It seems sort of appropriate to cover One Punch Man and Concrete Revolutio on the same day, as I think there is a bit of thematic overlap between these two A-list studio action series. And one thing they definitely have in common is that both are more serious-minded then they would have you believe. As different as OPM and C.R. are stylistically, I think they both spring from the same cultural source – the troubled state of modern Japanese society, and what that society’s fascination with fantasy says about where it’s been, and where it’s going.
In a funny way, while this was definitely the most low-key episode of OPM so far, it was also the most intense. It felt as if the series finally decided to tackle what it’s really about without relying on really outrageous theatrics in the process. There is a method to the madness here, a structure underlying the chaos – and the role of heroes in this society finally came into a bit of focus. We still have many more questions than we have answers, but at least we’re starting to define which questions really matter.
Who are heroes on this mythology? Well, there are 11,684 applicants who want to be part of the answer. There’s a class system, building up to “S” class, and heroes who clearly feel the perks of the role are more important than the job itself. There are those like Mumen Rider who are content to sit in C class rather than try to move up, and “rookie crushers” (one couldn’t help think of the Hunter exam when hearing that) who specialize in hazing new heroes. In short, it’s a bit of a fantastical take on the Japanese salaryman system – and that’s no coincidence, just as it isn’t in the countless other times it’s happened in manga and anime.
A series can never suffer by adding seiyuu like One Punch Man added this week, as the parade of H x H carryovers continues. There’s Mamoru Miyano as Amai (Sweet) Mask, a pretty boy A-lister who takes a special interest in Genos. And then the almost-peerless Miki Shinichrou as Sneck (not Snake – remember that) another A-class who fancies himself one of those rookie crushers but seems to have little bite to back up the bark. They represent two faces of the Hero Association – a body one suspects is going to play a big role in the series going forward.
Into this reality step Saitama and Genos – the former wearing the aforementioned “Oppai” hoodie to the exam. Saitama’s utterly unforced disinterest during the course of the exam and its aftermath is really the highlight here – despite acing the physical tests he scores only a 71 thanks to the written exam, and gets himself labeled “C”. Genos, by contrast, nets a perfect 100 – though one suspects it was his frank admission to having destroyed the House of Evolution that was at least as important in getting him an S–class rating.
The elephant in the room here, though, is Saitama’s power and how he got that way. He’s just ridiculously overpowered (“It’s as if there’s a God in his body”) and there’s been no remotely decent explanation as to how or why he ended up that way. His practice match with Genos is an absolute sakuga explosion, a gloriously drawn and staged fight in the badlands that shows in inescapable fashion just how huge the gap is between Saitama and the otherwise-overpowered Genos. The way Saitama carries himself during and after this battle is a microcosm of his appeal as a character – he’s so unprepossessing and chill, yet he’s effectively a demigod. Genos certainly wants to know how this happened – that as much as the desire to get stronger himself is a reason why he’s shadowed Saitama like a puppy and is now moving in with him – and I suspect the formal introduction of the Hero Association is a first step down the road to getting a few answers…