One Punch Man – 04

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OPM delivers the Christmas ballet a few months early this year…

One Punch Man continues to be one of the most fun shows of the season, though I keep searching for that other layer I thought I was picking up in the manga chapters I read.  I see it sometimes, but I wonder if there’s a little bit of projection involved since I want so badly to find it.  Mind you, it would be enough for OPM to simply be a very funny superhero spoof – that’s certainly nothing to hang your head about.  But expectations are what they are.

My biggest problem with One Punch Man as a straight farce is that the comedy does tend to recycle itself quite a lot.  I still find myself laughing at it, but I worry that won’t be true forever.  That’s why when I see the sort of theme we had this week it encourages me, because it does support the idea that ONE’s ultimate purpose is broadly commenting on the malaise that obsesses modern Japan.

Hammerhead (the wonderful Takagi Wataru, who stole almost every scene he was in as Knuckle Bine in HxH) is certainly a character who screams satire.  Imagine if a NEET actually had the gumption to get out and organize a terrorist force – stealing battle suits, blowing up buildings (albeit the wrong ones).  There’s irony there, certainly, but he does get to a deeper issue in Japan, which is a growing sense among the young that Japan’s religious faith in hard work for its own sake might just be a hollow pursuit.

More specifically, as Saitama points out, Hammerhead hits dangerously close to home for the protagonist.  Even setting aside the baldness (Saitama’s concern over this is understandable in its own right) Saitama’s motivations don’t look all that different than Hammerhead’s – he’s just chosen a non-psychopathic outlet for them.  There are some nobler elements to Saitama’s reasons for becoming One Punch Man, but ultimately he’s a NEET who felt disillusioned by life and opted out of the rat race.  And Japan is full of millions of young men (and no small amount of women, too) who did the same.

One of the comedic lynchpins of OPM is that you almost always end up feeling sorry for the bad guys, and this ep is certainly no exception.  When Onsoku no Sonic (Kaji Yuuki, less irritating than usual) arrives on the scene, he systematically beheads every one of Hammerhead’s lackeys.  A ninja in the employ of one of the corrupt industrialists Hammerhead was targeting (let it be known there really is a “Golden Turd” building in Tokyo, near Asakusa), Sonic is far more menacing than the hapless Hammerhead, who only escapes him (and indeed, becomes the rare villain to survive the episode) because of his abnormally thick skull.

The funniest moment here, certainly, comes when Saitama’s fist makes landfall in a most uncomfortable place for Sonic (who really had it coming, to be honest).  But it’s also pretty amusing that Saitama only now starts to realize that he’s getting no credit for his exploits.  In fact, he loses out this time to Mumen Raidaa (“License-less Rider”) who may be the lamest superhero ever (it would be exquisite if he turns out to be the top boss).  The solution?  Register officially as with the Hero Department at the local government office – an outing which seems rife with comic possibilities…

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7 comments

  1. o

    It's so fun reading your reactions/analysis to this show. Part of it is that as someone who experiences Japanese culture firsthand, you can pick up on messages/references/interpretations that those of us at home (myself included) completely missed while reading the manga. Also, it's great reading your predictions for future episodes (as someone who has read both manga versions, it's really tempting to confirm/deny your suspicions but spoilers)

  2. T

    What I really liked about this episode is that aside from the hollow and empty pursuit of employment in Japan it also addressed other issues such as homelessness, inequalities in the job market, and lack of resources to obtain some sort of assistance in order to help one get through life while trying to get back on their feet. Its not that people don't have the motivation to work its just that both the market sucks and the jobs that are available are very unfulfilling with almost no time to have a personal life.

    I like that Saitama realized how similar that the other bald guy is to him and despite realizing what he could have become he is trying to find a sense of meaning and happiness in his life.

    Lastly can we all just sit here and love how much of a fanboy Genos is about Saitama.

  3. S

    Yeah, I liked the added layer in this episode, if thin. Hammerhead may have been going in his pursuit in a completely stupid and destructive way, but it's significant imho that he's the only villain to escape with his life (and also the one Saitama was keener to understand and empathize with). Anyway, the comedy was stronger than last episode (and Sonic really had it coming. Good for him Saitama wasn't even MOVING his fist at the time!), and the Hero Association looks like a fun place to go from here. Most manga readers seem to hint at a *certain* massive arc as the possible endgame for the season, and I have to say I'm excited for it as One-Punch Man manages weirdly to touch both the chords of "funny" and "awesome" for me.

  4. C

    Oh yeaaaah, son. Now that the hero's association's been introduced, now's when the plot really kicks into gear! Everything before this was just the hors-d'oeuvres. Now get ready for pure, unadulterated awesomeness!

    Also, Sanic has very nice ass…sets, wouldn't you agree?

  5. m

    Very nice ass cheeks indeed

  6. e

    Aptly enough where there is One Punch you give us One Pun. Aye, what ref through yonder blog post cracks!
    The serious undercurrents seem to be promising. As entertaining as OPM has been so far it needs some more substance to hold in the long run for me.
    *incoming silliness dump alert*
    Both at Madhouse and at Pierrot this must have been Golden (Turd) Week :,D…
    Btw as delighted the news that building ornament being real make me I must say that seen from that angle it also brings back childhood memories: swirly-ice cream machines anyone? See also this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbYWhdLO43Q (watch it 'till the end if you dare) <—–Thank me or curse me later :p.

  7. S

    That was great ! XD

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