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With a title like One Punch Man, it’s easy to figure out what the premise of the show is going to be. We have a hero who can defeat his opponents with only a single punch. The joke of this is that because he’s so strong, he finds fighting boring and is constantly looking for someone to challenge him. With the benefit of Madhouse animating this series, it certainly allows for a lot of visual spectacle and fun. While One Punch Man definitely has a lot of technical flair, what makes the show a letdown is its reliance one a single joke.
Minor spoilers below
While the premise of One Punch Man is a big draw for most people, the show’s biggest achievement is its animation. In a “Monster of the Week” format, we see various creatures invading Japan. There is a clear variety of monsters throughout the show, and the gravity of the situation is clear. Even the various heroes that are presented have the same sense of variety. Whether they have psychic powers, rely on cybernetic enhancements, or can ride a bike really well, each of these heroes feel like their own distinct character.
The fight scenes are also very fluid. While most of the fights are finished with Saitama delivering his signature punch, it’s interesting to watch how we get to that point. It’s also good to see that each new opponent is more difficult to beat than the one from the previous episode. It allows for a sense of growth, and adds more impact to when we see the various heroes take them on.
That said, the biggest flaw in One Punch Man is that it has a lot of good ideas, but doesn’t execute any of them well. With Saitama wanting to find a worthy opponent, the joke becomes stale around the third episode, and it doesn’t evolve at all. When the idea of a hero registry comes up, it allows the story to explore different avenues and conflicts, but it feels underused, with its only purpose being to build up Saitama. The problem with that is when your main characters is already over-powered, there’s no need to build him up.
And going back to the monster fights, the audience knows that Saitama is going to come in and save the day in the end. While it is more about the way we got there, knowing how everything is going to end up lets go of any possible stakes or conflicts. Honestly, Saitama isn’t that well-developed of a character. We don’t need him to go through some explicit journey, but it would’ve been nice to get an understanding of who he is.
It’s clear that One Punch Man isn’t supposed to be anything deep. Complaining about the characters or lack of conflict is pretty useless because this show is not meant to be deep. At its heart, the show is a fun time waster, masquerading itself as a parody of modern superheroes. That much is clear to anyone who watches it; it’s just supposed to be something fun. While its story feels rather generic, the saving grace is the clear amount of effort and love that the creators put into the show.
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-Great animation by Madhouse
-Wide variety of heroes and villains
-Saitama is a dull character