What’s the one thing that DC, Marvel and pretty much every other comic publisher has struggled with? Overpowered characters.
Superman. The Sentry. Franklin Richards. All of these have the same problem; due to their near unlimited powers they have a tendency to become boring characters and constantly have to be either killed or nerfed in order to create any real sense of drama.
Unlike their Western counterparts however, the anime and manga creators somehow manage to make OP characters (Goku, Vegeta, Naruto) relatable to a much better degree by tying their powers into their emotions. However, in doing this it frequently seems to lose the humour that can be found in Western creations.
That is where Saitama, the hero for fun, comes in.
The title of the webcomic, turned manga, turned anime gives the basic plot in three simple words. Saitama can defeat any opponent with one punch, much to his permanent annoyance. All he wants is to be a hero and have a good battle but thanks to his training regime (you will laugh once you hear what it is) he effectively has the power of a God.
In the world of One Punch Man, monsters appear all the time due to various reasons explained throughout the course of the series, and in response to this the “Hero Association” is created. In this, heroes are ranked, initially according to tests but then by virtue of their actions and popularity. Due to his near failure of the written exam, Saitama is ranked at the bottom of C class despite his overwhelming abilities.
This causes many people to think that Saitama is a fraud due to him being C class but having so much power, leading to some of the best character development I have ever seen in, well, in anything I have ever read or watched. The scenes I am talking about are something not to be spoiled, but show in no uncertain terms just what a true hero Saitama is.
It is this that sets Saitama apart from the likes of Superman or Goku. His character feels multidimensional and he has lots of unique facets to his personality. He worries that in becoming so powerful he has given up some of his humanity; he longs for a challenge worthy of his power; he forgets people’s names almost instantly; and it is all these quirks that allow the viewers to see that Saitama hasn’t lost any of his humanity along the way… he just happens to be insanely powerful.
The other characters in the series, heroes and villains alike, are also very well done. On the surface they seem like parodies or stereotypes but once you dig a little deeper, you discover that they each have actual goals and personalities. I won’t go any further though, for fear of spoiling the plot.
The art style is absolutely incredible! The flow of the action is seamless, the moves feel powerful and not a single frame is wasted. The fight scenes, in particular Saitama vs the Subterraneans, are just… wow. From what I understand, this series was created on a modest-to-low budget and with that being taken into account, the creative team have pulled an absolute blinder. Another nice touch is the fact that when Saitama is being funny or misunderstanding a situation his character design reverts back to something similar to the webcomic. It works really well and always adds to the humour of the scene. On the other side of the coin, whenever he becomes serious or finds himself preparing for a fight his entire design sharpens and he looks like a normal anime hero. This is a genius move as the rest of the cast are always drawn this way so it sets Saitama apart and shows his changing personality. It also lets us know that he is somewhat removed from the rest of the world. While it looks serious all the time he rarely does, making it seem he is playing with the ants around him.
For me, one of the best things about the whole series is the music. The theme song is killer and always kicks in at the right moment of an action scene. It reminds me of sitting watching Power Rangers when the theme would kick in during a fight making the adrenaline start pumping. It’s the exact same thing here. There are also thoughtful moments in the series and these are again perfectly scored. Actually, there isn’t a scene in the series in where I found the the music jarring or distracting, it only makes everything better.
Honestly, I could wax lyrical about this series to the point where it makes you not want to watch it, so I will stop while I’m (hopefully) ahead. However, before I do there is one key thing that came out of this whole series for me and what sets Saitama above other overpowered characters. This series wouldn’t be half as good without him in it, unlike, say, Justice League without Superman.
Overall Score: 6/5 (Yeah, I don’t care, its that good)
You can watch the entire series of One Punch Man on daisuku.net for FREE. All you have to do it create a log-in and, once an episode, watch a 15-30 sec advert. What are you waiting for?
The writer of this piece was: David Gladman
David Tweets from @the_gladrags