Published on November 12th, 2015 | by Maggie


The Story So Far: One Punch Man

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The following review covers the first two episodes and is spoiler-free.

It’s not a middle-aged Charlie Brown. It’s not an alternate Caillou universe. It’s One Punch Man. And it’s glorious.

The show is a meeting of styles. An anime with a heavy western influence, the story is presented as a superhero story with the humor and irony of a slice-of-life anime. We follow Saitama, an incredibly strong superhero on his day to day interactions with various enemies. His ability to destroy just about anything with one punch has rendered his life boring and monotonous as he struggles to hang on to his humanity and find motivation to keep going.

He deals with a wide variety of characters all serving as opportunities to mock comic tropes such as lengthy exposition, tragic backstories, and secret identities. Though OPM pokes fun at its own genre, it shows a loyalty and love to the art form as well. Saitama is unintentionally charming and funny. His deadpan expressions and monotonous voice contrast with the larger than life situations he finds himself in. His surprisingly simple backstory is refreshing and hilarious. OPM makes little attempt to make sense, which adds to the enjoyment of the whole experience.

The protagonist’s character design also clashes with his surroundings. No other character is designed anything like him. Though it’s not the first time I’ve seen something like this, it works well here. The show briefly touches on the subject of his appearance, but not in the way you’d expect.

The animation is impressive. The action sequences are thorough and kinetic. I’ve been told that the animation staff is an all-star lineup and it shows. Episode two’s boss fight has some breathtaking lighting and coloring. Despite the over-the-top action, exaggerated monster designs, and cartoonish physics, OPM is unexpectedly grounded. With Saitama serving as the central figure of the show, the ridiculousness that surrounds him comes off even more so. Some of the conventions we’ve come to accept in shows like Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon are ridiculous as ever. The show capitalizes on some of the cheesy cliches we’ve absorbed from years of media and throws it back in our faces while telling us a relatable story.

One Punch Man shares some similarities with Samurai Flamenco, another superhero anime. Both shows balance American and Japanese storytelling tropes. Both shows feature one grounded character and one not-so-grounded character. From the looks of episode two, the villains in either series have a similar setup going on. I’m interested to see how One Punch Man will differ from Flamenco, although there’s already differences within the first two episodes.

I hope the show doesn’t feel too episodic and starts introducing some overarching themes. There are a few opportunities to do so being presented early on, but it’s a bit soon to tell how integral these pieces will be in coming episodes.

One Punch Man is available on Hulu.

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