Saturday, February 6, 2016

Anime review: One Punch Man

An energy-packed twelve-episode run, One Punch Man falls into the action and comedy genres, excelling at its delivery in both.  From the first episode, Saitama – aka, the titular One Punch Man – is shown to have immense, possibly immeasurable strength.  Each and every foe he encounters, from lowly street thugs to world-threatening foes that might as well be ripped right out of a superhero comic or sentai series, can be beaten by a single punch of Saitama’s rocketing fist.  While this might seem like an all-too-convenient trump card that would wipe out all of the series’ threats in no time, it’s Saitama’s outlook on his role as a hero that keeps both him and the larger narrative compelling through the finale.

            Saitama’s incredible strength has left him bored.  Each fight he gets caught up in is a cakewalk, and half the time he doesn’t bother to catch his costumed opponent’s name or really even pay attention to them as they attempt to overwhelm him.  Saitama is a self-proclaimed ‘hero for fun’, and finds it very odd when a young cyborg by the name of Genos wishes to train under him.  Saitama initially dismisses the notion of having a pupil, but is persuaded when Genos promises to help pay for rent and take care of chores around the apartment.  While Saitama’s gains from this partnership initially stem from his being selfish and a tad lazy, the two ultimately grow to trust one another, recognizing the strengths they possess both independently and as a team.  They forge a mutual respect, and Saitama begins to see that maybe there is more to being a hero than simply getting an adrenaline rush, though his quest to find a foe of a comparable strength to his own never ceases.

            Despite first appearing as an inattentive goofball, Saitama has a lot of heart and is willing to make some hard decisions that other heroes might hesitate on.  With regards to the other heroes, there is quite a large community displayed in the series.  Occasionally, other heroes will have a quick cameo, but for the most part, the other heroes return in later episodes.  This helps to make them feel more like rounded characters in a grounded organization, rather than simply being part of the scenery.  The designs of the other heroes do well to appeal to specific genres and eras in anime, without lending their outfits or hairstyles too closely to any particular series.  Though Saitama and Genos are the central duo to One Punch Man, a small collection of high-ranking heroes join in the fray late in the series.  Meanwhile, the C-class bike riding do-gooder known as Mumen Rider brings plenty of laughs to the table with his overconfidence against some of the series’ monstrous villains, though he too has greater character development than one might expect.

            One Punch Man boasts one of the most energetic and rockin’ theme songs from an anime in quite some time, and goes the extra mile in helping to set the tone of the series before Saitama is found staring down a fish man four times his size, an insect woman who spreads thousands of mosquitoes throughout the city to drain the blood from animals and humans alike, and a climactic face-off with an alien invader that gives any one of the major fights in Dragon Ball Z a run for their money.  The animation is great throughout, with the fight sequences proving obvious highlights, while downgrades to cheaper character renderings helps drive the comedic moments home.  The series ends with a satisfying wrap on all the major threats faced thus far, but a few threads are left hanging – a couple of which are introduced within the final couple of episodes, oddly enough.  Still, there is plenty of opportunity to continue exploring these heroes should One Punch Man get picked up for a second season.

My rating: 9 (out of 10)

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