The new anime season started this month, and there has been one series in particular that has gained the most attention. It has already been considered by many as possibly being the best anime of the year, although it is only a few episodes in.
Superhero comedy One-Punch Man started off as a self-published webcomic in 2009 by an artist working under the name of ONE. It gained so many fans that it was eventually remade and went into print in 2012. The series has already attracted acclaim, being nominated for awards, praised for its mixture of art styles, and for its lead character: a hero so strong that he doesn’t know what to do with his life.
Three years ago, a 22-year-old unemployed guy named Saitama saved a boy with a massive chin from a crab-like supervillain. As a result of this he started training as a superhero for fun, going on an excessive exercise regime to make himself strong – and it worked. Now in the present day, not only does he have many of the standard superhero traits like flying and lightning fast speed, but he is so strong that Saitama can knock out all his enemies with a single punch.
However, his training has left Saitama with several problems. One was that all the training has had adverse effects on his body. He does not look like your typical superhero, being thin, emotionless, and completely bald. Saitama’s main problem though is that because he is so incredibly strong, all of his fights last a few moments. An enemy appears, Saitama punches him, and Saitama saves the day. Thus Saitama is unbelievably bored.
Things start to change however when another superhero arrives: a cyborg named Genos, who admires Saitama’s strength so much that decides to make himself Saitama’s disciple. Saitama and Genos then start to work together, with Genos trying to hunt down an evil cyborg that killed his family, and Saitama simply trying to find an opponent worth fighting.
There are many elements of interest to One-Punch Man, the first of which is the origin. Unlike most of the series covered in this column that ever started off as anime or are adaptations of print comics, novels or video games, One-Punch Man began as an online comic, completely run independently and anonymously. Very few anime are based on webcomics (examples include Hetalia: Axis Powers, No. 26), and I personally don’t recall any being started independently from a publisher, but the series became a huge hit.
This in turn leads to another interesting element of the series, which is the art. In the original webcomic the art was drawn deliberately crudely and simply. When it moved to print another artist was brought in with a new illustrator named Yusuke Murata, and while the art in most places is more professional-looking, at other times the art is cruder for comic effect. This also happens in the anime: at one moment you are watching a spectacularly animated battle, the next you cut to Saitama with a very blank expression on his egg-like face.
Lastly there is the role of the central character. It is a brilliant idea to have a hero who is so strong that he easily beats everyone around him, and because of this the hero in question seems to be inflicted with a state of ennui.
If there is a problem with the show, it would be that in the UK it is being streamed by Animax, which is owned by Kaze, the least popular anime distributor in the country. You can therefore expect that when this series gets released on disc that most anime fans will be importing Region 1 copies rather than by from them because their reputation is so bad.
One-Punch Man is streamed on Animax, with new episodes going out on Mondays.