As is my usual preference when I’m writing a generally positive post (and this one is going to be extremely positive) with one negative element, I’ll get the negative out of the way. I didn’t especially like the way Puri-Puri Prisoner (Onosaka Masaya, who’s something of a go-to for these sort of characters) was portrayed here. It’s not a One Punch problem but an anime problem generally that gay characters (usually male) are played for laughs, often in a mean-spirited way. In defense of OPM pretty much everyone in this series is over the top, so at least it doesn’t stand out so much.
That frees me up to rave about just how much this episode kicked ass, and just how much One Punch Man has found its stride in the last month – it’s leveled up to exactly the series I was hoping it was going to be. Frankly, I’m not sure which was the more glorious orgy of awesomeness this week – the seiyuu performances or the sakuga. OPM’s story and satirical social commentary are winners on their own, but it’s such a pleasure to have a show get the kind of platinum treatment Madhouse is giving this one.
No doubt about it – the Deep Sea King (Koyama Rikiya) is the best villain we’ve met so far. He’s OP enough to pose a real threat, the character design is awesome (think Ryuk from Death Note mixed with Audrey II and The Creature From the Black Lagoon), and you’ve got Koyama-san in beast mode voicing him. DSK is a bit campy in his own right but that makes him that much more entertaining. After Saitama has a (duh) brief run-in with one of his underlings in City Z, King turns up in City J after Class A hero Stinger (more glorious seiyuu work from the great Seki Tomokazu) makes sashimi out of several more of his lieutenants.
Even when the dry air (as if that were ever a problem in Kanto) shrivels DSK up a bit he’s still a beast, and he disposes of Stinger (and then Hoshi Shouichirou’s Lightning Max) pretty quickly. Everyone – including most of the heroes – tries to evacuate, but the brave Mumen Rider (Nakamura Yuuichi) pedals in anyway (stopping at red lights, of course) eventually picking up Saitama – who’s been left behind by Genos (why didn’t he just carry him?). Meanwhile the aforementioned Prisoner and Sped-‘o-Sound Sonic are now facing down the Sea King.
Both these guys are S-Class, but King is more than a match for them. He and Prisoner seem like kindred spirits in a sense, but that doesn’t stop DSK from kicking the now-transformed – and nekkid – Prisoner’s ass. Sonic eventually gets nekkid too, after all of his super-speed proves useless against King – who’s now transformed himself, thanks to the rain. There’s a very funny moment here when Sonic mumbles a “Crunch crunch, snap snap” to simulate his bones breaking after slithering out of DSK’s grasp – and his own clothes – to escape.
All of these battles, by the way, are taking place in gloriously animated form – I mean lights-out, H x H level Madhouse – with a running soundtrack from what’s rapidly turning into a seiyuu Hall-of-Fame banquet. There’s nothing routine about any of these action set pieces – they’re exceptional. But we know what they’re building towards. DSK makes his way to the shelter where much of City J’s population – and lower-level heroes – have holed up, and announces his intention to kill them. Allback-Man tries to buy some time, but the poor Class-C is so terrified he pisses himself. It so happens that a couple more heroes are present, including Class A’s bottom-dweller Sneck, but they’re mere plankton (DSK is probably being kind when he calls them zaku).
All those appetizers are wonderful, but for me one eye is always on the main course. Genos’ arrival is either the last hors d’oeuvres or the beginning of the piece de resistance, depending on your perspective, but while I’m sure he’ll put up a good fight I don’t think even Genos will prove to be a match for King. I find myself hoping this is finally the opponent that will require more than a single punch from Saitama to be defeated, but I rather doubt it – after all, the title is what it is. The bigger question may be whether Saitama finally starts getting public appoval for all the population-saving he’s doing, rather than once again being dismissed as the guy who “steals the credit”. But right now I think that injustice is every bit as intrinsic to the story as the titular punch.