WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!
When someone so stubbornly repeats he is just a hero for fun you ought to get curious – what the hell is he talking about? I watched the anime, One-Punch Man, without any expectations. I heard it was funny and that I’ll probably like it, so I gave it a go. I knew it was some sort of superhero anime, but not much else. One-Punch Man centers around Saitama, a super overpowered superhero and his unchallenging opponents. The superhero parody comic was first released back in 2009, but the anime is a lot more recent, airing in 2015. The best thing – second season is coming out this very year!
The plot goes something like this. We meet Saitama when he’s super down and depressed, not really caring what happens to him, as he seems to be unable to find a job and gets rejected at another job interview. Oh, dear, I can so relate to him on this! While walking back home he gets intercepted by a crab looking monster. Not caring what goes on around him, he is the only one not running away from it. The monster sees his dead eyes look and decides to let him go. As he continues walking home he sees the kid the monster was after and thinks to himself he shouldn’t get involved, but in the end gets involved anyway and saves the kid, killing the monster. This moment is the beginning of him becoming a hero for fun. The next time we see him he’s fighting more monsters and changes his appearance.
The planet has been under attack from some strange monster like creatures and thus was created the need for more superheroes. Saitama is the strongest hero in the story, his signature attack is one strong punch and the monsters are easily defeated or just explode when struck (this usually serves as a comedy moment). You might expect him to be happy about him being so strong and having no problems defeating monsters, however this is not the case. He has grown bored as he is invincible and beating opponents is no longer a challenge for him. While acting as a hero for fun he meets other heroes along the way as well. The second character that stands out the most in the One-Punch Man anime is cyborg Genos, who quite literally adores Saitama and everything he does. Eventually he becomes his desciple and together they join Hero Association, gaining official recognition as heroes, otherwise if you are a self proclaimed hero you’re really just some weirdo in spandex. Still, gaining respect is not easy for him and people look down on him because of his plain physical appearance. He is also accused of taking credit for hero work he hasn’t done.
In short, the strongest men alive, a superhero, battles all sorts of bizzare monsters, yet none of them can survive just one punch from him! This may sound like something that will quickly become repetitive and stale and that there’s no way you can develop a lasting story on this. But this anime does get a deeper note and instead of Saitama being all proud and satisfied, he only feels boredom. He has trained so hard, for three years he has been a hero and worked more than any other hero registered at Hero Association, even his hair has fallen out and he’s bald now. From this you may expect to watch quick, 5 seconds battles, but that never happens. Some of the fights seem quite like a close-run and they are never boring. The fights may appear a bit too heavy and gruesome, but thanks to the comedic timing and dialogs, the tone is kept light and somehow prevents the viewer from overthinking about all the yucky intestines flying around in every direction.
So why is this considered a comedy anime? Much of the humor actually comes from the sort of bizzare character designs. Especially the monsters are usually drawn in a manner that I as a viewer just couldn’t take them seriously – a monster with a car engine for a head, underpants wearing crab monster, over the top muscled sort of godzilla type monster and so on. Also, if you know a bit about Japan, their culture and lifestyle, you will probably get the references they have included – such as low birth-rate, boring office jobs and working hard politics. As for Saitama, it’s pretty clear that anything he says or does somehow ends up cracking me up and I enjoy the show a lot! Plus the way Genos sees Saitama is just pure gold, all the comments, inner monologues!
The first couple of episodes we can see Saitama in most extreme and overly exaggerated moments and soon he ends up with a hot looking cyborg Genos trailing him everywhere he goes. Genos wants to become stronger by becoming Saitamas desciple, even though he never wanted one in the first place. So there’s a start to a special friendship right there and the way Genos acts around Saitama is just heartwarming and funny at the same time. From the moment they both enroll in the Hero Association the story changes, it is no longer about the strongest men alive but a show demonstrating how flawed some systems can be, especially when talking about impersonalized ranking operations. The highlight here goes more in the direction of showing the flawed system and oppresion by the higher ranked heroes mistreating lower ranks, where Saitama ends up after his tests. It adds a bit of humor though, as Saitama, even though he is the strongest superhero ever, barely makes it in the assocciation and qualifys with the lowest result possible. Another parallel with the real world here – his test score determines his place in the ranks, not his abilities and all the good he has already done.
When Saitama is asked who he is and what is he doing, he always says he is just a hero for fun. This is funny by itself, as he actually also wants the recognition for all the heroic deeds he has done. He is quite frank, and his reactions to overdramatic statements of others are just hilarious. He should be named “Mr. Zero Fucks given ever”! The more elaborate and over the top the monsters and other heroes are the more unimpressed and bored he seems to be! It just doesn’t get any better than that!
A special bit for the music and animation is required here! Because I prefer metal and rock music I might have felt more at ease with the music, as it really uses some heavy guitar riffs and the whole vibe I get is of a mix of heavy metal with a too cool for monsters attitude. I really like the opening song Shindehai, as it gives such a kick and feels super upbeat and like yeah, I’m ready to kick some ass. The music here really fits the over-the-top action perfectly! The ending is quite a contrast, very calm and well, personally I find it boring. As for the animation – I loved the intro and the fight scenes so much! The facial expressions of Saitama and Genos are well done, they don’t need any other context to go with it. Especially interesting were the changes on Saitama’s face, from bored, pathetic to intense murder gaze! Saitama’s eyes change depending on a how a fight is going – when serious, the eyes are drawn in sharp detail and with intensity. When he’s bored they are drawn like tiny little wedges and it’s a brilliant way to communicate what’s going on to the viewer.
There are also references to other characters, for example the purple alien resembles Piccolo from Dragonball Z, Puri Puri Prisoner’s transformation makes me think of Sailor Moon, the Mumen rider resembles Kamen rider and the best one for me, the titan resembling Attack on Titan anime.
Anyway, is this worth your time? Definitely YES! It’s funny, it’s relaxing, it’s action and comedy in one, the animation is good and the vibe of the show is laid back and intense at the same time. It’s absurd and hillarious, perfect for anyone who feels like they need to switch to zero fucks given attitude!
Thanks for reading!
**All photos are screenshots of the anime, I do not own them or the rights to them.