Twitter friend @ recently brought to my attention an anime called One Punch Man. It looked a bit silly, but Toonami was running a marathon of the first 7 episodes, and the trailer piqued my interest.
Well I started watching it, and I’m sold.
I’ve never been a #serious anime fan; I remember watching Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon now and then as a kid. I like some of the Ghibli films and every once in a while someone will make me watch something that sticks, like Record of the Lodoss War (an anime based upon a D&D campaign).
Aside from often just being kind of weird, anime has a lot of tropes that grate – the coquettish, large-breasted teenage girls exclaiming “oni-san;” the whole “senpai notice me” thing; fear, pain, surprise, or conflicted feelings expressed by constipated whimpering; etc.
One anime that I used to watch was Keroro Gunsou, because I enjoyed how it made fun of itself and other, similar shows. Self-conscious anime can be a great thing.
One Punch Man falls into that same category – it makes fun of the genre. I’m only three episodes in, and so far the formula seems to be pretty static, yet brilliant.
We generally start off a story arc with something gravid and brooding; a city is being ravaged by a monster, usually. Or we’ll get a look at a mad villain’s backstory. Popular tropes are trotted out to be roasted, complete with gleefully over-the-top names and situations.
I’ve been watching the subtitled version so far, and unfortunately little jokes are sometimes lost. For example there’s a professor named “Kuseno.” In Japanese, this is kind of a pun. “Professor Kuseno” would mean something like “Shitty Professor.”
Still, even without those little gems, this show shines. Characters that would be “boss fights” or progressively stronger in other “fighting” anime shows are destroyed with single punches by our overpowered protagonist. Sometimes they don’t even get a word in.
This is especially effective when they’re fleshed out. We may get a giant-sized bad guy who was mutated by his mad scientist brother – the culmination of his quest for physical perfection. The two then set out to rule the world. Only to be squashed by the hero in an almost anticlimactic fashion. Sometimes the show hypes the baddie up so much that we wonder if One Punch Man may finally have met his match. But nope. Not so far, anyway.
The villains take themselves so seriously that it’s particularly delicious to see them destroyed so embarrassingly easily.
Bits of light dialogue and humorous pokes abound. This is often the result of One Punch Man’s boredom and the incredulity of allies and enemies at his revealed strength.
There are also all kinds of little jabs at the genre. For example, so far the cities are never properly named – it’s always City B or City D or some such, taking a swipe at how many shows will just devastate metropoli willy-nilly. Cities are good settings for epic showdowns, so it doesn’t really matter what they’re called or how many there are, does it?
Right now the show seems to be airing periodically on Cartoon Network. I haven’t seen it on Crunchy Roll or any *legitimate* subscription video service, though you can find less scrupulous sources online pretty easily.
Update: My friend is telling me it’s available on Hulu, so there ya go!
If you enjoy self-parodying anime or used to watch Dragon Ball or the like, you may want to check this one out. I’m loving it so far.