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Casual Review of One Punch Man

One Punch Man is an anime that probably everyone who stumbles across this article either already knows about or already has seen. It’s pretty popular, and it debuted in 2015, to pretty solid reviews. Heck, its first season has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes at this very moment. That’s ridiculous.

So inevitably, a friend of mine watched it and urged me to watch it, and then my brother watched it, and urged me to watch it, and then the be a homebody order came in so I’ve been a homebody for a while, and yaddah yaddah, look at that, I have all this time to watch shows! One night, my brother and I were wondering what show we should watch, and I said, “well, I never finished One Punch Man”, and he said, “oh hey, that works out, I never saw season two.” Well, guess what we did?

I’ll admit that my viewing was unorthodox. It turns out that I watched all but the final three episodes of season one long ago, but seeing as the last three episodes are final climactic huzzah of season one, I wanted a bit of a refresher to get into the mood. So we started by watching the Sea King arc, two episodes before. And you know what? It was good. I was never amazingly taken with the show, and it didn’t make me smile or laugh so much, but the animation was particularly impressive (reminded me of some of my favorite moments from Kill la Kill) and I really enjoyed how very… what’s the opposite of taking yourself seriously? I guess it took itself silly, heheh. Puri Puri Prisoner, the really stupid faces they give all the higherups in the Hero Association; it really feels like the show is designed just to have fun with itself, and that’s something I greatly respect (and want to see more of)!

Before watching, the main thing that made me uninterested in the show is that Saitama, the titular One Punch Man, can, as is in his name, defeat anything in one punch. I thought it wouldn’t be very interesting to watch. Well… you don’t really watch it for him. Honestly, you watch the show for everyone around him. Genos, Mumen Rider, all the B list superheroes (quite literally, the Hero Association ranks their heroes and there are “B class” heroes), who have to face up against the monster before Saitama arrives and saves the day. Really, the format of the show is to have Saitama become somehow distracted by something else — often, in season two, this “something else” is just his own apathy — and then have all the other heroes go through the trouble of roughing up the bad guy before ultimately being incapacitated (but never killed) through battle.

Then, when Saitama does arrive, the bad guy does their evil monologue (perhaps for the fourth or fifth time), and the big evil tries to beat up Saitama while somehow being totally unaware that Saitama is clearly not taking any damage. It’s fun and funny for the first couple of times. It becomes old.

However, for the very episodic season one, it works. The show’s just about monsters showing up, flashy fight scenes, and then monsters being ultimately taken out by One Punch Man. (Another step to this formula is that Saitama never gets the credit for taking out bad guys, so no one ever recognizes him as the strongest human alive except for Genos, and a couple more in season two.) The final fight in season one is one of the best animated fight scenes I have seen in all of anime. Seriously. And if that’s all you’re looking for, season one is for you! I do recommend it, and it’s on Netflix, so go watch it if you haven’t already.

But… you may have noticed how I have been leaving out season two. Yes, there is a season two, and it’s not… as… good. The first four episodes are actually so good, that I was expecting to like season two more than season one! It looked, to me, like they were going to start doing an ongoing plotline, really developing the relationships between heroes, and maybe they were even gonna get Saitama to start ascending through the ranks (he’s a B class hero at the end of season one). However, it was terribly long-winded and started taking itself much too seriously. The best parts of this season are Genos, the brief fight scene with Watchdog Man, the sense of humor (which seemed to make me laugh more than in season one), and the introduction of King who is the complete opposite of One Punch Man.

However, this season started to take itself too seriously. I couldn’t care about any of the characters because we already had a full season prior where it was established that this whole series was just for the giggles and the flashy fight scenes. In this season, it started trying to be a show about what it truly means to be a good guy, in the pursuit of which it created a bad guy that it really, really wants you to empathize with, and… these aren’t bad ideas, but it’s total whiplash from the tone set for the series, and it’s not done very well in my opinion. It feels like the same budget that went into the fight scenes for the first season wasn’t here, and that meant that they filled the time with others easier to animate things, such as sudden flashbacks that interrupt the action.

In a similar vein, at least in the first season, Saitama was distracted by doing other hero stuff, in this one he has no actual reason to not be on the front lines except that he wants to play videogames with King. For a show called One Punch Man, he takes an annoying amount of downtime in this second season. He starts feeling like a side-character in his own show. It was bothersome. Plus, there was no climactic battle to this season. Not really. In the first, Saitama goes up against someone who he actually has to deal with. In this, we return to his name; it takes just one punch, and then the season is over with. It’s very anticlimactic. Honestly, I’m not feeling like returning for season three. But season one?

While I wouldn’t call it 100% like Rotten Tomatoes does, season one is worth your time for sure. It fills the same role as going to watch the newest superhero movie — mindless action for your viewing pleasure.

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