Sunday, December 27, 2015

One-Punch Man (manga, vol. 1) story by ONE, art by Yusuke Murata, translated by John Werry

One-Punch Man is an action comedy series. It's licensed by VIZ Media.


This was an impulse buy – I happened to see it while grocery shopping, and I vaguely remembered hearing good things about it. It turned out to be pretty funny.

As far as the premise goes, I'll just quote the bit on the table of contents page: “My name is Saitama. I am a hero. I got too strong. And that makes me sad. I can defeat any enemy with one blow. I lost my hair. And I lost all feeling. I want to feel the rush of battle. I would like to meet an incredibly strong enemy. And I would like to defeat it with one blow. That's because I am One-Punch Man.”

Although that's somewhat incorrect, because what Saitama would really like is an enemy that takes a bit more to defeat than one punch. Someone who could get his adrenaline flowing, even just a little bit.

In this volume, we learn One-Punch Man's origins. He was jobless, had just failed his most recent job interview, and happened to come across a guy who turned into a crab monster after eating too many crabs. Saitama didn't really have anything better to do, and becoming a powerful hero seemed like a nice hobby.

This series is ridiculous, and the writer and artist fully embrace that. Everything is a joke, from the hero, to the villains, to the people being attacked by the villains (my favorite was the crying little girl wearing a shirt that said “School Child”). The writer even pokes fun at some of the usual action manga conventions, like the tendency of characters to shout out their attack names – one of Saitama's attacks was “consecutive normal punches.”

Although Saitama is strong enough to defeat villains many times larger than himself with only a single punch, he still has to worry about ordinary things, like the cost of getting his roof fixed and being able to afford groceries. He fights for the adrenaline rush and because property damage is annoying, not because he's actually worried about the people around him. I laughed when he announced he was saving one particular kid because “With the birthrate so low, I can't let you kill [him].”

Halfway through the volume, another hero enters the scene, a cyborg who'd probably be the main character if he were in a different series. Unlike Saitama, he does have a typical hero motive and origin story, and I'll be interested to see how the series handles him and Saitama together.

I'll wrap this up with a couple notes. One, in case the premise didn't make it clear, this is fairly violent. There's blood, and Saitama rips out eyeballs a few times. And two, the series is light on female characters, and the one who does pop up is...typical. Mosquito Girl's design is basically Barbie doll nudity with some black-and-white markings, and one panel was weirdly sexual (she got her power from blood that real mosquitoes brought her, so at one point she called for all the power she could get: “Come to me! Pour into me the juice you have stored up!”).

All in all, I enjoyed this and am looking forward to reading more. It's a simple premise, but there seems to be plenty of comedy potential.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Gamerz Heaven (manga series) by Maki Murakami - Those who'd like some more over-the-top humor might want to try this, although I should probably mention that only the first two volumes were ever released in the U.S. I've written about the first two volumes.
  • The Devil is a Part-Timer (book) by Satoshi Wagahara, illustrated by 029; The Devil is a Part-Timer (anime TV series) - I've only seen the TV series, although I eventually plan on trying the light novels. Another action-filled comedy with heroes and villains who have to worry about mundane things like rent and groceries. I enjoyed it, although I never got around to reviewing it.

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