What started as an amateur illustrated comic has developed into a widely popular manga and anime series. One Punch Man, created by Japanese author ONE, went viral shortly after its publication as a webcomic series, hitting more than 7.9 million views in June 2012. And its popularity is no surprise, upon realizing how uniquely One Punch Man portrays itself. This show gives me everything I want out of an action anime with a side of goofy humor.
Warning: background spoilers ahead. One Punch Man follows Saitama, a guy who is a hero for fun, and his cyborg disciple Genos, who strives to become just as strong. True to the series’ name, Saitama possesses the strength to destroy anything with a single punch, which, for him, turns out to be exceptionally boring—and that’s what makes it funny. In any other universe—for example, Dragonball Z or Naruto—possessing extraordinary strength would be exciting for any of the characters. But for Saitama, three years of easily defeating monsters has become mundane.
When conflict appears, Genos and Saitama rush to the scene. Genos always fights first and ends up a punching bag. Then Saitama steps in. There’s no time for long, drawn out dialogue; enemies transform or perform their finishing moves upon realizing his strength. After a short, fast paced fight scene, Saitama winds up and throws a single punch to save the day.
The entire theme of the show is unique. Compared to other anime protagonists, who struggle to become the best, Saitama is already the best. The workout that pushed him to greatness isn’t even that strenuous, relative to what other characters undergo. All he does is 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, and 100 squats, followed by a 10 kilometer run every day; this routine is just regular strength training. Additionally, while most of these heroes, such as Goku and Naruto, are recognized in their universes, Saitama is not. In fact, while many of the other heroes in One Punch Man have fan clubs, Saitama isn’t even recognized on the street. The series is entertaining because it pokes fun at traditional character tropes and plots other series possess.
What really strikes me is that Saitama lives an average life. In his free time, he watches TV or reads manga; before dinner, he buys groceries from the market. His three-room apartment does not even have a bed. Sometimes, he’ll go out to eat at a sit-down restaurant, but then realizes he only has enough money for a small side of fries. When a monster is reported on the news, Saitama responds with a, “I guess I’ll go.”
One Punch Man single-handedly reignited my interest in anime, for better or for worse. I have never seen anything like it; between its goofy premise and epic fight scenes, the show places itself as my favorite anime of all time. If you haven’t watched it yet, I suggest you start with the first episode; it does a great job introducing the series.