Building on last weeks more serious tone, One Punch Man delivers a powerful episode this week that continues to step away from the purely satirical to examine what makes a true hero. This is actually pretty important, as it has done a great job of shining a spotlight up until recently on what does not make a hero.
Which it has done. Rather brilliantly at times, too.
Back in the first episode, when we first met Saitama, we saw that he is wallowing in his own self pity. He trained for years to become a strong hero, only to learn that it left him with no real challenge, since he could defeat any enemy with a single punch. This was, and still is, a rather pointed examination of the traditional shonen genre of writing that often feature a heroic figure facing foes that are always more powerful than the last. They have to dig deep, and grow stronger. Eventually, however, they would become so strong that there was no enemy left they couldn’t defeat.
OPM jumped past all of that to bring us a hero who has reached that point. It raises the question of what becomes of a hero after that point. The answer is that he ends up kind of a whiny jerk. He longs for the days when the fight had meaning, and through it, gave his life purpose.
We could talk all day about the purpose of a life outside of fighting, but the shonen genre rarely dwells on it, so Saitama never does either. This was where it often brought the most biting aspects of its satire of the entire genre.
The show also frequently dwells on the nature of Western costumed heroes, and that their fame is derived from their battles against their enemies, as well as their publicly perceived heroic nature. It highlighted how similar Western comic heroes are to their shonen counterparts, even going so far as to have heroes in the world of OPM be ranked according to their popularity. This is a literal jab at Western comic companies only investing in characters that prove popular, regardless of whether or not they are deserving of it.
Yes, I am looking at Guy Gardner, and even Batman, just to name two who are absurdly popular, even though they clearly suffer from some major personality deficits. I mean, seriously, who in their right mind would want to hang out with Batman? Sure, he’s cool as all get out, but let’s face it, the guy is pretty much a jerk, and only considered a hero because he’s popular.
I remain very aware that it depends on who is writing him, but the general writing approach towards Batman for a while now has been firmly in the gritty vein. The last time I honestly thought highly of the character was when he was in the hands of Bruce Tim’s animated world, where he could be kinda dark, but still relatable, humane, and respectable.
Dickman is not something I enjoy reading about.
My personal views aside, OPM has been brilliant in its deconstruction of the overall superhero genre. Which is why it makes sense it would set aside the satire at some point, and spend some time dwelling on what actually makes a character heroic. In order to do that, it first needs to introduce an actual threat. One that feels real, and easily dispatches many of the so called heroes that are more invested in their popularity than in doing what is right.
Its impressed me pretty heavily with how it went about this, too. The arrival of the Sea King showed us everything from Class C to Class S heroes getting their asses kicked, starting with Stinger, who was literally spouting off about his standing both before and after his fight with the Seafolk. The intention here is obvious.
Popularity is irrelevant when it comes to actual heroics.
This week, OPM drives that point home brutally.
Fair warning. There will be a point later on it this recap where the show hits on something that never fails to make me ranty. I’ll let you know when we get there, so you can scroll past my very opinionated views if you so please.
For the record, I have never claimed to be objective. I am not.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Picking up right where we left off, Genos confronts the Sea King. Our automated hero only asks if he is one of the Sea Folk, and when the Sea King confirms it, he wastes zero time. There is no letting the villain monologue here. True to his nature, Genos simply lets him know that he is in for an asskickeing, and punches the ever loving fuck out of him.
Seriously. Genos delivers a massive smackdown, hitting the Sea King in a way that instantly invokes Natsu of the famed Fairy Tail. The imagery reminds me of Dragonslayer’s battle with Hades in the Tenro island arc, complete with the wide angle shot of his firepower leaving a swath of destruction, and a gaping hole in the side of the emergency shelter.
The civilians are, naturally, awed by what they see. For good reason, too. They witnessed up close and personal the decimation of four heroes just a minute ago, and are aware that many other heroes were defeated prior to this, by the same monster they just saw get hammered.
Thinking he’s dealt with the threat, Genos naturally focuses on the civilians, wanting to make sure they are okay. This is where the traditional shonen genre mechanic kicks in, and the Sea King gets back up, punching Genos across the room and ripping his arm off for good measure. He’s now pissed, because he actually felt that.
Genos realizes he made the same mistake he always makes. He let his guard down. This is an interesting moment, all by itself, because it showcases the fact that Genos is aware of his failings, but like many people, clearly doesn’t know how to overcome them. It’s the same mistake he made with Mosquito Girl, Kabuto, and even in his sparring match against Saitama. He relied on his power, rather than any kind of a strategy.
This is the one real weakness Genos has. He’s smart, but he never really utilizes that in his battles. He is obsessed with strength, and never sees that his greatest asset is his intelligence. If he did, he would probably easily surpass even Saitama. It’s a pointed criticism of the shonen genre.
To use Fairy Tail once more as an example, Natsu relies heavily on his incredible power, but this is mostly because he isn’t overly bright, and he knows it. His lack of smarts is frequently addressed in a humorous fashion, really, as everyone makes jokes about him being an overpowered idiot. It’s a fairly common character trait among shonen heroes, that they have absurd power, but not a lot of intelligence.
Genos is smart, however, but never uses it because he, like most heroes in the shonen genre, go to the school of might is what wins battles. Like every shonen hero ever, he has to learn, usually through getting his ass kicked, how to think he was through a fight. He is, in every sense, the epitome of the shonen genre.
We’ll revisit this idea in a minute.
While Genos is getting up from an epic Pimp Slap of Doom, over at the Heroes Association, the agents are talking to Saitama on the phone still, trying to decide if they should send him to the battle. He’s a Class C, and because of that, sending him should mean a death sentence. However, they are aware of his physical test scores, and decide that this may be a chance to see just how powerful he actually is. If he can defeat the Sea King, then he may be more than they thought. If he can’t, then he’ll get killed, and they can forget about him.
This is kind of a shady thing they do, really. They are knowingly risking his life, just to see how powerful he really is. Considering the situation, though, it’s sort of understandable why they do it.
Meanwhile, Mumen Rider is still cycling his way bravely towards the battle, complete with Dragonball Z powerup shouting.
This, too, is something we’ll revisit soon enough.
Back at the shelter, Genos is picking himself up out of the crater the Sea King used him to make. He tells the civilians that he can’t promise he’ll win this fight, and orders them to flee, saying he’ll keep the Sea King distracted while they escape.
While Genos is very much a pure distillation of every shonen genre hero ever, this is also what sets him apart from his Western influenced peers. Where they are more interested in their popularity, and will even risk innocent lives to be seen being heroic, Genos would rather fight a battle he knows he can’t win to protect as many people as possible, by giving them time to escape. It’s an important distinction, because it is using him to draw the line between fake heroes and real ones.
Which is pretty much what this episode is all about.
This moment does bring up something that I feel is important to point out, though. The criticism levied against the other heroes in the world of OPM is a purely meta one. They are worried about their popularity, which is a concern of the publisher, as I mentioned earlier. It has very little to do with writing, or characterization, and is more about branding. These characters aren’t really heroes, they are marketing opportunities. They are recognizable brands. It doesn’t really matter if they are heroic or not, just that they sell associated merchandise.
What they do matters less than than that they be seen doing things. This is the real difference between Western comic heroes and Japanese shonen figures. Shonen heroes are less about their marketability and more about their sales figures, meaning they need good stories and character. So, true to his pure shonen roots, Genos is showing his character rather than his brand by fighting the Sea King to protect the civilians.
It is true, as I’m sure someone will point out, that shonen characters have increasingly been about merchandising in the last few years, and in a lot of ways, I can’t help feel that this moment is a pointed condemnation of that. That making traditional shonen figures more like Western ones, they are losing what makes then special.
Honestly, this is something that people with more time and knowledge than I posses could discuss more fully. Personally, I’m just going to leave it at this. Genos, pure shonen hero that he is, is rejecting the Western idea of popularity, by sending all witnesses to his heroism away. Make of that what you will.
Back to the show, the fight that follows is pretty epic.
Genos brings his A game, throwing everything he has at the Sea King. It’s incredibly animated, with inventive camera angles and impressive cinematography. It manages to convey the desperation Genos feels, that he knows he can hold nothing back, as he tries his best to move the fight away from the civilians, but defeat the Sea King as quickly as possible. It’s just plain amazing to watch.
Genos manages to take the fight outside the shelter for a bit, but can’t keep it there. When it comes back inside, people are just trying to avoid the two as they make for the exits. This is easier said than done, obviously, and as the two lock up, a little girl looks back at them while her dad tries to drag her to someplace safe.
This scene. Holy shit.
Again, Genos is just trying to keep the Sea King tied up so the civilians can escape. That is his main goal. If he can defeat him, then that’s good, too, but he knows, if he can’t keep the fight outside and away from the innocent bystanders, he must, at all costs, keep the Sea King from hurting them, by keeping his attention focused on himself.
He is, in every way, risking his life for these people. Not for popularity, or fame, or standing, but because it is the right thing to do. Because he is a hero, and he believes in what that word means.
When the little girl looks back, and tries to shout some words of encouragement, the Sea King uses Genos’ desire to protect these people against him, by spitting an acid ball at the girl. I could make a few jokes here about him hocking a luge of death, but the thing is, for once, OPM isn’t trying to be funny. This child is going to die. She is going to have her skin melt from her bones. She is going to leave her short life screaming, in agony.
There is nothing funny about that. It is in this moment the Sea King goes from being a strong enemy for the heroes to fight, to being a true monster. A force of evil, and cruelty. This is where we see, for the first time really, just how horrific this world really is.
It is also the moment we see what it takes to be a true hero, as Genos throws himself in the way, shielding this child from certain death. There is no satire here. This moment is genuinely nightmarish, as this little girl looks up at the man who just sacrificed himself to save her.
OPM has often been pretty gory, usually as Saitama punches some monster into pieces. Never, though, has it turned that keen eye it has towards the heroes being devastated so clearly as it does now. This nameless child can only stare in horror as the hero everyone was counting on to save them, dissolves in front of her.
As her dad drags her away to what is sure to be years of therapy, the Sea King tosses what is left of Genos through a wall. He criticizes him for saving a kids life. Unable to even stand, Genos can do nothing but wait for his death, knowing he has utterly failed those people. Once the Sea King finishes with him, he’ll go back, and kill them all.
The Sea King steps up to kill him, just as Mumen Rider arrives and hurls his bicycle at the monsters back. This has less than no effect.
There is no music to go with what happens next. It is stark in the absence of it, too.
Genos tries to warn Mumen Rider away, as the civilians gather to watch, and the Sea King expresses complete boredom. Mumen Rider throws a punch, only to be grabbed by the arm and used as a whack a mole mallet, until his sleeve tears loose and he goes flying. The Sea King dismisses him and turns back to finish off Genos, but Mumen Rider gets up and tries to grapple him.
The Sea King slaps him away, and it is clear, Rider is in bad shape. He’s bleeding heavily as he struggles to get back up, but he does. He gets back up. He knows he can’t win. He knows he can’t defeat a monster like this. He knows he’s just a guy on a bicycle. He knows he’s going to die.
He also knows it doesn’t matter.
He knows it’s about the fact that he stood up.
He knows it’s about the fact he fought back.
Simple, beautiful piano music begins as he shouts this to the Sea King. This true hero, this selfless man who knows he is about to die, and fights against the senseless, cruel evils of the world anyway. Not for glory, or fame, but because someone should.
Because someone must.
The people cheer for him, cry out his name, believing for that moment that he can save them. Rider knows he can’t. Yet, for them, for that hope they have, he charges ahead, throwing everything he has behind a punch.
This is what a real hero looks like. Real heroes inspire others to believe. It isn’t about whether they win or lose. It’s about the fact that they stood up, and fought back.
The Sea King knocks him flying.
Mumen Rider, the bravest, most selfless hero in this terrible world, never hits the ground, because Saitama catches him. He holds him in the pouring rain, and tells him the truth.
“You did good. Nice fight.”
I will not lie. There were tears in my eyes. How could there not be?
As Saitama gently lays him down, the Sea King looms over them. Our hero of the yellow spandex could care less. He’s too busy worrying over Genos. Once he sees that his cybernetic pal is still alive, he breathes a sigh of relief, and asks him to hang in there for a second.
He has to pound this Seafreak.
The Sea King uses his incredible speed to get behind Saitama and punch him in the head, which has even less effect that Mumen Rider’s bicycle. Well, it does annoy Saitama slightly. Still, the Sea King is impressed Saitama withstood his punch, though Saitama thinks it was a pretty weak attack.
The civilians marvel over Saitama for a moment, as the Sea King decides to monologue about how great, awesome, and terrible he is. Saitama interrupts, though, because the dude is boring him. The Sea King gets kinda ticked about this and tries to punch him again.
Then, he dies.
There is nothing elaborate about this. Everything about it, though, is insanely impressive.
As the Sea King goes for his punch, Saitama hits him so hard it stops raining. The force of his blow is so powerful, the aftershock literally blows away all of the rain. With that, the Sea King falls down dead.
The civilians rejoice that they are saved. Genos lies there with a smile on his face. Saitama feels let down, because the Sea King ended up being so lame.
Elsewhere, Sonic returns with his proper clothes and weapons, and bitches about the Sea King escaping his furious fury. Cause he’s a dipshit.
Later on, a repaired Genos and casually dressed Saitama are heading home from the store when a Hero Association drone delivers their mail. There’s tons of fan letters to Genos, but Saitama gets hate mail. Genos gets pissed, but Saitama feels like whoever wrote it must have had a little too much free time.
This brings on a bit of a flashback to what happened right after the fight, as we meet a person who will shortly spark my opinionated ranting. Seems there was a guy in the shelter that felt the need to be a wet blanket about Saitama defeating the Sea King.
While everyone else is happy to not be dead, and cheering Saitama, this little piece of goldfish shit promptly starts trash talking Saitama. In a nutshell, his argument is that if Saitama could one punch the Sea King, it isn’t because Saitama is strong, but because the Sea King was weak. Logically it follows then that all the other heroes who fought the Sea King where weaker still.
I will now begin my profanity laden opinionated rant. Feel free to skip over it.
This guy is everything about internet trolls and fandom haters that I despise. He’s the guy that claims Batman could beat Superman if he had time to prepare, never mind the heat vision and ability to throw people into orbit. This is the guy who insists Wonder Woman is only iconic because of her boobs. This is the guy who pitches a fit about John Boyega because Stormtroopers can’t be black for reasons. This is the guy who always shows up and trashes everything, just because he can.
Superhero comics and the like aside, there is that crowd that likes to tear things down. I know I’ve griped about this in the past, but these fucktard hipsters who like to hate watch things, just so they can piss and moan about them, are pathetic little wastes of flesh that only know how to derive humor in their sad little lives by pissing all over others creative efforts. They are the worst part of fandom, and I honestly believe they make the entire world a worst place to live for everyone.
They partake of entertainment for the sole purpose of trashing it. They do not like it, and are literally only participating in any conversation on the subject so they can rain on others parade. They hate seeing people enjoy things. Not things different from what they enjoy, but anything at all.
I’ve seen it so many times. People will gather to talk about a thing they love, as fandom tends to do. Then the twatwaffle comes along and starts bitching about any little minute detail they can find to nitpick the ever loving hell out of. Before you know it, the fan who were there to talk about what they enjoyed are either wasting all their time arguing with them, or worse, agreeing just so they appear to be hip and cool.
There is a culture of disdain that has grown up around pretty much anything you can name. This attitude that everything must be enjoyed ironically to be enjoyed at all. People claim to love it, but never say a single nice thing about it.
Here’s some advice, and people are free to take it, or shove it up their tightly wound asses. I could care less which. Simply put, if you don’t enjoy a particular thing, then don’t spend your time with it. For the love of God, though, shut the fuck up about how much you don’t like it. Nobody fucking cares. All your technical points, logistic criticisms, and false equivalency arguments do not make you appear to be more intelligent. They only ruin anyone’s ability to enjoy talking to others, which I am aware is the whole point, but really, you are what is wrong with the world.
You are why the world sucks, why we can’t have nice things, and why shitastic reality television is everywhere. You are why there is so much hate and negativity.
Do the world a favor, and shut the fuck up.
This is not the same thing as being critical of something you love when it fucks up. It is one thing to point out where something you enjoy fell down, especially when it is done in the hopes that it will not repeat this mistake. It is entirely another to harp on the most insignificant details you can either find, or dream up, just so you are making everyone who does enjoy it as miserable as you are.
You can start reading here if you skipped the rant.
With a single character, One Punch Man takes everything that has happened for the last episode and a half, and uses it to shine a spotlight on everything that is wrong with fandom.
Once again, this show is simply brilliant.
It’s brilliant because it shows how a single negative nancy can ruin everything for everyone. As this little cocktail of prickness makes all his false logic arguments, people start thinking maybe he has a point. They start talking shit about the heroes are hospitalized by their fights against the Sea King. People who stood up while they hunkered and cowered. People who risked their lives so this bunch of scum sucking hangerons could belittle their sacrifices and suffering.
I really hate this guy. I really can’t stand anyone like him. Fucking know it all cocksuckers who armchair quarterback things. Fuck him and everyone like him.
With a devastated Genos and an unconscious Mumen Rider behind him, Saitama hears it all, and starts laughing. He loudly brags about taking credit for beating the monster that was obviously greatly weakened by other heroes.
He tries to take their disdain on himself, for the sake of others, and that is heroic, too.
It works. Fuck me, but it works. This bunch of after the fact critics all but spit on Saitama, but they stop talking shit about the others, who suffered, and nearly died trying to stop a real monster from killing these jackasses.
In their midst, the loudmouthed prick who started it all just stands there smiling, because he managed to ruin somebodies day. Seriously, fuck that guy. He’s a dick.
Genos hears all of this, and knows what Saitama is doing. He decides to support Saitama in this, but vows to be there for him in the future. As the flashback ends, and we rejoin them in their apartment, we see Saitama has found one more piece of mail for him.
A letter that simply says, to the hero Saitama, thanks!
There’s one more piece of mail, from the Hero Association, informing Saitama he is now the rank 1 of Class C, as well as request for him to come by the office in City Z.
There, he learns that it is because he can go up to Class B if he wants, which he does, because it’ll mean he doesn’t have to fill quotas anymore. There’s a little psych test he has to take first, but we don’t get to overhear it, because a bunch of self important people are wondering if he really deserves it. They eventually decide that if he is a fake, being in Class B will prove it out soon enough.
A Hero Association dude goes to inform Amai Mask of Saitama’s promotion, but despite the fact his hair has somehow grown back out, he doesn’t give a crap. He only cares about Class A and above. He’s plenty peeved so many Class A and S heroes got their asses kicked by the Sea King, which is when the dude shows him a frame by frame surveillance video of Saitama defeating the Sea King. We were there, but it’s still plenty damn impressive.
Amai Mask doesn’t seem to care for this. Probably because looking at it is eating into his mirror gazing time.
We visit the hospital where Stinger and Max are recovering, and Puri-puri Prisoner shows up to help give them their medicine. Naturally, they run for it, and Stinger drops the newspaper he was reading. Triple P sees an article about him, with the headline Class S Failure. There is no mistaking how this affects him.
That evening, Saitama is headed home, now as the bottom ranked Class B, when he spots a noodle shop. Deciding to swing in, he finds Mumen Rider there. Rider offers to buy him a drink, and we get another flashback to the two as they were looking for the Sea King. Seems that Rider figured Saitama would laugh at him for being a Class C headed towards such a dangerous enemy, and was surprised when not only did Saitama not laugh at him, but told him he was a Class C as well.
Back in the present, Saitama realizes who Rider is, and accepts a drink from him after he learns that the thank you mail he got was from Rider. Not out of pity, but out of genuine appreciation.
Because as Mumen Rider said, he’s a hero, just like Saitama.
And ya know what? He really is.
In the post credit scene, a creepy old woman with a crystal ball has a hysterical fit about the world being doomed. No idea who she is, but I guess we’ll find out next week.
I don’t have a lot of thoughts to share post recap here, because I kind of shared them all in the recap itself. My apologies for that, but this was an episode that got to me on a lot of different levels. I suppose that was what it was trying to do, so I’d call it a total success.
There is one thing I want to share before closing out this weeks recap, though.
Don’t be a dick. Please? There’s enough cruelty, hatred, intolerance, and negativity in the world. It doesn’t need more. So, for real here guys, don’t be a dick.
Don’t be that guy.
Next week: Unparalleled Peril
Hmm. I wonder if it’ll be dangerous, though?