One Punch Man Review

One Punch Man Review

Remember how you felt when you watched your favourite action shounen? When the main character was getting beat up by some overpowered villain and all hope seemed lost and there was sad music playing in the background? The hero would take hit after hit, his blood spilling all over the battlefield.
And just when the villain was about to deliver the final blow, the hero would somehow get a powerup or figure out a way to beat him. With an orchestra playing some epic music in the background, the hero would get up, scream and finish off the villain with a very flashy combo. Humiliated, the villain goes down screaming "This is impossible, how can he be so strong?" And then there are lots of explosions, a happy ending, roll credits (now they just roll some fillers and a new arc starts but screw it).

There were times when I would fantasize about such scenario where I would interfere in the intense battle. With a loud bang, I would come crashing down on the battlefield with a cool look on my face. "Don't worry, I got this", I would probably say something cool like that and I would walk up in front of the villain and taunt him. Angered by my arrogance, he comes charging at me with an attack. But instead of dogding it, I just stand there. The blow connects with my chest, there is a bang, and after the smoke clears, I'm still standing in place, unscathed, with a smirk on my face. With a look of humiliation and anger on his face, the villain goes for another shot but before you know it, he is down on the ground with my foot planted in his face, pushing it into the ground, creating a small crator. I bend closer to his face and say in a deep voice, "Is that all you got?" And then I proceed to brutually beat him to death.
We've all thought about a similar scenario every once in a while. The whole reason we love action anime is because we imagine ourselves to be the main character of the show (or the coolest one).

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One Punch Man capitalises on this idea that deep down, there's a little bit of God complex in all us. We all want to be the unbeatable untouchable unbreakable hero. One Punch Man is that ultimate fantasy coming to life with a hint of comedy in it. To put it simply, consider the above scenario. Here, Genos is the main character that puts up a good fight but gets beat up by the villlain, making him look strong and unbeatable, and Saitama is you, the hero who comes crashing down and wipes the floor with him, looking like he wasn't even trying to fight (though he isn't as smug or sadistic, we have Tatsumaki for that). That's the whole plot of the show in a nutshell. One after the other, stronger opponents show up, only to get beaten to a pulp by Saitama's punches. Forget about all the intricate, delicately woven storylines with plot twists, life lessons and philosophy. The name of the show isn't Genos & Saitama : Brotherhood, it's One Punch Man, and that's all that matters.

The show constantly stabs the 'ancient' hero sterotype and the hero's journey monomyth with it's satirical spear. Saitama, after getting fired from his job, meets a lobster man and decides to be a hero for fun. That's his backstory (how tragic, right?). No long backstories with great sacrifices, no dead parents, no planets blowing up, no monsters sealed inside or anything - most of which act as a powerful motivator in the conventional hero stories (on top of that, he tells Genos to sum up his backstory in 20 words or less). As for his training, it's just a beginner's strength training program. And last but not the least, the attack names - consecutive normal punches and serious punch. It's just a mockery of everything that makes the hero stories exciting. And it works! Because it's really funny and because it has never been done before (not to mention the fact that the conventional hero story style has been milked to death and people are getting sick of it). Every other episode gives you the similar experience as when you would watch the final episodes of an action shounen, with a nice punch of comedy added in the mix. And the character that really carries all of this, is Genos the lone Cyborg.

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Without Genos, this series would just be a really really lame comedy. Because frankly, Saitama, as a character, sucks. Besides his ever so amusing facial expressions and the fact that he can obliterate his opponents with one punch, there is nothing that leaves an impression on you. And being over powered doesn't count as being a good character in my book. But hey, it's a comedy and that's his job. He's just a very cleverly placed viewer stand-in (or a plot device, though calling him that would be a bit of a stretch). Though there are a few parts where his character gets interesting i.e., when he gets blamed as a cheater and how he reacts to it. Now Genos on the other hand, has everything that would make him one of those conventional hero archetypes. He's got a backstory, he's always motivated to fight, he analyses things, he has a goal, he wants to grow stronger, he puts up a good fight, makes mistakes, pays for those mistakes and often comes close to the brink of death. My favourite action scenes from the show all involve Genos fighting. One Punch Man might not be One Punch Man without Saitama, but it definitely won't even be half as good without Genos. 

As for the supporting cast, the only one I found interesting was Tatsumaki, and that's only because of her smug attitude. It's a comedy and all of the characters have one role and that is to directly or indirectly make Saitama look good while playing their part in the usual comedy routine. Whether it be the hero association and its members or all the super-villains (or Jack-o'-lantern Panic) that show up throughout the series, they all eventually end up making Saitama look good (mostly by being punching bags for him). Yes there are a few interesting characters who have some potential (like Mumen Rider or maybe Amai Mask) but they aren't given enough screen time for me discren their character (this series has a LOT of characters). 

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Now, production wise, everything is on point. Since this series mocks those conventional hero stories, the amount of CGI in this anime is pretty much non-existent. Even the animation style, at times, (especially the action scenes) resembles that which was used back in the day (like how the characters warp during intense action scenes). You can feel the intensity of all the punches that Saitama throws out (kudos to the sound department for that). As for the character designs, they're all great, detailed, look unique (or ridiculously hilarious in some cases) and have fluidity. As for the opening and ending sequences, both work really well. The opening sequence has amazing animation. The same goes for the soundtrack, the explosiveness of the music with all the heavy guitar riffs creates an amazing atmosphere to fully enjoy all the fights.
All this really shows that Madhouse didn't pull their punches while producing this series (though they say that the series had an average budget).

Just like any other comedy series, One Punch Man suffers from two major (perspective related) flaws. To some, it is either going to be repetitive (which it IS as most comedies are) or it just won't be funny (which is that individual's taste). To me, it's neither. I liked the comedy and I was able to deal with the show's repetitiveness. Though the latter does warrant some amount of attention towards it because essentially, One Punch Man is an anime about a caped baldy punching people for comedy and satire (or is it?). But it does that (and a lot more) blazingly with some high class animation. So, give this show a shot. It is definitely something out of the ordinary.

If you've already watched this, how was your experience with the series? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear it.

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