helping matters, I was watching this at the exact same time as the first half of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans and I have been loving that show so far; it’s probably made me a little harder on this sow as a result. Still I recommend it for fans of superheroes and shonen style anime and manga who also understand the ridiculousness associate with those genres. Just remember that at the end of the day One-Punch Man exists to make you laugh and should not be taken very seriously. 

Watchdog-man is pretty much the best superhero in the history  of time

I give One-Punch Man 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas


-Genuinely funny 

-Decent pacing 

-Animation mostly good

-Good character designs 


-All characters are flat 

-The show ultimately lacks substance

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