Sunday, July 13, 2014

Manga Review: One-Punch Man

Here's a thought: what happens when a superhero becomes so strong that none of the villains or other heroes can remotely compare? What's life like for that hero, and how do they make use of such power? For a not-so-serious answer to that question, let's take a look at a little manga called One-Punch Man.

One-Punch Man started as a Japanese webcomic in 2009 and was based on the picture book series Anpanman. It quickly became extremely popular and was later adapted into a currently onging digital manga in 2012, with the art being redone by Yusuke Murata, the artist for series such as Eyeshield 21. The series takes place in the fictional City Z, Japan (all cities in the series are named "City [letter]") in a world that is plagued by attacks from mysterious monsters that abruptly appear and cause any number of disasters. To combat these monsters, many people have become superheroes of one kind or another, utilizing all manner of powers to protect humanity. The star of the series is a young, unemployed salary-man named Saitama, who, through extremely excessive training, has both lost all of his hair and developed a strength that allows him to defeat (i.e. annihilate) any monster with a single punch; unfortunately, this power has made Saitama extremely bored due to a lack of any real challenge. Not helping matters is the fact that he never manages to get any credit for the countless powerful monsters he's defeated or the people he's saved, though his less-than-heroic personality doesn't exactly net him a lot of popularity.

This series is primarily a comedy that deconstructs and parodies many typical superhero themes and concepts, though it's also fairly heavy on the action. Most of the humor is related to Saitama routinely failing to be an ideal hero despite his amazing strength, although there are plenty of jokes made at the expense of the rest of the cast. Said cast is surprisingly large for such a short series; although the focus is mainly on Saitama and later a cyborg named Genos, there is also a large number characters who make regular appearances (as shown in the picture above) and even more one-off characters. Also of note is that the art for the series is extremely detailed, with many panels being dedicated solely to depicting either the ongoing action or the current setting; unfortunately, this has the drawback of making the actual narrative content quite short.

One-Punch Man is a series I'd recommend to anyone who likes classic Japanese and/or western superhero titles, as well as anyone who enjoys either deconstructive parodies or just series with highly detailed art. Like the art, the setting and plot are surprisingly detailed considering the series' relatively humble origins, and the writing does a good job with both the humor and more serious moments. Additionally, the characters all prove to be very interesting and entertaining to see interact with one another, particularly when it comes to their reactions to Saitama's behavior. All in all, I'd call this a fun series absolutely worth checking out.

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