18 CommentsManga Driver / By Scamp /

Manga Driver: One Punch Man

one punch man

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.

Onepunch-Man v02 c14 - 155

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.

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  1. gedata
    Posted May 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    It’s a shame that One-Punch Man’s comedy didn’t quite click with me in the five chapters I read. I’ll give it another shot though. I’d be interested in seeing this animated now that I think about it, it would probably do well with those super short episodic vignettes.

    On an unrelated note, what are your impressions on REAL and 20th Century Boys?

    • Scamp
      Posted May 18, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      REAL is my next review going up. 20th Century Boys I’m slowly collecting the manga, so don’t expect to see a review of that go up anytime soon

  2. Langer
    Posted May 16, 2013 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    If you look around, you can find gif versions of those frame by frame pages…looks pretty good when they’re put together


    • Scamp
      Posted May 18, 2013 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      That’s pretty awesome. Love to see that in animated form

  3. Kiseki
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 1:46 am | Permalink

    It probably wouldn’t be so popular without Murata’s art…

    I know people who adore Onepunch Man (arteest friendsssss) but I have such a hard time reading it when there’s nothing going for it except for the art and novelty… orz

    • TheVoid
      Posted May 17, 2013 at 4:39 am | Permalink

      From what I’ve heard the Japanese webcomic it’s based on was pretty popular, it just got even more popular after Murata started adapting it as a manga.

  4. Posted May 17, 2013 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    If you like this notion of an extremely overpowered main character, maybe you should look at Saiki Kusuo no Ψ Nan ( http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=78019 )

    There are only 8 chapters out, but it is kind of interesting.

    Essentially, the MC is strong enough to eradicate the planet but he hides his powers and tries to live a normal life (so Slice of Lif-ish).

    I just really like how apathetic he is because there is no one operating on the same wavelength as him.

  5. Hanasra
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    Have yet to read Onepunch Man, but from manga page/panel that my friends like to shared, all I could said that the artwork is really neat. Well, I can’t wait for your piece on Vinland Saga.

  6. TheVoid
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    I think Murata does the over dramatizing bits because he likes to do those, which I think also describes his work on the entire manga as well. chapter 30 is even going to be one hundred pages.

    I happen to like the other characters like Genos, who tries his hardest but can never win and is far more serious than Saitama.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 18, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      How does he have the time to draw all those double spreads? They’re friggen crazy detailed and are always drawn from different angles so it’s not rote copying either

      • TheVoid
        Posted May 19, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

        He sometimes works thirty hours straight when doing chapters and he’s even streamed himself doing it on the net along with doodles of OPM. Though he does take breaks.

        He even did some minor quests like making a small doodle of Genos in a apron while he cleans the bathroom.

  7. Posted May 17, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    I started writing a response and it started to turn into a essay, so I’ll save it for an actual blog post one day. So a (somewhat) shorter comment:
    I recently read the series on a whim and found the conflict to not be in the actual battles, but in the existential question of what is the point of it all. One Punch is living the dream: thanks to his dedicated hard work and selfless desire to protect everyone, he has become an invincible hero who saves thousands of lives on a weekly basis without ever breaking a sweat. He is the most successful person in human history, you could likely argue. If the series sticks to its premise, there will never be a villain who poses an actual threat to One Punch.
    This is what makes the series intriguing to me despite my general apathy toward the superhero and shounen fighter subgenres. We set lofty goals for ourselves and strive to achieve them, but will we actually feel fulfilled once we finally do? One Punch is success incarnate, but the general atmosphere of his life is a resounding “meh.” One Punch is the greatest of all heroes, but the city is still attacked and ravaged on a regular basis regardless. And in the end, the most banal of everyday issues–what the heck do I feel like scrounging up for dinner tonight–turns out to be One Punch’s biggest issue of the day. Mecha-Godzilla-Squid’s rampage that morning, meanwhile, becomes practically meaningless in comparison.
    There are a few different elements to this situation that lends a certain sadness to the whole series. What is it that defines One Punch, for example, other than the expectation that he will punch a few Mecha-Godzilla-Squids each week? And what is the final outcome for actually achieving the impossible in this world? Congratulations?

    • Scamp
      Posted May 18, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      I get that sometimes, but they really don’t lean on that idea much at all. The sense of apathy isn’t strong enough from Saitama for me to get invested in that side of the story. I’m not saying it should get super serious or anything, but they really only seem to be playing that side for jokes rather than lean on his apathy towards the whole process. If it was a question of what’s the point of this identity, they really need to focus on that side more. The introduction of the superhero levelling system shows that they’re really not that interested in delving into that side further

      • Posted May 18, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

        I agree the execution of the story’s themes is generally shaky at best, but I see the potential for the author to really dive in to it later on. On the other hand, I get the feeling he’s having way too much fun drawing ridiculous shounen attacks that last for 20 pages, so perhaps this is a case of an author getting distracted way too easily. X_X
        The author also seems to be trying to keep the protagonist from actually feeling *upset* about his situation, perhaps as that would make him emo and unlikeable. It’s a tricky situation authors tend to face

        The superhero leveling system is a plot element I’m not entirely certain how to analyze at this point. One Punch is trying to find something to do, some way to improve himself, and maybe some decent acknowledgement. I’m guessing this is an attempt to say something about society in general–e.g. how it’s apparently human nature to want to categorize everything and place every individual in a clearly-labeled box–and the most obvious piece of satire is that One Punch (far and away the greatest superhero) ends up in the mediocre C-rank… thanks to a poorly-written essay. From personal experience this seems to parallel the education and business worlds quite nicely–how often it is people end up focusing on the most extraneous qualities of an individual, rather than just watching him do the actual job for ten seconds and realizing he’s 100% perfect at fulfilling the given task. Our desire for perfect order in everything just makes things needlessly complicated, perhaps.
        Of course, I’m likely extrapolating more than the series really warrants at this point. But at least it has this premise to work with. It just remains to be seen if the author will find a good way to develop the protagonist in interesting, engaging ways.

      • Scamp
        Posted May 19, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        I did like that he ended up in C-rank too, although I wouldn’t go as far as you did with it. Yes it’s a clever joke about how arbitrary written testing can be in the real world and it does add some sort of challenge for Saitama. But it’s not part of a larger theme and just a single clever joke.

        But yes, it is also early days yet. It’s just if I’m getting a little tired of the premise already, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the material

  8. decadyn
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    OPM succeeds for me because its a shounen battle manga that’s actually fun. Yeah, it starts tongue in cheek but the side characters start taking up more of the time later rather than OPM. No angsty backstories, no overly long arcs, just a lot of ridiculous fighting with good art. Its more of an essentialization of what shounen should be than a straight parody. As a parody, you are right that it only has one joke and wears thin. But as a shounen, its good stuff.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 18, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      Not really? The backstories and angst actually adds the reason for me to care about the fights. That’s my main problem. For all the flashy artwork, I really don’t care about the events

  9. u wot m8
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    You could aways take a peek at the original webcomic version. Yes, the art may not compare to Murata’s adaptaion, but it has that ms paint charm to it. The running theme of classification, ranking & image/perception is also expanded on as it continues.

    It’s also miles ahead (guesstimate is that it’ll be about 2+ years before Murata’s will reach the current arc at his present speed). Plus, doesn’t have the pacing issues, like chapters where 80% of the panels are the individual frames of a gif.

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