ONE-PUNCH MAN Season One Review
It’s incredibly rare for an anime series to last more than one season, whether it be due to low ratings or contained plotlines. It’s even rarer when a series isn’t an adaptation of a manga. Studio Madhouse’s ONE-PUNCH MAN meets both criteria. The series, an adaptation of a webcomic by Japanese artist ONE, has received thunderous acclaim both in Japan and here on the net, resulting in a renewal for a second season. But when a less-than-stellar anime series like ATTACK ON TITAN also make waves in the States, is it safe to call ONE-PUNCH MAN “the one” of 2015?
ONE-PUNCH MAN takes us through a day in the life of the titular Saitama, an average office worker who, seeking a higher purpose, decides one day to become a comically overpowered superhero. He is lightning fast, nigh indestructible, and, as you might have guessed, can liquify any foe, regardless of size, with a single punch – one punch man. Unfortunately, this imbalance of power has left Saitama without a real challenge, as he can defeat any city-destroying monster without breaking a sweat. In addition, the lack of effort he exerts leads the populace to believe he is a simple shuckster out for fame. Already a hero, Saitama must find a real challenge, in order to vindicate his title to both himself and the media.
Tumblr.’s taken all the Caillou and Charlie Brown jokes, so, uh…what’s good, Picard?
ONE-PUNCH MAN decidedly skews towards the comedic, which often proves to be a problem for Western audiences in anime. On top of a completely foreign sense of humor, comedic timing is impossible when you’re literally waiting for the punchline to catch up in the subs (and good luck convincing some people to watch dubbed). Blessedly, ONE-PUNCH MAN’s humor is largely visual and requires no translation. It’s actually good, too; a godsend when so much of the screentime is devoted to setting up gags. Saitama’s hyperbolic power is alternatively used as overkill in everyday situations, such as killing a mosquito, or to make short work of a fearsome monster, such as killing a ten foot tall mosquito. And while the gimmick sounds like it would soon wear old, it has no opportunity to do so, as the season caps at 12 episodes.
For all the joking, there’s action aplenty as well. While Saitama delivers instant death, his myriad of hero friends are not as well endowed. Taking their jobs much more seriously, they usually arrive first on the scene, only to be pummeled by the baddies. Thanks to stellar animation from the folks at Madhouse, some truly insane fight scenes play out with the fluidity and attention to detail that you’d expect from an opening sequence. Punches fly with such force that their shockwaves level cities and break the atmosphere, with fighters on each side taking apocalyptic amounts of damage. All of this is accompanied by a killer score and impressive sound design. It’s an extremely indulgent affair that’ll be sure to satisfy anyone looking to see bad dudes beat the tar out of each other.
Unrelated: the cool kids teaching me a lesson for watching anime
Plotlines do exist, yet they feel inconsequential in relation to the protagonist. No bad guy can hope to last more than an episode or two when faced with an unstoppable force like Saitama. Instead, they more or less serve as devices for the rest of the cast to develop. ONE-PUNCH MAN is rife with diverse and eccentric individuals that parody various anime archetypes, though most are more one-note than Saitama’s signature move. Saitama’s cyborg apprentice Genos and, to a lesser extent, hapless bicyclist Mumen Rider (pictured above) are the only heroes who are treated like actual characters. Speed-o’-Sound Sonic, androgynous ninja and rival to Saitama, is confoundingly slow to learn any lesson following each beating he receives, and ultimately feels like dead weight. Tornado rounds out the main roster, existing purely to satisfy the quota of prepubescent girls with psychic powers. While this may be only to mock said tradition, it is trite nonetheless. There’s a few dozen more heroes, and while anomalies like nudist Puri Puri Prisoner exist, they are all are even less riveting.
There’s even a cameo by Shabani, Japan’s handsome gorilla
ONE-PUNCH MAN serves as a grossly satisfying guilty pleasure. It’s dumb fun that is, more often than not, smartly paced. Lulls exist when the focus shifts to the shallow side cast, but these moments are few and far between. Surprisingly on point humor and thrilling battles, all of which are rendered exquisitely, will ensure that there is a good time to be had for all. While it won’t be taking the crown of 2015’s best anime from JOJO’S BIZARRE ADVENTURE: STARDUST CRUSADERS, ONE-PUNCH MAN delivers a solid hit, and is a show that everyone should experience at least once.
ONE-PUNCH MAN is available to watch in its entirety on Hulu and Daisuki.net