Regardless of what they entail, jobs can be stressing. Be it an issue with a computer, a clash with a customer or an all round slow day, their are countless trials and tribulations that can turn any frown upside-down and then immediately right side up. But what ho, fiction dawns upon the horizon, that age old escape from the problems of a hard fought day, that window into a world unbound from the laws of our own, free to exist in whatever form it so desires. Monsters, angels, demons, heroes, beings free from the confines of reality, from the mundanity of…no. wait, heroism is a career now. Damn. Ah well, a little fiscal accountability never hurt anyone…right?
Yes my friends and fans of fiction, being a champion of justice just got legal. No longer are our caped crusaders vigilantes in the eyes of the law, no longer must they hide for fear of recompense, for they are now agents of the law, under the law. Sounds like a pretty sweet gig right? Well yes and no. Within the world of One-Punch Man, those who deign to call themselves heroes are strongly encouraged to register at the Hero Association, lest they be considered common troublemakers, regardless of their intentions. In order to qualify, registrees must pass a written and physical exam, proving their mettle in the areas key to heroism. Simple, but effective…kinda. Though possessive of physical strength far beyond the scope of the exam, Saitama’s lackluster written score places him firmly within Rank C, the lowest rank under HA advisement. Given this fact, Saitama is still treated with roughly zero respect by a wide margin of the populace who either believe him to be another Rank C nobody who will quit soon enough, or don’t even recognise him. Though the point of much humour within the series, this fact does lend a great deal of credence to the concept that heroes may rank up over the course of their career, escalating to greater heights and becoming more well known within the community. What this system also shows us however, is that not all heroes are good, often more concerned about gaining notoriety or reaching their weekly heroism quota (an extra rule placed on the Rank Cs in order to weed out the posers) than actually helping anyone. Not even those in the higher classes are exempt from this selfishness, they just happen to be far more skilled and prolific than those who work below them. So ultimately what the world of On-Punch Man gives us is a system that pits the skilled against one another in an attempt to become what is more traditionally considered a hero…good job on sorting that one out Hero Association, real top stuff. That being said, this network of infighting does make for a rather interesting world, especially when contrasted with the blunt, straightforward weapon of justice that is Saitama.
When not setting up its world of heroic conflict, One-Punch Man seeks to remind us that none of that really matters to Saitama. Existing as the strongest character within the whole series, and who knows how many others (may the crossover fan fiction ensue), our follically challenged protagonist has never been one to sweat the big stuff, namely titanic terrors from all sections of the planet. Of course, this leads to the all too common criticism that there lies no drama in Saitama’s life, after all what tension could be garnered from the story of one who cannot lose? Well luckily for all the lovers of conflict out there, as little as Saitama cares about the procedures of the HA, they are now a necessity within his life. Though he can undoubtedly topple any foe foolish enough to stand before him, his certification hinges on his weekly acts of heroism. Thus our monster slaying champion is forced to broaden his scope a little and focus on crimes that don’t necessarily threaten the existence of humanity. It is through this simple fact that the world of this series is again given another stroke of detail. Though the rank C heroes number 390 strong, not all are imbued with the physical attributes necessary to advance, nor slay the demonic threats that seem to plague cities A through Z every other day. So, despite breeding contention and an ever growing sense of arrogance, the HA system also allows those not traditionally considered heroes to be just that, which is kinda nice. It’s still not a prefect system by any means, but still, its kinda nice. Regardless, even when forced to acquiesce to the whims of the HA, Saitama still exists as an outlier to this world, an unpredictable anomaly that is hard to place. I mean where else would you find a hero whose toughest challenge was stopping a minor crime? It’s just weird, which is a reductive term to use, but there really isn’t any other way to say it. However, it is through this weirdness that One-Punch Man shines and adds challenge to the life of a character who sincerely stands so far above everyone.
Though I could sit here and laud the art style of One-Punch Man, which is awesome by the way, I’m instead going to save everyone some time and simply say that this manga is one of colourful characters. From the glaring simplicity of Saitama, especially when drawn in his original spaced out design, to the detailed cybernetics of Genos, to the ridiculousness of a man named Spring Mustachio, this series is not want for variation. It is for this reason that even one off heroes remain memorable faces and weave the tapestry of this world ever more. I didn’t even have to look up Spring’s name when writing this, it’s just so ridiculous that I was seared into my memory the moment I read it. Seriously, it’s a ludicrous name, not that Golden Ball, Tank Top Tiger or Speed-O’-Sound Sonic is any better. But that’s just part of the charm of this series, everything is ridiculous. The city is about to be crushed by a giant cicada? Sure why not. There’s a well known hero who is just some guy on a bicycle? Of course. So basically what I’m getting at here is just go with whatever happens on the page, it’s the only way you’ll reach acceptance. Also it’s just more fun that way.
So…yeah. I’m not really sure what else to say about this one. Reveling in its own ludicrousness, One-Punch Man is just a series that wants to have fun. Sure there’s drama within the Hero Association, sure Saitama is constantly unsatisfied with his own remarkable strength, but this is still not a story mired in sadness. Whenever a character is at their darkest, whenever a threat seems too big, there’s always a stupidly blank face on the horizon. That isn’t to say that the drama doesn’t stick with you, believe me it does, just that One-Punch Man never wants the last emotion you feel to be grim. Though you may feel irked by a world that doesn’t recognise its true heroes, or feel saddened by the life of a man driven to apathy by his own actions, you will always, always feel inspired by those who never say never and refuse to let adversity stand in their way. Also there’s a hero named Snek and that is hilarious.
Heroism is tough work. Head on over to Madman to see if you have what it takes