Superheroes seem to run the world nowadays. From video games to movies to TV, there is some form of masked avenger running wild (quite literally in some cases). It is by no surprise that countless parodies of varying quality have come out to lovingly (and not so lovingly) mock the concept of caped crusaders. Each fan has their own favorite, but my personal choice for the best superhero parody comes from the endearing land of Japan in the form of a manga called One Punch Man. Written by ONE and drawn by Yusuke Murata, this series started off as an indie webcomic that later transformed into an excellent anime with an equally excellent English adaptation released recently. Today, however, I would like to go in depth on the first volume of the manga series so that I don’t bombard you with too much too quickly. I’m really polite that way. Anyhoo, let’s start this fantastic review with your own C-Class hero, Superguy, guiding you through this bald superhero’s crazy world!
One Punch Man is about a hero for fun, Saitama, that has managed to train himself to a level of strength where he can take down any type of opponent with a single punch. In the first volume we see a few of his misadventures with an athletic giant, a deadly femme fatale mosquito, and mole people whilst befriending a vengeance seeking cyborg named Genos. If you’re like me, you’re probably wonder how the hell could this series last for more than one chapter if the hero never faces a truly formidable threat? That is first due to the masterful art of Murata that manages to capture both the humorous and high octane moments of the volume. The other reason that this book works is the pitch perfect writing of ONE that shines in the mountains of humorous, intimidating and just down right entertaining characters that populate this richly constructed world to help us get invested in the story.
ONE knew when getting into this series that he couldn’t do much with Saitama by his very nature of being an unbeatable god among men. To combat this problem, he managed to birth to a plethora of interesting characters that last with the audience, despite how short of a page count that some of them have. My personal favorite baddie is Crablante, a giant humanoid crab creature that walks around in his underwear killing anyone that dares laugh him or his drawn on nipples. The other main hero of the book, Genos, is also a hoot as he plays a perfect opposite of the emotionless yet sensitive about his baldness Saitama. You don’t get a lot with him, just his backstory about the desire for revenge against a cyborg that murdered his family, but the little bit you see of him paints an interesting picture of what could happen with him later in the series. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg as even the side of the side characters have small moments to shine, for instance, at Saitama’s apartment fight where a good handful of the minions manage to keep your interest. Anyone who wants to get into writing should give this volume a read to get a good idea of what it takes to make memorable characters that stick with the audience.
The major selling point of this book, despite having a titillating story, is the spectacular humor that manages to sneak in on nearly every page. You don’t need to really force the jokes since the characters and world allow them to naturally come into play, though ONE will throw a butt chin joke in for good measure. Not every quip will hit but it is nice to see a parody that actually understands what it makes fun of. I should note that there are also a surprisingly decent number of human moments that keep this comic from going off the walls crazy. Saitama’s personal struggle of not finding joy in life is the center of this volume and helps flesh him out when he seems too insane of a character to relate to. Seeing him before his one punching days was a nice addition as you see how this struggle to find purpose and happiness was with him for quite a while. These moments don’t happen a lot, but they happen enough to add real depth to the story that helps it rise above the crap tons of other parodies that come out every year.
The main problem with this book is that it ends right when things get really interesting. The House of Evolution sounds fascinating, and it is, but you have to buy the next part to get a solid end to the story. A smaller problem with this book is how quick the fights end. There are only two major action sequences that don’t have Saitama facing off with someone, and they’re good, but you may be wishing for more if you aren’t a fan of the concept of all villains being killed off in a single shot. I would argue that it is simply part of the joke that these interesting bad guys are easily killed off without a second thought,but it is understandable that not everyone may be a fan of it were they expecting more out of the first volume. If you want to see more done with the concept, I urge you to keep on reading, since the end of the House of Evolution arc is a good deciding factor as to whether or not you will like what comes next.
The reason I like this series is that, despite being humorous, it can actually be a pretty intense and straightforward superhero tale. You see not only in the early days of Saitama’s life, but in his actions right away in the volume to protect an innocent child, the marks of a true hero. If you’re a fan of superheroes or want something funny to read, give this first volume a peak. Manga is pretty cheap, so go crazy and buy the second volume while you’re at it! Or if you have a LOT of money, invest it in high yielding stocks so you can have an early retirement that allows you to read even more One Punch Man. If you have any recommendations, comment below to shine some light on series that you think deserve more attention.
I’ve been Superguy, and you’ve been awesome! See you next time!