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A One Punch Blog Entry

Aside from abandoning my earlier planned idea to go with three blogs (since I hardly update the one), about the only interesting thing that happened this week was that I watched the entire first (and only released) season of One Punch Man.
Like many brilliant animes, its secret lies in a subtlety that many viewers would not pick up upon.  It is rich in gloriously styled huge hero fights that would be welcome in anything in the vein of Fist Of The North Star, Dragonball Z, Jo Jo's Bizarre Adventure, etc.  However, despite the thrills and chills to be had in these incredible scenes, it is very much a parody work.

Our hero, Saitama, was basically just an out-of-his-luck unemployed man who was on his way home from another disappointing interview when he encountered one of the many horrible monster men who plague the many cities of his country.  Due to a silly prank performed by a young boy, this monster is on his way to destroy him.  At the last minute, Saitama intervenes, getting significantly pummeled for his efforts, but manages to defeat the monster.  He decides then and there to become a monster battling hero... as a fun hobby, if nothing else.

So Saitama engages in intense strength training for three years, working so hard that his hair fell out.  His resulting body doesn't look particularly impressive, much to the scorn of foes and potential allies alike.  But, as it turns out, he apparently did too good of a job training himself because he can now pretty much kill any foe of any size with one punch.

As a result, he is plagued with ennui, unable to find any excitement defeating monsters.  He gets more of an emotional reaction out of missing a half-off sale at the local grocery store than he does engaging in death battles with galactic threats that can level cities with a thought.  It is the core running joke of the series: all that power, and frustratingly little to do with it.  The only thing worse than facing an insurmountable challenge is a life where you are unable to find any challenge at all!
The subtle brilliance of the series comes from how Saitama interacts with the world around him.  He doesn't consider himself particularly special; while a little recognition would be nice, he's a pretty much putting down the bad guys because they're destroying that city and stopping them is just common sense.  Meanwhile, the heroes and villains around him are engaged in every bit of over-the-top drama to be found in any other major battle manga.  To him, they look silly.  To them, he looks sorely out of place, a joke, or even a scam.  Yet, Saitama is the one who has to routinely save the day because nobody else can or will, even if nobody believes he can, because it's just the right thing to do.  From time to time, he deliberately chooses to bear the brunt of public scorn if it's for the best.

There are those who complain that the fights in One Punch Man lack much drama because you know how it will end: one punch, it's over, Saitama wins.  But his fight against the forces of evil is not the point, it's actually a clever slice-of-life anime.  Its growing cast of characters (all of them deliberately more interesting than Saitama) is mostly a philosophical examination on how they fit into the construction of the larger-than-life hero:victim:villain paradigm.  Some heroes are celebrity hogs, some are relatively weak but courageous, others are villains in heroes' clothing, some come to be Saitama's friends, and the average person on the street does not seem to know the right way to treat anyone.  Yet, the monsters keep on coming, usually more ludicrously powerful than the last.

Throughout it all, Saitama represents sanity.  In an insane world, mere sanity can be hilarious, even poignant.  At many times, this anime is both, it's what makes it such a clever parody.  Between that and the highly entertaining battle scenes, I did not lose my time; One Punch Man was a really great watch.


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