Welcome back to another fascinating volume following the adventures of the world’s baddest superhero. This time, however, there is much more to bite into so I’m just gonna run straight into this review. At the end of the second book, it was revealed that the titular hero was not getting credit for his work due to the fact that he wasn’t part of the Hero Association, the organization in this world that coordinates all heroes. To remedy this (and to get Genos off of his back), Saitama decides to go through the two part test so he can finally get some proper attention. After this we see a fun little duel between Genos and his bald teacher that escalates bit by bit with a harrowing conclusion. Following both of those stories, we see Saitama freak out as he is dangerously close to the wire in meeting his crime stopping quota before getting booted from the Hero Association. And after all of those shenanigans, we also get two short stories: one that takes place in the Saitama’s past and the other in the modern day with a goon in a superhero faction dealing with existential dread of never being good enough. Hoo boy, so much to bite into but let’s do it.
This volume is when One Punch Man really hits its stride since ONE, the writer, is finally able to show us more of the world and characters that he has been hinting at for some time. No longer are we seeing this society through the scope of the main hero but rather from a larger narrative. Most of what is set up in the first two volumes can now be viewed in a whole new light: instead of Saitama’s actions being hilarious situations separate from any real consequences we now understand that he truly is the only guy capable of saving the world. And to make matters worse, no one has any clue that he exists. The story is flipped on its head as the interest to see him find a proper battle is swapped for the desire for his power recognized by the Hero Association or public before some world-ending event occurs.
Another great thing about volume 3 is the inclusion of more heroes, most of whom do a great job illustrating how bleak things are. The first real hero we meet, Tanktop Tiger, is just some jerk in a tanktop that gets taken down with one hit. Sure he sucks, but we get the impression that he isn’t much in the way of power. So once we see some more professional superheroes later in the story we get the idea that they must be more impressive. After all, they’re level A’s while Tanktop was a C! True to form in this series, they both get taken out but ONE does it in a very well written way. Most of these heroes aren’t jerks or idiots (though a good number of them do show some nasty colors every once in a while), rather just not as powerful as the threats they run into. It’s a nice change of pace since most stories like this would just have all the heroes be completely useless jerks or simply cruel so that we root more for the main hero. The majority of the other superheroes we have seen so far, strong or not, seem to be decent people. Even when the occasional a-hole comes around, the other heroes at least acknowledge that said individual is being horrible.
The single most important scene in this volume is when Saitama gets his results back from the two part test. The first section with the physicals was easy peasy lemon squeezy for the One Punch Man and his student. But they differed greatly in the written portion with the former scoring far worse than the latter. Heck, you get the feeling that if he didn’t completely demolish the physical section that the Hero Association would never even consider him as a candidate. But it is in this moment that the major flaw with the titular character is seen: Saitama has lost the heart of a hero. Don’t get me wrong, he saves people but it comes off more as him keeping true to the role rather something he genuinely wants to do. In the past two volumes he easily shrugs off massive death tolls and seems to be more upset about not getting a proper battle. While the public needs to learn to love Saitama he needs to learn to feel anything again. Because what is life I you can’t experience it with a wide array of beautiful emotions?
While it is nice that we are seeing more of the world exposed and quicker done-in-one tales, there is a whole new problem with the new type of story telling that ONE takes up: we get less time with potentially interesting stories or characters than we usually do. If there ever is a character or scenario that catches your interest, get ready to wait. Having read ahead I can personally guarantee you that within the next five volumes you get only a little more Speed-O-Sound Sonic and with no more major appearances of Spring Mustachio/Golden Ball. This is the same with the plot point of the massive increase in monsters that is still being hinted about with no explanation. It would just be nice to get some more little hints such as a big bad or any other sources for all of these monsters to come from. We’re starting to get into the long game and less answers are not always a good thing. That said, a proper creative team can learn to lead an audience on without keeping them completely in the dark. Hopefully the duo of ONE and Yusuke Murata (the excellent artist) can keep things interesting while we are on our path to get more answers.
This is when things start to get really interesting for One Punch Man. We start to get a larger scope of the story and understand the stakes much better. If you were on edge with these last two volumes, I’d recommend this one be your final chance for the series. If seeing all of the characters and world don’t interest you, I don’t think you’ll enjoy the rest of what is to come. For those who are liking it, why do you like it? Everyone feel free to post down in comment section to get a conversation going. I’ve been Superguy and you’ve been awesome. See you next time round.