There are many Shounen-genre anime series with heroes who are trying to reach the pinnacle of their abilities. One Punch Man subverts the typical Shonen themes, while poking fun at comic book trope as a hero at the peak of his powers, bored at going unchallenged.
One Punch Man is set on a supercontinent Earth, beset by powerful monsters. In response to the frequency at which these monsters start appearing to threaten Earth’s cities, the government establishes the Hero Association. The organization employs vigilantes, of all sorts, to combat the destructive forces.
An unassociated Saitama, who hails from City Z, fights evil as a favorite pastime. Saitama has little trouble dispatching baddies, as he has trained himself to superhuman strength and is in a state of perpetual boredom, as he derives no challenge from his heroic tasks.
He is eventually convinced to become a member of the Hero Associate by Genos, a disciple that the hero reluctantly takes on. Genos wishes to get stronger, under the training of Saitama, as his main desire is to avenge his family, and hometown by killing the Cyborg who ruined his life. However, Saitama, who wishes to be a great hero, is given a low rank by the Hero Association, and many of his great feats go under the radar.
It isn’t until the Hero Association’s seer, Shibabawa gives a warning of a great evil before dying, that Saitama is given a shot at center stage. Shortly after they gather its operatives to a meeting, during which it divulges to the Heroes, Shibabawa’s dying vision.
Not long after those events, Earth is attacked by an extraterrestrial known as Boros. Members of the Hero Association combat Boros’ forces outside his ship, while Saitama goes onto the spacecraft and battles Boros, who takes not more than a single punch from Saitama before ultimately folding under the Hero’s might.
What Makes One Punch Man Stand Out?
Well, for one, how the the creator, ONE, merges and subverts themes typically found in the Shounen genre of Japanese manga and anime media, as well as the classic tropes that make up a great western comic book hero’s tale. The fact that Saitama is introduced, already at the peak of his strength, instead of the narrative being laid out as a chronicle of an underdog’s rise to greatness is the first thing that leaps out at the viewer.
The One Punch Man story also explores how a hero who has reached his peak would feel about never being able to test the limits of his abilities. Instead, it is his supporting characters, Genos, and Mumen Rider who seem to have their sights set on self improvement. Saitama is more concerned with attaining acclaim for his heroic deeds.
To really poke fun at comic book lore, the hero’s home city, City Z is constantly being destroyed by powerful invaders, and being rebuilt within a few days of the incidents. The members of the Hero Association will be seen discussing their potential to rank up depending on their performance, instead of worrying about the potential loss of lives.
What ties it all, so expertly, together is the show’s comedic element. It follows a lighthearted theme, and wonderfully designed action scenes, that really drive home the fact that the main character is really underwhelmed by all the action.
If you’re looking for a more typical anime, this isn’t the one for you. One Punch Man isn’t very hard to fall for, as it explores the less explored side of being an animated hero. It’s packed with comedic moments that make all that is going on seem very light, as the characters will blatantly ignore the villain’s monologue and have conversations of their own.
A great hang-out anime to watch with friends, or if you’re in the mood for something with less Shonin intensity. Overall, it ranks among some of the best series we’ve seen.