One Punch Man (Cert 15)
2 Discs Blu-ray/3 Discs DVD (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running Time: 292 Minutes Approx.
Being a superhero must be great all told. The public adulation, the satisfaction of fighting for what is right and of course, possessing incredible powers that afford you the ability of flight, immense strength, speed, x-ray vision, invisibility and who knows what else. What’s not to love, right?
Actually there is someone finding the life of a hero a bit of a bore. His name is Saitama a regular human whose abilities all self-created, not from alien sources, radiation or computerised suits. Saitama simply adhered to a rigorous training schedule of 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, 100 press-ups and a 10KM run every day, come rain or shine.
This made so Saitama ridiculously strong and fast he can defeat any opponent, no matter what size, with just one single punch. Again for most people that would be cool but for Saitama this means boredom. Where’s the challenge if everyone is so easily defeated?
It hardly sounds like the recipe for a thrilling superhero adventure, even one that sets out its satirical and irreverent intent from the onset, but One Punch Man has it all. Created by the pseudonymous and mononymous ONE, Saitama first appeared in a web comic, its popular leading to the inevitable transition to manga and anime.
Crime fighting heroes, or at least the Japanese interpretation of them, have been subject to spoofing in anime before in titles such as Tiger & Bunny and Samurai Flamenco, but One Punch Man stands out through its overt comic leanings while the other two shows relied on more subtle humour.
Saitama may have the hero costume complete with the cape but he stands out because of his bald head, the intensity of his training causing his hair to fall out, thus the few people who recognise him refuse to take him seriously. In one episode when a group of bald headed troublemakers run riot across town, Saitama is mistaken for one of them, until of course he sorts them out.
Taking place in City Z, there appears to be a lot of otherworldly monsters and super-powered humans running amok, either to gain power or just through malicious intent. From fish people, to subterranean beasts, from mosquito women to ninjas, Saitama and the other heroes have their work cut out for them. Other heroes? Ah yes, that is another thing – Saitama is not alone in fighting crime, his peers being an equally disparate motley crew of whacky characters.
In episode two, Saitama gains a disciple in cyborg Genos, who is extremely powerful in his right but is in awe of Saitama. Yet as heroes, neither is known to the public because they haven’t signed up with the Hero Registry thus operating outside of widespread attention. After taking the exams however, Genos is ranked higher than Saitama, scoring a special S Class while Saitama is a lowly C Class.
As mentioned earlier, Saitama is playing superhero for fun although his nonchalant, almost disinterested attitude belies this, irritating his enemies more by thinking about what to have for tea than his destructive single blow victories. For the audience however this provides plenty of amusement as the bemused slap head deadpans his monstrous opponents.
Part of the appeal of Saitama is the human aspect of his personality which isn’t milked for drama purposes as in Tiger & Bunny, but is played for pathos. There is no real ego involved, although he does seem to be bothered by the lack of public appreciation and low ranking in the Hero Registry. Generally, he is a regular guy who knows he can save lives and just does it.
This extends to many of his fellow heroes, in particular the Cyclist of Justice Mumen Rider, who, as his name implies, travels everywhere by bicycle. Sadly he is as effective as a chocolate fireguard but again, it provides some very funny moments. Others are extravagant and gregarious characters, like jail bird Puri-Puri Prisoner, a hulking brute of a man who just happens to be gay, and whose ultimate form sees his clothes fall off!
It’s all good fun and never actually vulgar, but the humour gradually dissipates in the final few episodes and becomes rather dark in tone. When the Sea King leads his army of aqua marine beasts onto the land to kill the humans he proves to be not just formidable opposition but almost indestructible too.
With ordinary lives under threat heroes from across the country are summoned to fight off the Sea Folk but in the process many of them suffer severe injuries and there are even a few fatalities, not to mention civilian casualties as well. Since humour is difficult to sustain a series one could sense a serious tone building up in the preceding episodes, making it less of a shock when the laughs eventually die down.
Even at the height of its silliness there is a lot of violence in this show, with limbs being ripped off and heads being severed, but it feels cartoony in this context; in this arc with the Sea Folk, it takes on a much darker meaning and it hits home just how much people do sacrifice of themselves to provide safety and protection for others. In lieu of recent situations here in the UK, this unintentionally reads as a handy parable to heed.
Studio Madhouse is on animation duty, embracing the zany and surreal elements of the humour with the same verve as the impeccable backgrounds and set pieces. Saitama is the only cast member to look “non-anime” while some of the villains resemble Piccolo from Dragonball Z. The monsters and heroes range from the grotesque to the inventive all brought to life through fluid animation.
It’s rare to find a spoof series that is capable of building on what is essentially a one note joke to deliver a well rounded, consistently funny and action packed show like One Punch Man, whilst revealing hidden depths when it needs to. A genuine knockout series!
English Language 2.0 DTS-HD MA
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS-HD MA
Disc 1 (Blu-ray):
Interview with Chikashi Kubota
Clean Opening Animation
Disc 2 (Blu-ray):
Let’s Meet JAM Project
Clean Ending Animation
Limited Collector’s Edition
Exclusive Rigid Box
Rating – **** ½
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