Move over Goku, there’s a new hero protecting Earth from invaders and evildoers and his name is Bald-Cape-Man? Introducing Saitama, an incredibly mundane Joe Schmo… who happens to be a hero for fun. Don’t let his appearance fool you though. He’s also known as One-Punch Man because as his name indicates, he can knock out his opponents with just one punch.
One-Punch Man is an ongoing action-comedy series that follows the adventures of Saitama, who begins as a typical Japanese businessman unsatisfied with his life and dealing with getting laid off. After a life-changing encounter with a mutant-man-lobster, he decides to become a hero. You would think it would be hard to become a hero, but in this world, heroes and villains battling daily is the norm. Every kind of valiant hero and malevolent villain imaginable exist in this world, but now there’s just plain old Saitama, the newly self-proclaimed hero.
Unlike other heroes, he doesn’t have any altruistic motives for being a hero. He has no devastatingly tragic backstory, no experiment gone wrong granting him super powers or even a sense of justice; he’s just looking for something to satisfy his boredom. Unfortunately for Saitama, while training to become a hero, he became so insanely strong that he barely has to exert any effort to take out an opponent; it really only takes one punch. With his attained superhuman abilities, he can’t seem to find a worthy enough opponent, which bores him even more. In fact, taking out the trash or nabbing groceries on sale at the market end up becoming more important and worrisome to him than saving the world.
Drawing back to One-Punch Man’s roots, the series began as a webcomic that went viral. Later, the original author ONE Art teamed up with manga artist and writer Yusuke Murata, well known for his American football series Eyeshield 21, to create this romp of an action-comedy manga series that pokes fun at the superhero and kaiju genre.
Yusuke Murata’s graphically detailed artwork serves as a wonderfully hilarious juxtaposition with ONE’s original drawings of Saitama’s non-threatening deadpan expressions when he has no qualms in telling off giant monsters to put on some undies. Of course a story isn’t always just about one character. The manga also follows Saitama’s own encounters and budding interpersonal relationships with other heroes, who unlike him actually have a more just reason for defending Earth.
Ladies will swoon over Saitama’s eager humanoid robot apprentice Genos, whose admiration for the unlikely hero is endearing and the bromantic relationship that blossoms between the two heroes. Guys, well, will like everything else, as it is still an action-packed shounen manga, but at least will get where all the crazy fanart and interesting cosplay come from.
Overall, the story begins in quite a straightforward manner with a majority of battles and conflicts resolved in just one chapter. However as the manga progresses, the conflicts grow more complicated, allowing readers to delve deeper into the many supporting characters that Saitama encounters and more about the world they live in. In a world where nearly everyone can have a shot at being a superhero by simply passing a written and physical exam, sometimes being obscenely powerful yet unbelievably average looking is refreshing. It also is a reminder that real heroes don’t necessarily need actual reasons to fight for humanity; it’s something that they simply do.
The One-Punch Man manga and anime series are currently published by VIZ media in North America. The first few chapters can also be found on Viz Media’s website.