Saitama is a hero. Not that anybody seems to know it. He does not have a cool superhero name or flashy powers or a fan club. He is a regular-looking bald guy in a cape.
But he also happens to be the most powerful individual on the planet. Even if he cannot always afford his groceries.
One Punch Man is both a satire and a celebration of superhero stories and anime. It gently mocks the staples of the genre while also managing to be a damn good show in its own right.
The plot follows Saitama, a guy who is ‘a hero for fun’, as he looks to fight evil. The problem he has is that, no matter how threatening and impressive-seeming the opponent, he can always destroy them with a single punch. He has discovered that ultimate power leads to….well, boredom.
This is primarily played for laughs as various monsters – themselves often ridiculous piss-takes of supervillains – turn up and deliver great speeches on how they will conquer the world, only for an apathetic Saitama to lazily throw one blow and annihilate them.
The sneaky brilliance of One Punch Man, though, is that this never gets boring. The emphasis cleverly shifts to other elements, such as Genos, a powerful young cyborg who devotes himself to following Saitama to find out how to be as strong as him. This does not pan out too well as Saitama has no secret beyond “work out” and Genos finds himself doing things like using his rocket hands to dry the dishes in their flat.
The Hero Association is the local organisation for registering, paying and promoting the local heroes. Saitama and Genos try to join, resulting in Genos joining the highest tier of heroes while Saitama is left as the lowest of ‘Class C’. This means not only does he still go unrecognised, when he does destroy a monster he is seen as somehow cheating.
The show is also about the meaning of heroism. Saitama’s biggest sacrifice turns out to be his public image, while another lowly hero whose only superpower is, well, riding a bike, proves to be more heroic than any.
Deft, funny and surprisingly engaging, One Man Punch is a terrific series and ends with plenty of loose ends for future series.
The extras are primarily six OVAs, which are standalone filler episodes. Unfortunately, these are all pedestrian and slight. There is also an interview with some of the makers of the series, both the English language and original Japanese versions, and they espouse on the themes of the show.