By Gwynn Van Houten
Think of every action-packed series you’ve ever watched. Most of them are a little similar, aren’t they? Through trial and tribulation, loss and sacrifice, the main character grows and gradually develops to become the strongest they can. He or she encounters foes that grow in strength as well, all leading up to that epic final battle. Especially in anime, these battles between good and evil are elaborate and often last at least several minutes, as the two sides become locked in an intense dance of death in which the outcome isn’t obvious.
But one series dares to ask, “What would it be like if the hero were too strong?”
Enter Saitama, the bald protagonist of the series One-Punch Man, an otherwise plain young man who often finds himself bored out of his wits because his battles with even the most apocalyptic forces are over in just one punch. In his largely unfruitful search for stronger foes, Saitama has grown extremely nonchalant and is often humorously unfazed by danger, worrying about a new sale or what to have for dinner when others would be fearing for their lives.
One-Punch Man is a parody of other series, mocking the way characters act in a typical action story. For instance, when a mad scientist asks Saitama how he became so strong over the course of just three years, Saitama proudly responds, “100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and a 10 kilometer run every day!” instead of supernatural forces or bionic surgery which have both become standard in the genre. He doesn’t appear to have a tragic backstory either, unless you’d count a series of unsuccessful job interviews.
But while meant to be comedic, that’s not to say that the fights aren’t exciting. Even if they’re over all too soon, the scale of each encounter is a sight to behold, especially with Saitama being rather average in stature. The other superhumans that make up the cast, many of them being some sort of archetype (a cyborg, a ninja, an elderly martial arts master) or gag (a cyclist who’s extremely passionate about justice despite having no apparent abilities), are entertaining as well and add variety to each new situation.
The series began as a webcomic in 2009 by the pseudonymous ONE, and since 2012 has been redrawn by Yusuke Murata, the talented illustrator behind American football manga Eyeshield 21. An anime adaptation began in early October of this year, produced by the famous MADHOUSE Inc. (Death Note, Ace of Diamond, Parasyte, Hunter x Hunter). The show’s stunning, fluid animation and energetic soundtrack make it one of the hottest series of the season.