Dumb action series are dime a dozen in the anime world. However, most of them try their darn hardest to tell a compelling story that just comes off as pathetic, with attempts to create groundbreaking characters that just appear to be one-dimensional stereotypes by closer inspection. Needless to say, One Punch Man is a rare addition to the genre. Its a series so self-aware, that it pretty much admits its stupid. And it indulges in it.
I’ve got to admit I’ve never been this hyped before for an action anime since JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (granted, that was a long time ago and my feelings on that trainwreck of a franchise has shifted). The series itself is based on one bald chap’s ability to blow monsters into smithereens with just one punch and all the over the top characters he meets throughout the show’s runtime. The show itself mainly consists of Cape Baldy here facing off against different threats along with other superheroes from a Justice League ripoff known as “The Hero Association.” Throughout the show, the focus sometimes switches from derpfaced baldy to other characters and their own obstacles they have to overcome. From a storytelling perspective, it contains little to no substance but nevertheless, it does a good job relaying its underlying message of how to “always try your best to become the hero you want” with its interesting mix of monster battles and comedy. The humor itself is to me, the highlight of this anime. While it doesn’t work all the time, when it does work I’m left rolling on the floor in fits of laughter. It pretty much picks apart tropes from the shonen and superhero genres and makes fun of them. This could range from Caped Baldy being annoyed by Genos’s long-winded exposition about his backstory (a riff on tragic backstories of various shonen side characters) to the entire idea of a superhero getting so bored of being overpowered that he starts having dreams of being a weakling (a satirical approach to the overpowered shonen protagonist cliche).
There are a plethora of characters within the series, but the main reason to watch it is for Saitama, whom I’ve been referring to as Caped Baldy or whatnot so far. Saitama is probably one of the more unique overpowered anime characters I’ve seen in a while; unlike most “Gary-Stu” archetypes, he is constantly distraught by how powerful he really is, and his comedic facial expressions and attempts to humor his enemies keep him likable and a bliss to watch onscreen. His boredom of having to watch his enemies explode upon just coming into contact with him is a running gag and a central part of the show’s comedy. Other characters include his sidekick Genos, an arrogant loli called Tornado, Mumen Rider who is a man so hell-bent on being heroic that he pretty much will accept a bloody punch to his face from a godlike being, and so much more. The problem here is that none of the side characters really feel developed and most are left forgotten without any screentime to display their powers or even have any sort of development. Instead, the show just throws any sense of their development to short OVA segments, which still don’t do them enough justice. To add insult to injury, the anime introduces more characters to the mix later on and you could forget most of them because they have no role to play in the ensuing plot. Until a second season comes along, which I hope it does…
The animation… my goodness. You cannot do a review of One Punch Man without mentioning the animation, it would just be so unfair. Gorgeous, fluid, and creative; the animation in this show is one of a kind I have to say, with the pretty colors here being more than enough to drive the average individual into full-on hype mode. The fight scenes look fantastic with incredibly fluid movements and bombastic effects to emphasize each character’s signature move. I mean goodness gracious me, the first episode tops pretty much every anime I’ve seen this year from a technical standpoint and the best part is, the show’s animation gets better with each episode. Director Shingo Natsume did a magnificent job on Space Dandy and his talent shows. Let’s not forget that various talented animators from Studio Bones also worked on this show; no wonder it turned out so good. Oh and kudos to Madhouse once again for crafting yet another well-animated work. With this, and the likes of Parasyte and Hunter x Hunter under their belt, so wonder people give them so much praise (though, sadly, its all downhill from here). You will be awestruck by the animation, trust me.
The soundtrack also deserves a mention. I was surprised to hear that it was not Sawano Hiroyuki who composed the music because it sounds so much like his other works. Instead, Makoto Miyazaki here does a fantastic job in the sound department despite his previous involvement being only in shows like Dragon Crisis and Triage X. It’s kind of uncanny really, a composer who’s most notable for composing music for ecchi centric shows now churns out some of the best action anime has to offer. Great stuff.
People wanting a good overarching storyline with deep thematic exploration and well-developed characters should stay away from this. You’ll find very little of substance in this show. But if all you want is some great comedic moments, a hilarious main character, high octane action with some of the best animations this medium has to offer, then it might just be the show for you. I admit that it gets stale at a few points but when this show delivers, it truly does deliver. It won’t be for everybody but those who enjoy its wacky characters and over the top battles will be in for a treat. It doesn’t take itself seriously at all and just admits that it wants its viewers to have a jolly fun time. And I for one enjoyed this show even at its lowest moments.
So see ya later Baldy. Hope to see you and the crew once again when season two comes along with a bang.
(Oh wait, there isn’t a second season).
Personal rating: 7/10