Manga and anime are known for their filler. From my youth, I can still remember the absurdity of Goku and Frieza fighting for 20 episodes, when in the Dragon Ball universe only 5 minutes had passed. One Punch Man is a shōnen manga that plays on this critique to a hilarious degree. I’ve jumped in and read the first four volumes to let you know if One Punch Man worth reading?
Hero for fun!
Set in a Tokyo slightly different from ours, One Punch Man (OPM) follows the day-to-day life of Saitama. At the end of his rope after losing his job, Saitama is confronted by an evil crab creature who threatens to kill him. Upon hearing how pathetic Saitama’s life is, the Crabman decides to let Saitama go and find prey worthy of hunting. Later in the day, the crab monster comes across a young boy, who earlier made fun of him by drawing nipples on his chest with a permanent marker. The crab attacks in a fit of rage. Only to be stopped by a trembling Saitama. The weakling realises that this is his chance. Losing his job was not a bad thing but an opportunity. An opportunity to be a hero, but just for fun.
Three years of tedious and painful training follow until Saitama’s hair falls out and he becomes the choicest hero-for-fun he can be. The trouble is, he’s gotten too good. His training was so rigorous and so severe that he defeats all of his enemies with just one simple punch. So now we have the question: what does a hero do when he’s so powerful he can beat anything with one punch? Well, he goes shopping, of course!
Bigger and badder enemies
Part of OMP’s charm and humour is that you know the outcome of every fight before it happens. Author ‘One’ knows you know this, and plays on it consistently. Each new enemy that introduced is bigger and better than the last. Their plans are more evil, and they easily fight their way through the supporting cast of characters to almost world domination. Then Saitama comes along and pulverises them with one punch, and the loop continues.
Boring, you say? Well, it simply isn’t. Each new hero and enemy introduced are just so different from each other. It’s not like franchises like Dragonball, where each new protagonist is an eviler version of the last one. Each enemy here feels unique, getting you invested in their plan. They talk, and talk, and talk with fallen heroes at their feet. Most of the books build up how evil they are, telling you that no one can stop them. Then with comedic timing, Saitama comes and knocks them out. I think it’s hilarious.
Sub-plots do play a roll in the books. Saitama takes on an apprentice Genos, a cyborg that looks like he should be in a K-Pop band. Together, master and apprentice sign up for the Hero Register, as Saitama is concerned that he has saved the world countless times, but no one knows who he is. So there is some narrative meat on the bones of the ‘he kills enemies in one punch’ premise. Nevertheless, I find the premise so funny, and it’s by far my favourite quirk of the manga.
The art by Yusuke Murata looks excellent. I especially like how Murata portrays movement in his art. Most of the panels are fight sequences. Murata uses fine line work expertly to make characters look like they are punching and moving incredibly fast. Additionally, his final blow shots blow me away (see what I did there). They’re always so raw and direct, showing us the reader just how powerful Saitama’s punch is, as he vaporises a monster with the flick of his wrist.
Saitama’s ‘simple’ face and what I call his ‘game’ face are always fun to notice in the books too. His simple egg face is when he’s relaxed or bored. It looks incredibly cartoony compared to the rest of the characters in the book. It suits his Homer Simpson like mannerisms well. His ‘game face’ is when he feels challenged in battle. He becomes more severe and human-like, flourishing in the thought that maybe this enemy will give his enough of a challenge to use two punches instead of just one.
The change in faces always keeps you on your toes and makes Saitama feel like two characters. The first is the happy-go-lucky idiot, and the second is the serious world-saving warrior. It almost reminds me of Goku’s split personality.
Is One Punch Man Worth Reading?
One Punch Man is the first manga series I’ve ever got into, and I think if you’re a budding manga fan like me, One Punch Man is a great place to start! It’s funny, doesn’t take itself too seriously and in the first four volumes has managed to keep my attention. It’s a perfect helper for me as I watch the anime in German and read the books in English! Yes, One Punch Man is worth reading!