At this point, there’s no doubt in my mind that One-Punch man has style, but the more pressing concern is about whether it has substance. Four episodes in, and I think the show has kind of plateaued a bit, even if it is still consistently entertaining and an absolute marvel to gawk at. One-Punch man is a pretty series, and its got a ton of interesting characters and twists on the classic shounen, superhero and action tropes.
Its got all of that and its great but… I think the magic is starting to wear off a bit. I think its similar to how Kill la Kill, a show with over the top action, a bizzare sense of humor and a pretty intriguing premise, just kind of petered out after 3 episodes. Granted, I don’t think we’re there yet, but I do think that One-Punch Man is starting to become predictable.
This week has the introduction of two characters, although only one of them is important. We have a brief meeting with Mumen the Rider (a clear riff off of the popular Kamen Rider franchise), and we’ve also got Sonic, which the show describes as a modern Ninja. You can imagine where this is going…
Sonic (much like a certain video game hedgehog) has super speed, and a ton of flashy cool attacks. These moves, the super-speed and Ninja attacks are another great opportunity for Madhouse to flex those amazing animation muscles of theirs. Sonic’s opponent in the episode is a character in a power-suit who calls himself “HammerHead” (I hope Marvel comics doesn’t sue for copyright infringment there! XD).
Hammerhead bares little likeness to the Spider-Man villain though, and is pretty one-dimensional. Like most antagonists in the show, he’s got little brains, a lot of brawn and is kind of an idiot that just wants to wreck havoc. The guy’s reason for doing what he’s doing is because he feels that society is unfair, in that the rich get richer while the poor starve and die. Its kind of shocking how relevant this is, not just in Japan, where the youth is clearly having problems assimilating into the work force, but even here in the west.
And just in case you thought that One-Punch Man wasn’t intentionally poking Western issues, there’s a Rich tycoon who’s pretty much a stand in for Donal Trump, complete with a building that has his symbol on it. The jabs at Trump are about as subtle as One-Punch Man generally is (i.e not at all). The character in question, “Mr.Zeniru” owns a huge building, with a golden turd on top of it, clearly an analogue to Trump Tower in New York.
Of course… What’s odd about this episode is that it doesn’t really commit to anything. The whole issue of rich vs poor is just a punchline, an excuse to bring up the action. You could even call it “flavor content”, rather than actual satire over real world issues. Its odd, because One-Punch Man has done satire fairly well at times, but I guess this episode was more about Sonic’s grand appearance than anything else.
On the other side of town is Saitama, who upon hearing of HammerHead and his “Paradisers” gang, ends up going after them. His reason for doing so is actually kind of funny, in that he doesn’t like the fact that the gang is giving Bald people (especially him) a bad name. As soon as Saitama leaves his house, you can pretty much call it a done deal that he and Sonic are going to collide at some point in the episode.
And Collide they do. After a breathtaking sequence of Sonic taking down old Hammerhead, we have the villain flee and run into none other than Saitama. Saitama makes quick work of him as you’d imagine, but lets him go when he realizes that Hammerhead’s a younger (child like) version of himself.
While Hammerhead’s suit is destroyed, and he’s more or less taken care of, Sonic and Saitama run into one another and tussle. THAT meeting, is where things get slightly interesting. The most important element of the exchange, is the fact that Sonic has no idea who Saitama is. Its funny, and its kind of amusing to see Saitama so crest fallen, but it also does feel kind of odd given how much Saitama’s been doing.
Regardless of Saitama’s fame, Saitama and Sonic do share a few sentiments, namely the love of battle. Saitama clearly sees a kindred spirit in Sonic, but it, as usual, becomes clear pretty quickly that Saitama is in a league of his own. Saitama ends the fight with an unintentional jab at the Ninja’s crotch, rendering him immobile to say the least. The battle is, as you’d imaginem done for that day, but not before Sonic designates Saitama as his arch-rival.
And With that, Sonic joins the cast, probably as a recurring character. Sonics little run-in with Saitama is interesting but… its Saitama’s lack of being famous (or infamous), that kind of drives our plot forward afterwards. Thanks to Genos, we learn that there’s actually an official hero association. It appears that this Hero Association censors and hides any hero who isn’t actually affiliated with them. Thus, Saitama decides to take an entrance exam, and convinces Genos to join him.
We end the episode, post credits, with a scene that reminded me A LOT of Hunter x Hunter’s Official Hunter Qualification exam. If the next big story arc is a parody of Hunter x Hunter (one of the most beloved of Shounen franchises), then I’m very interested, to say the least. That idea also gives me hope for this show, because it may give the series something its been lacking for a while: “an actual conflict”.
Its clear that One-Punch Man is a gorgeous show, and its actually got some well thought out characters, but its been light on actual, cohesive plot and conflict that puts our characters in interesting situations. We’re about ready to step into something a bit more meaty, and I’m curious to see if One-Punch Man is up to the task.
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