OP: “THE HERO !! ~Okoreru Kobushi ni Hi wo Tsukero~ (～怒れる拳に火をつけろ～)” by JAM Project
Naturally the first weekend of the new season is a traveling one for me, and I’m now hopelessly buried and reduced to short posts to try and catch up. There are so many series premiering this weekend that I want to talk about in great detail and won’t be able to, but One Punch Man is one that demands my immediate attention. This is without a doubt the tentpole series of the season for me, the one with a chance to make a huge splash both artistically and commercially, both at-home and abroad. This is an important anime premiere in every way.
Among the many other notable things about this premiere, OPM is the first series I’ve watched on a stream from Daisuki. What is Daisuki? It’s an international, multi-language, registration-optional anime streaming service started by six production companies (not including Madhouse) and advertising behemoth Asatsu-DK. I think it has a chance to fundamentally change the anime industry, but that’s a complicated discussion best addressed in another post. What’s important for now is that the stream is fine – vastly superior to anything Funimation spews out, for example – and the translations seem fine too.
As to One Punch Man, I hardly know where to begin (we could start with the name I suppose – is there a hyphen, and if so where do you put it? There’s much disagreement on the subject). As those of you who watched the preview release (I didn’t) know, the premiere is a sakuga-fest of the highest order. As those of you who read the manga (I read just enough to give me a sense of the story and characters) know, there’s nothing out there quite like OPM. I find this to be a very difficult series to try and explain to people – which in most cases ends up being a very good sign.
There were those among the manga readership (there are two versions, a free webcomic and a Young Jump adaptation with art by Murata Yusuke) who felt OPM was unfilmable – that it could never translate to the screen. A lot of folks said that about “Chimera Ant” too, and they were certainly proved wrong. Madhouse can bring a lot more than just stunning production values – though they certainly can bring those. They’re also brilliant at finding ways to make unconventionally structured stories work in anime form. They’re probably the finest studio in TV anime right now, and this premiere is another example of why.
Madhouse has brought their A-game to One Punch Man, with a team led by two men whose resumes are actually mostly at BONES – Natsume Shingo and Chubota Shikashi. I think rather than try and describe what happens in this show it’s better to just say “watch it”, except of course I know you already have. OPM is a mad rush of silliness, action, violence and broad comedy – a cavalcade of extremely bizarre supervillains and seemingly random (though that can be a bit deceiving) plot twists. Mangaka ONE is not especially big on explanations – he seems to prefer to just have shit happen and make sense of it all later.
It must be said, the action sequences in the premiere are great – beautifully and imaginatively drawn, classic modern Madhouse brilliance. The monsters are off the hook – crabmen in tighty-whities, titans lacking even those – and even the bystanders (like the boy with the butt-chin) are grotesqueries. There’s no “exposition” here in the conventional sense – no telling the audience why this world of cities named after letters is plagued by these monsters or patrolled by superheroes, why subterranean invaders pop up out of nowhere. It just is and they just do, and haplessly overpowered protagonist Saitama (an excellent Furukawa Makoto) is invariably caught in the middle of it.
To try and understand OPM (which I confess I do only a little) I think it’s significant to note that the last scene of the (killer) OP is Saitama with a shopping bag full of leeks, and that the title of the series is pronounced “Wanpanman” in Japanese – which is actually a play on Anpanman. Satire is the order of the day here, and I really believe ONE is primarily interested in getting at the angst of the younger generation in Japan through absurdist means. The premise, such as it is, is that Saitama (even his name is satirical – Saitama is the neighboring prefecture to Tokyo, often derided as “Dasaitama”, since “Dasai” means lame or uncool) is in crisis because he’s become so strong he can defeat any opponent with one punch. But this story goes a whole lot deeper than that.
More than anything else I think this premiere excelled because of how funny it was – the bit with the titan slapping the wrong shoulder, for example, or the sign the “real” subterraneans left after they turned tail and ran. There’s some subtler humor here too (like Saitama’s explanation of why he saved the big-chin brat from “Crabante” – the low birth rate in Japan), and of course there’s that seemingly endless sakuga. It’s all just breathtakingly fun and entertaining, but it doesn’t give you the whole story of what One Punch Man is – and that this could be the case and the premiere still be a classic is all the more reason to be excited about the seemingly limitless potential of this series.
ED: “Hoshi yori Saki ni Mitsukete Ageru (星より先に見つけてあげる)” by Hiroko Moriguchi