Well, I should’ve done this a while ago. One Punch Man took the anime world by storm in 2015. Starting off as a self-published webcomic by ONE in 2009, it got remade into a manga three years alter with art by Yusuke Murata (BTW, check out his art, he’s really dope). It showed an OP superhero who wins every battle with one punch and it became a massive hit amongst audiences. There was fans who would pit this character of this series against other shonen protagonists in the usual fan wars. Now for this review, I’m going to do something different as I’ll be looking at each season individually and compare the two. Let’s not waste any time. This is One Punch Man.
The first season of One Punch Man premiered in October of 2015 and was animated by Madhouse. It’s about Saitama, a superhero with such immense power that he’s able to defeat every opponent with one punch. This makes every battle boring for him, so he lives life while seeking an actual challenge. It was a perfect satire of both superheroes and shonen stories as we see a protagonist who’s OP from the start and always end up in anti-climatic battles. That’s where a good chunk of the humor comes from, where you get the promise of an epic battle against these super-powerful villains who give other heroes a hard time, but then Saitama kills the villain with one punch. Granted, that schtick can get repetitive with time, but that’s made up for in the fight scenes where either Saitama isn’t fighting back or where he’s not even involved. These fight scenes are where the animation shines the most as they’re more dynamic and fluid than most shonen anime. Madhouse did not play around. Various monsters pop up and start shit, whether it’d be sea creatures or even aliens in the last three episodes. There was even a scene in the first episode where Saitama has a fight with these subterranean creatures and it was bananas, but it turns out to be a dream.
In terms of character, Saitama isn’t the most complex or even interesting. There’s other characters in the series that outshine him like Genos, a cyborg who offers to be his apprentice in order to get stronger and eventually find the cyborg that killed his family. In any other anime series, Genos would easily be a protagonist. There’s also Speed-o’-Sound Sonic, a ninja who moves really fast who views Saitama as a rival after being defeated by him. The Hero Association is an organization that employs superheroes in order to combat the rising level of monsters and criminals. Each hero is ranked from Class C, the lowest level, to Class S, the highest. When Saitama and Genos joins the Hero Association, the former ends up in Class C (and Class B later) while the latter ends up in Class S. Overall, a great first season that you can rewatch over and over with ease.
Despite the immense popularity of season one, it took four years for a season two to occur. During that time, the anime switched studios, so instead of Madhouse handling the animation, it was done by J.C. Staff. Then the trailer for the second season came out and people were… how could I say this, underwhelmed by what they saw. But the optimists wanted to give it a chance, so then the second season premiered in April of this year and… disappointment has set in. Let’s address the main issue people have with this season: the animation. Let me make something clear, the animation isn’t bad. It’s not. For a lesser anime series, this animation would be passable. But this is One Punch Man we’re talking about and when you compare the animation of the second season to that of the first, it’s a MAJOR step down. I don’t know what the budget for this season was, but it seems like they were taking a lot of shortcuts. And this bleeds into the other main issue, which is the fights. Because of the more lackluster animation, fights aren’t as fluid or dynamic as they used to be. Most of them look like still frames with little to no action and empty backgrounds. With the way these fights look, I might as well be reading the manga. To be fair, the animation and fights get better later on in the season, but they don’t achieve the heights of the first season. Now as for the story, there’s three subplots occurring this season: the Monster Association attacking the city, a new villain named Garou wreaks havoc as he attacks the heroes, and Saitama joins a martial arts tournament. Garou is kind of a weak character with a weaker motivation. He fights the other heroes because he sympathizes with the monsters and wants to be a monster. Not compelling stuff. I was not a fan of the tournament stuff, it feels like filler, especially when you know Saitama will defeat every opponent in the matches. It’s not to say that there aren’t good moments this season. I do believe that the second half of the season is better than the first half, but yeah, this isn’t as good as the first season and I wanted to like it.
And that was One Punch Man. I really enjoyed the first season and I would call it one of my favorite anime series based on that season alone. The second season was a letdown where nothing is improved and they took steps back. I want this series to remain good, but if they stay with J.C., you might as well seek out the manga because there’s no way they could recapture the greatness of that first season. I’d still say check out the series if you haven’t. Just be prepared for disappointment with the second season. Next time, I’ll be talking about Rising Of The Shield Hero.