It occurred to me watching this week’s episode of One Punch Man that it would really, really suck if the anime were to end here. It’s a truism for one-cour adaptations anyway, but rarely do I recall a series that so overpoweringly gives the impression that it’s just getting started. I think there’s every reason to be optimistic – Stalker thinks the disc sales will be in the 8-9K range, and as popular as the manga is that ought to be good enough. But you can’t make any assumptions until you get an announcement.
On the matter at hand, OPM has gotten gloriously epic in the past few episodes. It’s a series full of larger than life characters and events, and it uses spectacle for ironic effect in a very clever way. A show that can excel at being both grandiose and subtle is a rarity, and this is one of them – and even if the current events are weighted towards the former, there are still moments of the latter to be found.
It was obviously a huge milestone when all of the S-Class heroes (less two) were introduced this week – it had to happen sooner or later. Some of them we’ve met before, most not. I’m not even going to try and list all of the big-name seiyuu who surrounded that conference table, but a couple heroes who seem to stand out as major players are 7th-ranked King (Yasumoto Hirouki), the “world’s strongest man” who seems to have the respect of his colleagues (who generally don’t seem to respect each other) and 5th-ranked Child Emperor (Takayama Minami), a short-pants prodigy whose true power has ye to be revealed (unless it’s snark).
How seriously are we to take these rankings? Well, as we’ve already seen that the rankings system weighs in a lot of factors irrelevant to actual strength, so I’ve no idea if the relative power of these S-Class heroes is in-line with the numbers. The occasion for their meeting is a dire prediction by the psychic Shibabawa at the end of Episode 9 (just before she choked to death on a cough drop) that “The Earth is in trouble!”. And it’s hugely significant that the B-Class Saitama is present – present because he happened to be with Genos and Bang (#3 ranked) at the latter’ dojo at the time of the summons. If Saitama has allies among the S Class, it would be these two – Genos obviously, but Bang clearly recognizes Saitama’s true power and cares little for petty politics. Bang is in the midst of his own troubles – his ex-student Garou has gone rogue and taken out most of his students.
Among the S-Class we also meet Atomic Samurai (Tsuda Kenjirou), who greets Saitama rather rudely but not, I would say, disrespectfully. This meeting is interesting (there’s a hilarious moment when Genos fills Saitama’s impudent request for a cup of tea). Missing are the #1-ranked Blast and the #6-ranked Metal Knight (who we’ve met, and who designed the building the heroes are sitting in). The S-Class heroes squabble like children, and most don’t seem to take the threat too seriously. That is, until the building comes under attack, and the city surrounding it is 99.8% percent destroyed in the blink of an eye.
It seems only fitting that the being who destroys it is played by Uchiyama Kouki, who very much brings his Meruem voice to play here. I don’t know whether he and the massive ship he came from represent any kind of real big bad – this series is ultimately a series of anti-climaxes – or even whether they’re what Shbabawa was so freaked out about. But he’s certainly trouble (this threat class may even leapfrog from “Dragon” to “Kami” level), and it’s no surprise that even as most of the other S-Class heroes are still bickering (bickering seems a given whenever Tornado is involved) Saitama has already blasted through the ceiling and infiltrated the ship.
It’s always interesting to speculate with OPM what the end-game is. It’s a series that’s great at delivering big impacts, but ultimately the threats never amount to much unless you’re one of the unlucky civilians or zoku baddies on the casualty list. It’s important to remember of course that even as the anime races to the finish line ONE’s manga (both of them) are still very much ongoing with no sign of slowing down. In a series that’s all about defying shounen convention and delivering the anti-climax (both literally and narratively) what exactly does one do for an ending?