Volume Count: 3 (ongoing)
One Punch Man is a superhero comic, a genre I’ve never really got on with. Thankfully One Punch Man falls into that category of superhero comic that fully realises how silly the whole superhero idea is. It tells the story of Saitama, a man who trained so hard at becoming a superhero that he became really strong. So strong that he ends every single fight in a single punch.
The central joke to One Punch Man is that Saitama is so powerful that he’s bored. Nothing poses a threat to him anymore so he just sort of wanders through life in a mild unimpressed sulk. He shows up on the scene of the crime a little bit late because sure what’s the rush anyway, listens to the villain blabber on about how they are the strongest for a bit, before eventually getting tired of that and punching them through the nearest wall.
Just having Saitama show up and punch dudes in the face would get old pretty quickly. What makes it click as a joke is how unassuming he is. His superpower didn’t come from magical beings or being rich or anything. He just did lots of push-ups and sit-ups. He’s a bit of a loser really. His superhero costume is a yellow jumpsuit and red kitchen gloves. He looks like a man play-acting superhero, which is kind of what he is doing. Plus he just looks silly, with his blank bored expression and bald head, which is why it’s just inherently funny to see him surprise these superpowered hyper-evolved beings with that big dopey face of his and immense strength.
That’s…sort of it. For something that has been getting as much praise heaped on it as One Punch Man has, I’m surprised at how little there was to it. It feels like a Saturday morning kids cartoon, having more in common with Powerpuff Girls than anything else. Not a bad thing, but still rather shallow and hard to get invested in. It’s difficult to care about anything that happens when there’s no tension. Because Saitama is so ridiculously overpowered, none of the fights have any doubt about what the final result will be. The author tried to introduce some challenge for Saitama to overcome by introducing the superhero levelling system, but Saitama is so lackadaisical about life that if he can’t bring himself to really care about events, then neither can I.
There’s only 3 volumes out at time of writing, but you’ll breeze through that in barely more than an hour. There’s very little dialogue and most of the jokes are visual anyway. The artwork is pretty great. The over-designed villains and other superheroes fit with the theme the story is going for. Everyone else looks like majestic beings of frightening power and destruction, while Saitama just looks like some prat in his pajamas. But it does have a tendency to get repetitive. Yes it was hilarious the first time 10 pages in a row were double spreads of the camera swooping around Saitama as his enemy encircled him. But repeat that once every few chapters and it loses its effect. There was one chapter that consisted almost entirely of the cyborg character doing a transformation sequence on his arm to unleash its super charger laser. I appreciate the sentiment of over-dramatising what everyone does, but it loses its effect when you do it too often.
One Punch Man is very easy to like, but its shallowness and speed at which you’ll fly through it makes it feel like real throwaway entertainment. The only thing that really stuck with me is the burning question of what would happen in Saitama punched himself in the face.