Think of your run-of-the-mill super-hero flick. Think of the hero’s origin. The hero’s motives. The hero’s powers. Now flip all of that on its head.
Voila. You have One Punch Man.
The last decade has provided a boom in the superhero genre, with great content being produced across the board in both film and TV. Whilst many of us are grateful for the endless conveyer belt of content, certain tropes have become commonplace within the genre, leading to many a comic book films feeling slightly repetitive in nature.
“The protagonist simply does 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats and a 10km run daily.”
I mean, there’s only so many times we can see a hero’s parents die, right? One Punch Man brings a much-needed breath of fresh air, parodying these tropes and offering a drastically different take on what it means to be a superhero. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what makes the show so special and why it should definitely be added to your Netflix bucket list.
Ah, and don’t worry. No spoilers.
Well, more or less.
The 2015 TV series (based upon the 2009 Manga of the same name) has become renowned for its subversion of superhero genre conventions in relation to its protagonist, Saitama, a man who has seemingly become powerful enough to obliterate enemies with a single punch. How were such powers bestowed upon him, I hear you ask? A freak accident? Mutation? Years of lifting weights and abusing steroids? Nope. The protagonist simply does 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats and a 10km run daily.
Naturally, I was quite disappointed when I found these results not to be replicable. Frankly, I’m still not quite over it.
“One Punch Man also explores a conundrum that is rarely brought up within the superhero genre: what happens when the hero becomes too powerful?”
The show’s comedy derives from the lack of urgency Saitama’s powers afford him. Whilst other heroes (such as fan favourites ‘Mumen Rider’ and ‘Genos’) fiercely wage battles against villains in a struggle to save lives, Saitama strolls nonchalantly into frame, only to end the confrontation with a single punch. And man, it is funny.
The series presents us with familiar scenarios in which heroes, who are faced with adversity, band together to eliminate a threat. You know, the usual malarkey. Teamwork. Training. Discipline. Only this time, it just doesn’t cut it. No, this isn’t The Avengers or Justice League. It doesn’t take a team of misfit superheroes to get the job done. It takes a bald guy with a penchant for spicy noodles.
The show also indulges in its presentation of heroes as pathetic, introducing a class system in which they’re graded based on their efficiency in the field. This offers humour through the heroes’ petty squabbles, tracking their self-esteem issues as they’re often placed in the lower grades. Once again, not the glamorous ladies and gents in spandex often portrayed within Hollywood blockbusters.
One Punch Man also explores a conundrum that is rarely brought up within the superhero genre: what happens when the hero becomes too powerful? With no vulnerabilities to speak of, Saitama’s life retains no suspense nor threat. He ploughs through the villains with ease. In fact, it brings a sense of ennui, with the titular protagonist struggling to come to terms with his power as the show progresses.
If you’re looking for something a little different to watch, this might be the show for you. And with only one season of twelve episodes, this should be an easy binge over Christmas.
Oh, and speaking of gems of the super-hero genre, rest in peace to Marvel’s Daredevil. We’ll miss you.
Media courtesy of Asatsu and Bandai Visual Company via IMDb.