One Punch Man Recap: Episode 1 “The Strongest Man”

Welcome to the weekly One Punch Man episode recap!

After scanning through the many new arrivals of the fall season, there were only two shows that really jumped out at me as interesting enough, at least to me, that I thought seriously about recapping them each week.

The first was Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen, which has a very interesting story, strong animation, well developed characters, and strong world building. It’s also fantasy, which is a favorite genre of mine.

The other was One Punch Man. I love comic books and the characters they offer up, so a show that is basically a deconstruction of comics, while also being a celebration of the characters, was hard to pass up on.

Ultimately, I went with OPM, for a couple of reasons. The first being I just really enjoyed the ever loving crap out of it. This is easily a show I am going to enjoy talking about, and offers up a lot of fun stuff. That’s a really hard thing for me to not latch on to.

Past that, though are more sensible reasons. OPM began life as a webcomic, created by a writer and artist operating under the pseudonym ONE. It went crazy viral, leading to it entering mainstream publication as a manga, and now, an anime series. If that isn’t a heroic story of an underdog achieving success, I don’t know what is.

More importantly, however, is that I get it. As a writer myself, I struggled for years, getting a few short stories published here and there, before moving on to self publishing novels. The kind of stuff I write tends to be the same sort of stuff the mainstream publishers avoid, so I figured self publication was the only option I had. Until my novel, War Witch: Rise got accepted by Booktrope, and I stepped up into legit publishing.

While it isn’t exactly the same as ONE and the journey of OPM, I get that desire to have the story in your head out there, and the willingness to push for it. To do what it takes. I get how it feels to make that climb from the bottom, and actually succeeding. So, I feel there’s a bit of a kindred spirit in ONE, and because of that, I felt more strongly drawn to this.

It isn’t just any studio tackling the anime adaptation, either, but legendary powerhouse Madhouse, which has a solid reputation in the anime world due to series such as Death Note. True to form, their animation here is outstanding, fluid, and just plain breathtaking.

There really wasn’t a good reason to not blog this series, is what I’m saying.

So, off we go, into the crazy world of One Punch Man.

The first episode begins with some nice visuals of a world that is going about its business. Some pretty tomatoes, some construction work, a train full of people checking their phones, the usual stuff you’d see any given day, anywhere in a major city. It’s a nice tone to set the stage with, as it is very inviting, and puts us into the world with incredible ease.

Then, shit blows up.

A massive explosion in the heart of the city disrupts this seemingly average day, and all over the place, people either run for cover, or try to see whats going on. Basically, the sort of thing people actually do when something bad happens. Run, or gawk. Once again, I feel right at home in this world.

Turns out, the explosion was the arrival of a Super Saiyan… er… purple alien looking dude. I’m sure the resemblance to a Super Saiyan is totally accidental in a completely intentional way. Regardless, he jumps into the air and unleashes a devastating attack that destroys a lot of buildings, causing countless casualties

01-01.Dammit, Goku.

In what appears to be a very important place, full of computer screens and significant looking people, status reports are demanded, tracking is called out, and super hero names are shouted with urgency. I’m guessing this is a super villain response organization, though I question how legit Lightening Max and Smile Man are as super heroes.

01-02Oh. So… I guess I shouldn’t speak ill of the asskicked, then?

Anyway, Purple Tentacle Head Man continues his rampage on a defenseless city, easily having defeated what appear to be the most powerful heroes around with little effort. Who can possibly save us now?

According to the bitching guitar riff that plays, it would be this guy.

01-03City A, where the attack is taking place, has suffered massive damage. In the burning ruins, a little girl cries for her mother and father, both of whom are likely already dead, and as Purple Tentacle Head Man approaches, she is likely not far from joining them. Indeed, Purple Tentacle Head Man enlarges his hand, intending to crush the crying girl while he gives an evil smile.

Purple Tentacle Head Man, you are a dick.

Just as goes to crush her, she is snatched away by our hero of the yellow spandex. Purple Tentacle Head Man seems not too pleased, and demands to know just who this guy thinks he is.

01-04Uh… dude. You looked a lot cooler in the other shot.

Probably just bad lighting. That can make anyone look less than stellar.

Anyway, our hero of the yellow spandex claims he’s just a hero for fun, and Purple Tentacle Head Man actually gets annoyed by that, demanding to know what sort of a pathetic backstory that is. As if to prove it’s a half assed backstory, he then launches into his own, which is a thing I guess villains and heroes do in this world when they meet for the first time.

Turns out, Purple Tentacle Head Man is actually Vaccine Man, formed of the constant stream of pollution humans have been dumping into the Earth. He explains that the Earth is a single living organism, and humans are bacteria, a virus that is killing it, so he was created with the sole purpose of wiping us out, hence his name, Vaccine Man.

Purple Tentacle Head Man sounds better, but who am I to tell you how to name yourself.

01-05Hey, you can call yourself anything you want, dude! No need to get all wigged out.

Mid monologue, our hero of the yellow spandex punches Vaccine man into a fine purple spray. With one punch. Get it? Cause he’s One Punch Man. It only takes one punch. Oh, you got that already. Okay, then.

Moving on.

Actually, no. Let’s not move on yet. Why? Cause OPM himself is a little less than happy about this turn of events.

Turns out, being able to defeat any enemy with a single punch is not as fun as it sounds. OPM is pretty bummed that Purp… er… Vaccine Man went down so easy. With City A in ruins, OPM is more devastated that there was no actual fight, and screams to the heavens in dismay.

01-06Say what you want, I think it’s good he has his priorities.

So, the opening credits are pretty awesome, by the way. Set to “The Hero!” by JAM Project, it’s just metal enough to warrant a few moments of headbanging. There’s a ton of cool visuals, and even a couple little easter eggs. I spotted a Titan from Attack on Titan and The Joker in there. Kind fun to try and see what all is lurking about getting one punched, but really, some of the visuals are just great.

01-07After the credits, we go back in time 3 years to meet OPM before he became a hero. Sort of an origin story really, as every great hero has to have one. Is he the last survivor of a doomed alien race? Did he see his parents killed in front of him? Was he bitten by a radioactive badger mole? How did One Punch Man become One Punch Man, anyway?

Turns out, his name is actually Saitama, and he got a bad case of the crabs.

01-09And you thought I was joking.

Okay, so that’s Crablante, who turned into that after eating too much crab. I guess you are what you eat gets pretty hardcore in some places. Anyway, Saitama doesn’t run away like everyone else does when Crablante shows up, prompting the villain to wonder why, even speculating that Saitama is a newly hired businessman already tired of his soul crushing nine to five career.

Actually, Saitama doesn’t have a job at all. He’s been looking for one, but has had no luck. He doesn’t have a death wish or anything, he just doesn’t give a shit enough to get out of the freaky crab man’s way. This sad tale prompts Crablante to take a bit of pity on the guy, as they both have the same lifeless look in their eyes, and let him live.

He does, however, tell Saitama that he’s not just killing for the fun of it. He’s looking for one particular person, a kid with a big chin. He only kills people who happen to get in his way, but has a mad hard on to off this one particular kid. Saitama roundly doesn’t give a shit.

Heading home after his run in with Crablante, Saitama happens to spot the big chinned kid in question, however.

01-10Something tells me we’re gonna need Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones for this one.

Saitama learns that the kid is indeed the one Crablante is searching for. After Crabby fell asleep in the park, the kid drew some nipples on him with a permanent marker. While this is possibly the most petty reason ever to want to kill somebody, Saitama finds himself gripped by a moral dilemma all the same.

He could warn the kid, and help save him, or stay out of it and go home. One the one hand, helping others is just the right thing to do. On the other hand, going home sounds a lot easier and doesn’t come with the chance of being mauled by a psychotic crab man.

Deciding it really isn’t his problem, Saitama starts to walk away when Crablante shows up and tries to kill the kid. To everyone’s surprise, including his own, Saitama saves him. Rather than running for his life, though, the kid points out that his soccer ball would get left behind. Crablante steps on it, because Crablante is a dick.

01-11Crablante doesn’t take Saitama’s interference to kindly, and Saitama’s attempts at logically arguing reasons Crablante shouldn’t kill the kid even less kindly. As far as he’s concerned, anyone who makes fun of him is getting what they deserve. All of this, however, just makes Saitama laugh.

Turns out, Crablante reminds him of a villain from an anime he watched as a kid. This gets Saitama punched across the playground. Satisfied he’s learned his lesson, Crablante turns back to the kid, but gets a rock upside the head as Saitama gets back up, ready to rumble.

Turns out, back when he was a kid, Saitama dreamed of being a hero who could defeat villains with but a single punch. Running into Crablante has made him remember that dream, so as far as he’s concerned, he doesn’t need a job. He just needs to become that hero. Crablante is as good a place as any to start fighting for justice.

This leads to him getting his ass kicked a bit. Crablante is bigger, stronger, and meaner than Saitama and has little trouble knocking him around. However, he gets cocky about it, giving Saitama the only opening he needs to scamper up Crablante’s arm, wrap his tie around Crabby’s eye-stalk, and kill him by yanking it out.

01-13Crabby patties, anyone?

So began Saitama’s journey to become One Punch Man. Over the next three years, he trained so hard he went bald, but did become exactly the hero he wanted to be, capable of defeating any villain with a single punch. Which is great, for a bit.

Turns out, being strong enough to defeat anyone is kind of boring. Having achieved his dreams, Saitama has nothing left to look forward to. The actual battles with villains are over almost as soon as they begin, and there’s nothing left for him to accomplish. So, he’s bored as hell, and back where he started when he was just a normal guy looking for a job.

Deciding to pick up some crab for dinner, Saitama’s shopping trip, and self reflection, are interrupted by a giant taking a long stomp through the city. While everyone else runs, he goes outside to have a look, and sees the newest threat to lay siege to his home town.

01-14Backstory time! The giant there is a guy who wanted to become the strongest man in the world. No matter how much he worked out, though, he always felt he was lacking. So his older brother, a mad scientist, created the ultimate strawberry flavored steroid, “Bicep King”, which transformed his little brother into that hulking behemoth. Now, they are off to conquer the world!

They might have gotten away with it, too, if the younger brother wasn’t a total idiot. OPM decides to go see what they are up to, and is hanging out on the giants shoulder, opposite from the mad scientist Big Brother. Naturally, Big Brother isn’t pleased, and order Little Brother to squish the guy on his shoulder, which leads to Big Brother getting squished.

Now, for some reason, Little Brother decides this is OPM’s fault. Why? Cause he’s stupid. With his brother dead, Little Brother tries to take out OPM, and here is where Madhouse really shows their genius when it comes to animation.

The animation takes on a very cartoonish quality, with everything becoming massively distorted and over exaggerated. At first glance, it looks like poor animation, until you notice it is a reflection of the grotesque body modification Little Brother has undergone is his quest to be strong, as well as the way Bicep King has warped his ability to think and reason. It’s a pretty clever use of animation to convey these things, and really adds dimension to the brief battle between Little Brother and OPM.

01-15Thinking he’s destroyed OPM, Little Brother calms down a bit, and realizes that his pursuit of ultimate strength was pretty pointless, since it led to his brother’s death. OPM pops up from the rubble, and agrees that having unbeatable strength is pretty boring as he almost knocks Little Brother’s head clean off.

Unfortunately, when the giant collapses, it wipes out City B.

Well, these things are gonna happen now and then. Best we just move on.

Saitama heads to the store again, thinking that despite being able to take out any villain with a single punch, the world remains unchanged. There are just as many evils in the world as ever, making him wonder if he’s had any impact at all. He’s also noticed that he doesn’t seem to feel much of anything these days, making him ponder on whether or not attaining so much power has caused him to lose something that humans need in order to really feel alive.

He’s sort of interrupted by some kind of car/man hybrid, but takes him out without even really paying him much mind. He’s too busy with philosophical musings to be bothered with the custom car obsessed weirdo.

Basically, Saitama’s life is going nowhere. Even his hobby as a hero no longer brings any kind of fulfillment, making him wonder what the point of anything really is. He isn’t just bored, he’s depressed, and has no idea what to do about it.

The next morning, he’s awakened by a massive explosion just seconds before something comes crashing through his walls and tries to grab him by the head. He shrugs it off, but gets punched outside, where he sees his home in ruins before the attacker tosses him down the street.

Turns out, he’s under attack by the Subterraneans, massive, brutish creatures who live underground and consider themselves the only true Earthlings. Due to overpopulation, they have invaded the surface, already wiping out 70% of the population, a detail that sends OPM into a righteous fury, as he is the self declared defender of humanity.

01-16What follows is a truly epic battle as Saitama takes on the entire Subterranean invasion by himself. No matter how many they throw at him at once, he battles them all. As he does, his sense of exhilaration grows. This is the battle he has long sought, enemies worthy of him, and his overwhelming strength.

The animation shifts to reflect it as well, become aggressively detailed, fluid, and beautiful, with incredible depth, reflecting Saitama’s growing sense of joy at having found a new goal. Not just that, but a sense of purpose, of place, and with them, a self worth he’d lost.

01-17Too bad it was all a dream.

Yeah, Saitama’s alarm goes off, waking him from his beautiful dream, just as he is about to battle the Subterranean King. At first annoyed, he quickly hears a crashing from outside and learns that the Subterraneans really are attacking, lead by their king! Donning his uniform, he dives out, his excitement knowing no bounds.

One punch later, the King is a splat on the ground, and the Subterraneans have retreated, leaving behind an apology for having bothered the surface world. Once more, Saitama finds himself without direction.

After the closing credits, we look in on a lot of dead cows, as a guy with creepy eyes stands among them.

01-18I’m sure Captain Creepyeyes will turn out to be a misunderstood cow mangler.

Tomorrow, episode 2 of One Punch Man: “The Lone Cyborg”

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4 thoughts on “One Punch Man Recap: Episode 1 “The Strongest Man”

  1. Nice recap, i loved several bits about it, mostly about how every villain is a dick.

    But two corrections:
    1. The author, the one who created the webcomic alone, is called ONE, the manga remake is done by the artist Murata Yusuke, famous for the manga/anime Eyeshield21

    2. It must have been a LONG time since you have seen dbz, because he isn’t similar to saiyajin, and thus not to goku, but to Namekians from dbz, especially Piccolo.

    Like

    1. Thank ya. 🙂

      Yeah, I noticed that the official manga and the anime all have writers other than ONE, but the original concept was his, so I felt he deserved to be given the most credit.

      It actually has been a crazy long time since I’ve seen anything DBZ related. I remember that there was a guy who looked kinda like Vaccine Man, I remember the name Goku, and I remember Super Saiyens. Past that, I don’t really remember much, but revisiting the series has been on my to do list. The chance for the joke just came before the chance for a rewatch.

      Sometimes I write stuff that makes people laugh, other times I write stuff that makes people laugh at what I don’t know. Thus, is life.

      That aside, thanks for pointing out what I didn’t remember. It’s actually really appreciated.

      Like

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