Let's go back a few years. 2015 was a mediocre year for anime. Only a handful of titles were really good, with lots of the "best of" rewards going to a select few, or to second/third seasons of an ongoing anime (like JoJo), or even to anime that started airing in 2014 (Like Shirobako and Your Lie in April).
The few new titles that ended up being above average were Assassination Classroom, Food Wars, Death Parade... and obviously the phenomenon called One Punch Man.
And One Punch Man truly was thé hype anime of 2015. It only took one episode until people started loving it and started jumping on the hype train.
So let's get back to this one and review it properly.
V Reviews - One Punch Man Season 1
Backstory? The Dream of EVERY webcomic artist ever
The story of web artist turned mangaka "ONE"is truly is a Hollywood story of how a Japanese guy making web comics somehow created one of thé hypes of both 2015 and 2016 (and if Season 2 of OPM is any good, then even 2017!).
Lots of people like to draw comics and many of them publish those comics on the internet. And you can call yourself pretty good if a few thousand people are reading your stuff on a daily/weekly basis. You can call yourself amazing if you end up having a million readers or more, let alone do that for several years ongoing.
But how did a webcomic like One Punch Man slide under our radar for so long? Well, it's the same reason why so many other great comics (both on the web and on paper) slide under the internet radar: it's in the author's native language instead of English. In this case thus: Japanese.
To give an indication of how popular it got in Japan: The web comic got launched in 2009 and after the peak of its first hype (back in June 2012), the site already passed 7.9 million hits... from a limited audience that can read Japanese. It's a number that many comic creators can only dream of, even if publishing in English. And that was only the beginning.
In 2012, Eyeshield 21 mangaka Yusuke Murata was looking for a new hit after his Eyeshield manga ended and his next attempts all "misfired". Let's put it like this. He's an amazing artist, but his storytelling skills are... ehhh....
After reading the One Punch Man web-comic Yusuke contacted the web comic creator with the pen-name "ONE". They started collaborating and made a few one shots. And after they figured out they could work well together, Yusuke started creating a manga variant of the One Punch Man web comic. Same story, but with actual top-quality graphics. It got quickly published in Shueisha's Weekly Young Magazine online edition and it became an instant hit.
After that, it quickly got picked up by Viz for an English release and in 2015 it was picked up for an anime release as well. And from that point onward, more and more people were looking at the series for the first time and started falling in love with it.
So now, there's a 12-episode series, a special, a 6-episode OVA which was included on each DVD release and a second season in the making. So the hype-train is once again set on full force!
On a side-note, if you want to read the original (crude) web comic, you can visit ONE's original website: galaxyheavyblow.web.fc2.com
Saitama is a jobless guy who took it upon himself to train his ass off to become a hero. And after three years of intense workout (so intense he lost ALL of his hair), he somehow obtained godlike powers.
Saitama is suddenly able to take enemies out with One single Punch. What does he do with those powers? Nothing, really... He had hoped to become a superhero, but forgot a few of the basic steps to become a registered superhero (you know, like actually trying to register).
He does fight the monsters in his neighborhood. But since he can take them out in one punch, the fights usually bore him.
After being annoyed by a mosquito and trying to kill every single musquito he sees, he encounters and incidentally saves the Cyborg Genos.
Genos is so impressed by Saitama's powers that he instantly wants to become his apprentice. And while Saitama is initially opposed to the idea of him being a mentor (he doesn't see himself as very special), he's convinced pretty quickly when Genos suggests he will cover the rent for their apartment.
Together they have a mission (somewhat) to turn Saitama into a registered, popular and respected hero.
The entire show has a "Monster of the week" formula in terms of storytelling, but the ongoing story of Saitama's journey to become a respected hero while being overshadowed by Genos. And boy, the dark comedy that's layered all throughout the series, make it very enjoyable to watch and keep watching.
CharactersWhile there are lots of minor characters in this series, the following can be counted as the main cast:
|Saitama: The hero of the story. If you need to cut this character open, you'll see pieces of Luffy (One piece), Gintoki (Gintama) and even Takashi Kamiyama (Cromartie High School). Overall an interesting character who can act very weird and lazy at one moment, jealous and greedy at other moments, but heroic when needed.|
|Genos: The lone survivor of a brutal assault by a crazy cyborg. Became a full-body cyborg himself to get revenge. But when faced with Saitama's power, he decided to become his apprentice to become a better man himself. Gets (partially) destroyed a few times throughout the series, but due to him being a cyborg he's restored (and upgraded) prety easily.|
|Speed-o-Sound Sonic: The Redundant redundancy ninja. Is an assassin/bodyguard for hire and the most recurring antagonist of the show. He has a fixation on killing Saitama, but is obviously unable to do so. Watching Sonic and Saitama interact is like watching the Roadrunner cartoons with the roles switched around (which is actually just as hilarious to watch).|
|Mumen Rider: A parody on Kamen Rider. Is a guy with a bike who tries to save people. He somehow always shows up where Saitama is saving the day and sometimes even gets credit for the work that Saitama does. Though all in all, he's just a nice guy!|
|Bang: The Martial arts master. The third ranked S-class hero and one of the first who sees through Saitama and recognizes his immense power. He wants Saitama to inherit his martial artist "school", but he obviously doesn't feel like it.|
Art and Animation
You know that animation can either make or break a good anime series. But goddammit, they REALLY nailed it with this one. Studio Madhouse has taken the license for the anime (a name that is a quality label by itself).
But if you hear people say One Punch Man is more of a Bones anime than a Madhouse anime, that's mostly due to Madhouse getting in contact with Bones regular "Shingo Natsume" and his book of talented (freelance) animators. Shueisha and Madhouse wanted top notch animation and absolutely wanted Shingo on this, since he has become a brand name by itself (animating/directing series like Welcome to the NHK, Ikki Tousen, Guren Lagann, Space Dandy and others).
And you see throughout the series that this has been directed by somebody who has been an animator for his entire career and can communicate very well with his fellow animators. The show flows really well and there are some animation elements visible from Guren Lagann and Welcome to the NHK).
On a side-node. If you want to know more about Shingo and his book of animators, Youtuber The Canipa effect did a two-parter focusing on the animation of One Punch Man. Go watch part one and part two here. Go give it a watch. He deserves it!
The soundtrack sounds good, but it's really the Opening song ("The Hero" by The Jam Project)that stands out!
There's only a limited number of Opening songs I'm willing to let play without pushing the "skip" button on my media player, but this is certainly one of them. A song clearly made for the show, but it's full of power and invites to sing (or yell) along.
Personal opinion and conclusion
In a year that was overall pretty mediocre, this is the one show that rose above it all and ranked in the highest position for many best-of-the-year lists (including mine). This is an amazing show I've loved watching from beginning to end without breaks and has lived up to its hype.
Is it for everyone? Probably not. This is and remains a somewhat dark comedy with superheroes and monsters. It's seinen by nature. So if you're not into hero shows, or if you're more into lighthearted and moe-type animes, you probably won't like this as much. But it's a must-see for everyone else!
My score: 9.5/10: Near perfect! Can't wait for what Season 2 brings this coming fall.
On a side-note: This review came out nearly two years too late...
Yeah, um... I have to apologize for this review. This is a review that has been sitting on my "to do list" since 2015. This has been fully written and was supposed to be published after my Fate Stay Night review and my Ghost in the Shell Arise review (which is also still in "concept mode" on this blog).
But due to season two being in the works and an upcoming review for Mob, I wanted to get this out of the way first.
So next review is Mob Psycho 100. Until then, V out.