One-Punch Man, "The Strongest Man and The Lone Cyborg"
Directed by Shingo Natsume
Written by Tomohiro Suzuki, Mike McFarland and Dave Casipit
Starring Max Mittelman, Zach Aguilar and Cristina Vee
Airing on Cartoon Network
Reviewed by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
It's been some time coming, but the English version of One-Punch Man has finally come to America, starting this weekend on Adult Swim's Toonami. Having heard about this series from friends, One-Punch Man certainly lives up to the insane hype, and for the rest of us who have been uninitiated for the past year, this will not disappoint.
One-Punch Man tells the story of Saitama, a warrior who now drifts through existence, bored with being a hero merely for the fact that he's just too powerful. If you can't guess by the title, Saitama can defeat all his foes with just one punch. And by defeat, I mean kill into absolute oblivion. So the series concentrates on his quest to find a worthy opponent along with the obstacles of everyday mundane life. In the first episode, "The Strongest Man,” Saitama recalls his early life as a regular businessman looking for a job in a city that is constantly overrun with monsters.
That being said, just because Saitama has a nonchalant attitude about his own personal growth, doesn't make the fight scenes boring or even downplayed. On the contrary, they're the highlight of each episode. In the two thus far, they were filled with deliciously silly anime tropes, including over-the-top super attacks, strong visuals, and even though they all ended the same, presented strong animation and snappy direction.
One thing you're going to take with you, aside from the bad guys' innards erupting all over the place from Saitama's right hook, are the villain designs themselves. From the Beast King to Mosquito Girl to the crab guy in the first episode that merely got that way from eating too much crab, they're all utterly brilliant as they are insane and hilarious. A lot of the humor comes from the interactions between Saitama and his foe of the hour, who tries to come off as intimidating and savage, while Saitama blows them off, and becomes increasingly less impressed.
What does give Saitama purpose is helping out the young cyborg, Genos. Through a heavy amount of exposition, purposefully for comedic reasons, we see that Geno is looking for a sensei, someone to help him find the out-of-control cyborg that killed his family and who inadvertently turned him into a cyborg as well. Geno's dialog provides a ton of humor as well as he's a good foil to Saitama as being a guy who is extremely intense and almost a trope himself. Even though Saitama initially refuses the young cyborg's assistance, the pay-off with just their banter alone has been great.
The animation even outside the fight scenes is top-notch, with a lot to appreciate for fans who pore over every detail. The backdrops of the city and every ounce of destruction is shown so perfectly. The hustle and bustle of just living in a busy city are displayed with great detail. Accompanied by terrific metal riffs during the fight scenes, each skirmish is a joy to watch, even knowing that the bad guy is about to be without a head. The violence is explicit, for sure, but it's so cartoonish, it's difficult to really take seriously, but I'm not sure if this is still a show meant for an under-13 audience.
One-Punch Man takes everything fans love about the superhero genre and turns it on its bald head and punches it right to the sun, laughing all the way. It's a solid mix of humor and zany action that makes it distinct from anything else out there at the moment — it's really one of a kind. I hope it catches on with a larger audience that hasn't had the chance to see the original Japanese version or even touch the manga or webcomic series, as the animated series is almost the perfect medium for something like this so it captures the ridiculousness and quick action so perfectly well.