Now that we’ve had a full month of One Punch Man, there are two things I can say about this show. The first is pretty much praise, while the second kind of isn’t.
First off, the show is very much a comedy, using the typical story beats of any shonen genre story, or Western comic book, but doing it all in this absurd way that kind of highlights just how silly it all really is. It’s brilliant at all this, too, taking the entire concept apart with a keen eyed brutality that is almost awe inspiring. In this, OPM just plain rocks.
However, for the second thing, there’s a point at which the deconstruction of the superhero mythos just kind of wanders off into the desert on a horse with no name. The fact is, OPM has no actual plot that I can find beyond just taking apart the superhero myth. It’s funny as hell, it just doesn’t really seem to be going anywhere.
While the excellent comedy helps prop up this lack of an actual story, Madhouse is going to need to be careful here. There’s a good chance OPM could get so mired in the sight gags that the lack of a plot drags the entire thing down. Even as a comedy, some sort of a plot is needed, or the entire thing goes from being a funny look at the overly serious superhero genre to an increasingly unfunny series of jokes that start to feel stale.
Mind you, I have a lot of faith in Madhouse, and still have a good feeling that there will be at least a thin plot in the near future to help keep the story moving somewhere besides the sight gags and silly jokes. Those are fine, and I’m totally on board with the show keeping that up, I’d just like a little more than random fights that don’t have any purpose.
One other thing before we jump into the recap. A few days ago, me and my buddy Nate got to talking about the show, and it hit me that part of what makes OPM so appealing is Saitama’s relaxed, almost goofy attitude towards things. He serves as a nice counter to the ever grim attitude DC comics, and films based on them, have been dishing out lately. The desaturated, dark, nobody ever smiles, everything kinda sucks world of DC lacks any kind of humor, which OPM nicely skewers. I can’t say the same for Marvel based films, as they do like their jokes and funny moments, which I think helps them succeed so well. OPM is very much in the Marvel Films vein in a lot of ways, and helps showcase how absurdly grimdark DC has gotten.
There’s bright colors, bad jokes from Saitama, and even the overly serious and earnest Genos is kind of lampooned in a lot of ways, bringing very strongly to mind that superhero comics have, in the past, been all about the bright colors and zingers. This new era of brooding superheros DC is trying to bring to page and film bothers me, and I guess OPM appeals that much more because of it. It may well be part of the reason I’m willing to cut it a little more slack than I otherwise would.
By the by, yes, I really do have a friend named Nate. He lives in New Zealand and dies off camera a lot, but is proof I do have friends. You know, that aren’t animated.
Pretty sure he isn’t animated anyway. Could be wrong. I’ve never been to New Zealand, but it looks like a pretty CG place in all the movies, so I guess it’s possible.
Right at the jump, we meet a new villain, Hammerhead, who has gone and gotten himself a group of followers that call themselves The Paradisers. They’ve stolen some new prototype battlesuits, which I keep trying to type as pottytype for some reason, and are on a rampage through City F.
Hammerhead is outraged by the massive income inequality he sees, and while normally I’d agree that is a bad thing, his solution is to create a new “utopia” where anyone that doesn’t want to work, doesn’t have to, and has a comfortable living provided for them. This is absurd on a lot of levels, but Hammerhead isn’t the brightest guy around, so it isn’t really a shock that he hasn’t thought the economic ramifications of this type of model through.
I do want to go on record here, however, that I am very much in favor of welfare as a safety net to help prevent middle and low income families from losing everything due to any number of unforeseeable events, such as job loss or medical related issues. Nobody should be punished with the loss of everything they have worked for due to things they couldn’t prevent.
However, landing in the safety net and just staying there shouldn’t be the goal, either. It should never make things so easy that people decide to just hang out there. That’s not a safety net, it’s a hammock.
Look, I’ve been homeless. Spent several years that way, living in my car, and motels when I could afford it. Bounced from one cash paying job to another, trying to get a foothold that would let me pull myself up. I got food stamps, and there were a lot of times I was tempted to give up and just stop trying. To coast and survive.
I didn’t though, because that isn’t a life. It’s an existence. I busted my ass, spent twenty years clawing my way up, until I had managed to buy a house and a car, pay them both off, and get a novel accepted by a publisher. It’s about motivation, and the desire to improve yourself. That isn’t something that welfare can give. That’s got to come from the individual. Increasing or decreasing the comfort level of the safety net isn’t going to give anyone that. They have to decide it for themselves.
Taking it away entirely, however, won’t force anyone to try harder. It’ll just demoralize them to the point they give up. Having that safety net is what helped me keep going, until I reached the point I didn’t need it anymore. If it had been better, I may have given up, though, and just coasted, while without it, I’d probably still be living on the street, without even a car to sleep in. It’s a balancing act, is what I’m getting at, finding the right mix of what keeps people moving, without encouraging them to stop trying.
Ultimately, though, that lack of motivation isn’t something welfare is responsible for. Either people have the desire to improve their lives, or they don’t. That isn’t something you can blame welfare for. That comes down to personal choice. Some people just want to be lazy, and live in the net. You’ll never make them change, but you don’t blame everyone who is having a rough patch, or take away the net entirely. That’s just absurd.
And that went on a bit longer than I intended.
Back to One Punch Man, which does not address social inequality anywhere near as deeply as I just did.
Hammerhead and his gang decide to take their fight to the richest guy in town, Donald Trump. Oh… uh… I mean Mr. Zeniru, who Hammerhead is convinced didn’t earn all his money legally. As punishment, he decides Trump… er… Zeniru should have his palatial high rise home knocked down.
Okay, so Hammerhead knocked down the wrong building. Nobody is perfect.
While all of this is happening, we get our first look at Mumen Rider, a bicycling superhero that always has time to recover lost balloons from trees for small children. He even gets his own really super heroic theme music before heading off to face Hammerhead and the Paradisers.
He’s incredibly heroic.
Saitama wakes up in the morning, from a dream about somebody playing rock, paper, scissors with a booger on their finger, making me wonder what’s wrong with him all over again. He clicks on the news as he gets himself together and learns of the Paradisers, as well as the fact they shave their heads. The news warns to avoid anyone with a completely bald head, as they are likely dangerous.
This really pisses Saitama off. He’s bald, but no terrorist. In fact, he’s a hero! That he could get lumped in with this bunch makes him so mad he decides to go find them, and kick their collective asses. Again, Saitama is only motivated to get involved in a situation because it affects him in some way.
Saitama just doesn’t get the whole superhero thing, I think.
Anyway, Mumen Rider catches up to Hammerhead and the Paradisers, who have punched their way through the cops. He orders them stop, after parking his bicycle, and promptly gets his ass kicked. Well, at least he tried.
Over at his actual high rise, which has an actual giant golden turd on top, Trump… sorry, Zeniru is refusing to leave because running way from terrorists would hurt his public image. I’m not really sure how to take a guy seriously who lives in a skyscraper topped by a giant gold turd, yet worries about his public image. Of course, I have a hard time taking Trump seriously, too, so I guess we’ll just move on.
Anyway, he’s got a bodyguard called Speed ‘O Sound Sonic, who is the modern ninja of the episode’s title. He promises to deal with the Paradisers, urging Zeniru to be ready to clean up all the bodies. Seems Sonic can move really, really, really fast, which I’m sure has no connection to a certain famous hedgehog.
Okay, a minimal connection, at best.
Soon, Sonic and the Paradisers meet. Being a nice ninja, Sonic asks them to surrender, so he won’t have to kill them. When they refuse, he goes all vorpal hedgehog on them. Bald heads are just flying every which way. It’s awful. The humanity!
With everyone but Hammerhead dead, the two mix it up, Hammerhead barely managing to keep his own head. There’s a lot of head going around in this recap.
Oh, and Saitama gets confused for a terrorist.
Hammerhead tries to smash Sonic with some boulders he throws around, creating a trap. By placing the boulders just right, he leaves Sonic only one way to come at him, insuring he can smack him around. Sonic is amused, and comes at him, managing to dodge the tree Hammerhead tries to hit him with, and planting a dagger in the back of Hammerhead’s head.
Hammerhead falls down, and satisfied he’s tended the matter, Sonic calls Zeniru to tell him it’s clean up time. However, Hammerhead wasn’t dead. Seems he’s got a much thicker skull than normal, and just ran off, with a dagger sticking out of his head. As he flees, however, he runs into Saitama, and the two prepare to butt heads over who’s bald head will come out ahead.
So much head happening.
Meanwhile, we check in with Genos, who is getting repaired after his clash with Kabuto last week. The doctor who made him into a cyborg picks up on Genos’ hero worship of Saitama, and promises that he is working on some new augmentations that may let him surpass his hero.
This might prove interesting.
Back at the battle of the bald, Saitama and Hammerhead have a little banter, leading to Hammerhead putting his battlesuit to maximum after his first punch had no affect on Saitama. For his part, our hero of the yellow spandex is kinda bummed that Hammerhead’s battlesuit isn’t as tough as he heard on the news.
Hammerhead goes for a spin attack, which is actually just him waving his arms really fast. It kind of reminds Saitama of when he was a kid, making him realize Hammerhead is much like a younger version of himself. He destroys Hammerhead’s armor, but doesn’t kill him, instead ordering him to go get a job. Hammerhead runs off, happy to oblige.
As he prepares to go home, Saitama is stopped by Sonic, who thinks he’s one of the Paradisers. He attacks, but Saitama just catches the thrown dagger. He also catches Sonic’s sword and breaks it. Sonic still thinks he’s a Paradiser, even when Saitama insists he isn’t.
This leads to the best scene in the whole episode. Saitama tries to point out that he’s the guy who is a hero for fun, and has saved the world several times. Sonic’s response is a plain, “Never heard of you.” Saitama’s response is straight up dejection.
Seriously. He’s despondent to learn that Sonic has no idea who he is. For a guy that does this for fun, and only get involves when it suits him, he’s very upset about his lack of a public image.
Sonic, not caring how badly he’s wounded Saitama’s ego, tells him that it doesn’t really matter if he’s a hero or a Paradiser. He saw through Sonic’s attacks, twice, which is something he can’t let stand. He trained all his life in a hidden ninja village to be the best, and knowing there is someone out there who is better than him is an insult. He also keeps all of this under 20 words, which as we all know, is a good thing.
He claims it’s a matter of pride, but Saitama thinks he just wants to try out his ninja moves on someone who is actually strong. He claims Sonic’s innocent smile gives that away. Personally, I don’t think Saitama understands the meaning of the words innocent or smile.
Somebody may need to buy Saitama a dictionary. And a calendar. Dude just needs a lot of things.
Anyway, Sonic goes full bore, ninja leaping all over the place as superhuman speed. He’s so fast, no normal person could keep up with him. So fast, he may as well be invisible. So fast, he creates shockwaves with his passing. Confident he has Saitama both frightened and defeated, he goes for a killing blow.
At least, until Saitama pops his head around so fast it’s a blur to look right at him and ask if he can go home. Undeterred by this, Sonic presses the attack, leading to Saitama accidentally punching him in the balls.
Saitama tries to apologize, but it’s too late. Damage done.
Then, this happens.
Okay, so, Sonic is injured in places more sensitive than his pride, but still tries to stand tall against Saitama. Vowing on his ninjaness to become even better, faster, and stronger, he demands to know Saitama’s name, and declares them rivals. He promises to return and defeat Saitama, which Saitama reacts to by actually encouraging him.
I’d say it was out of pity, but I think he really did mean it. He recognizes that kind of drive, and encourages it even in his enemies.
Or, it could have been pity. Hard to say.
That done, Saitama meets up with Genos and relates the entire thing to him. Proving to be the most logical person around, Genos immediately points out that Speed ‘O Sound Sonic is a pretty redundant name. Saitama isn’t interested in that, though. He has a bigger issue to worry about. Namely, that nobody seems to have heard of him despite all he’s done.
Turns out, the news is claiming Mumen Rider defeated the Paradisers, which is kind of a big fat lie. Saitama is bummed because he has no fans, prompting Genos to make a realization.
Genos points out that to be recognized for his deeds, he needs to be registered with the Hero’s Association, which Saitama did not know, because he does not understand the concept of research. He asks if Genos is registered, which he isn’t, because he isn’t interested in fame, just doing the right thing.
Saitama suggests that they should both register, and promises to make Genos his disciple if he’ll do it. Genos instantly agrees, because he’s a puppy.
Elsewhere, Hammerhead, still naked from his fight with Saitama, gets beaten down by a couple freaky looking guys for having stolen their battlesuits. They admit to letting the theft happen so they could gather data, but need to get rid of all witnesses for the sake of the Organization. Naturally, Hammerhead’s thick skull saves him from actually dying.
As Saitama fills out the hero registration form, he ponders Hammerhead a little, and can’t help but think that he could have just as easily ended up like him. It’s a fairly self aware moment for Saitama, and shows that beyond his rather lazy attitude and selfish attitude towards being a hero, he does actually think of others. In fact, he may have given Hammerhead the kick in the pants he needed to actually make something of his life.
In the post credit scene, Saitama and Genos head into the Hero Test Location, ready to be recognized for their efforts.
While OPM may have raised the issue of wealth inequality, it didn’t really have much to say about it, which is fine, since it isn’t that kind of a show. Though, I will admit, Saitama’s own view’s seem to kind of fall in line with mine a bit, as he sees how easy it would have been for him to go down the same road as Hammerhead, and is actually concerned about it. More than that, he worries for Hammerhead, and tries to encourage him to do more with his life than just be lazy and expect everyone else to take care of him. It’s a quiet, roundabout way of dealing with the issue, without really dealing with the issue.
Of course, we also get an actual enemy for Saitama this week, as Sonic declares himself Saitama’s rival. How well this will work out for him remains to be seen, but all things considered, I’m not expecting Sonic to fare too well against our hero of the yellow spandex.
We also get a new hero in the form of Mumen Rider. Just how he’ll fit into things remains to be seen, but for the moment, I’m thinking he’s biting off more than he can chew with this hero business. He’s just a dude on a bicycle. Of course, Saitama seems to be about the only genuine superhuman in this world, so I guess we’ll see how well Mumen Rider does against other enemies later on. I’m not expecting the kid to have a long lifespan, personally.
Most importantly, though, we got the first inkling of an actual plot! The Hero Association, and Saitama’s quest to be recognized. It may be a thin plot, but at least it’s a plot, so I’ll take it. I’m interested to see how he handles himself during the testing, as I figure his powers alone will put him in a class by himself.
Will Saitama live his dream of being a famed hero? Will Genos ever get to be a proper disciple? Will Sonic get his balls back in order? All this, and more, next week! Same punch time, same punch channel!