I saw the Andes today for the first time. That took me quite a while to wrap my head around, to be honest, and made it pretty hard to focus on anything else. That includes anime, of course. But if there’s one series this season I’m determined to try and stay current with it’s One Punch Man, even if I can only find time for a few paragraphs. And as it turns out, its nature makes it a pretty good show to fall back on when you need to be entertained despite being a little distracted.
So far, One Punch Man has managed to justify its ridiculous hype but not quite reached the level of transcendence – at least for me. The sakuga is truly superlative and the show is never less than a blast, but not yet truly great. It’s a risky series in a way, because both the central plot and the humor are largely built on repetition. Saitama can’t find anybody strong enough to challenge him, Saitama kills the baddie in one blow (hey – it’s the title), Saitama agonizes over the minutiae of working class life in Japan.
What I’m not sure yet is just how that pattern will hold up over the long-term or if indeed it radically changes – I haven’t read far enough into the manga to say. It might start to feel tired, but I could also see getting sucked into it completely because, after all, that is basically the joke. I really believe OPM is primarily a musing on the angst of young adults in modern Japan, and Saitama’s bemused demeanor in the face of the absurd and bizarre is the essence of who he is as a character.
There’s also the fact that, exposition-wise, Saitama’s story is completely unbelievable by choice. Whenever One Punch Man goes in for grand statements and sweeping BGM – as it did in Armored Gorilla’s Dr. Genus backstory and Saitama’s explanation of how he got so strong – the ballon is always about to be punctured. Yeah, there’s no way Saitama’s 100 pushups, sit-ups and squads and turning the A/C off would make him the freak he is. Genos reminds us of that, as if we needed reminding. But if you want a better explanation you’re not getting it – yet, anyway – and a big part of the reason is that being forced to accept the absurd things you can’t justify or explain is one of the challenges of modern life.
In the context of all that, the plots themselves have been pretty much of a kind so far. It’s nice having the always great Ishizuka Unshou on-board as Carnage Kabuto, the strongest of Genus-sensei’s creations (he seems like a human-rhinoceros beetle hybrid to me), and Namikawa Daisuke is up to his usual standard. But the pattern is a familiar one, and it ends in a familiar way. Genus lives to see another day, which means he may impact the story again down the line, but apart from that nothing is fundamentally changed. If OPM is indeed to rise to the next level, it’s either going to come from that pattern achieving real surrealistic brilliance, or something fundamentally changing after all.