Clearly not content to just recount the ongoing adventures of our resident hero of the yellow spandex, animation giant Madhouse decided to branch out and give us some backstory on Saitama. This is done by way of the tried and true OVA series.
Essentially an episode long flashback, Road to the Hero focuses on Saitama while he was still training to become the bald headed hero we know and love. With a luxurious mane of hair in place, the episode answers a burning question I know we’ve all had since the very first appearance of our overpowered hero.
If you are getting excited about learning the secret behind Saitama’s powers, now would be a good time for me to tell you that isn’t the burning question in question. Instead, it’s the slightly less burning question of just where he got his stylish, if color challenged, duds.
Yes, this episode fills in the blanks on where Saitama got his super suit. Spoiler, it wasn’t from this nice lady.
I think we all know why, too.
In keeping with the usual weirdness that is One Punch Man, the origin story of Saitama’s spectacular outfit is kind of convoluted, and rather anticlimactic. Of course, we wouldn’t want it any other way, now would we?
So, let us learn the long buried secret that really, none of us actually knew we wanted to know.
Our look back at the dark times of a super suitless Saitama, something you should struggle to say three times fast, begins with a punk rock frog fleeing the scene of a robbery. This is clearly something that can only happen in OPM. The frog, who I’m going to call Johnny Croaks, stuffed a bunch of stuff down his shirt and ran like hell, it seems.
Once he runs into a dead end, we discover he wasn’t just running from the crime scene, but from someone in hot pursuit. Johnny Croak demands to know who has so doggedly pursued him, and we learn that it is no other our hero, Saitama!
Except he still has hair. And is wearing a track suit. Which he promptly rips the ass out of when he leaps down to face Johnny Croaks. He does it all in the most heroic fashion possible, of course, but still. Not a high moment in the life of Saitama.
Johnny has a laugh as Saitama tries to cover his ass, but this just makes Saitama angry. Johnny doesn’t know it yet, but he wouldn’t like Saitama when he’s angry. He does begin to figure it out, however, just before we cut to a tailor’s shop, where a strung out looking thug is shaking down the shop owner, who is broke as hell.
Back in the alley, Saitama has sent Johnny Croaks off to sleepytime. Another big hint that this is before he attained his absurd power is that Johnny is still in one piece, though he has dropped all the video games he had stuffed down his shirt.
Wait… video games? Johnny, buddy, did you just get your ass kicked over some video games? I’m not mad, just disappointed.
Having dealt with Johnny, Saitama changes clothes and heads over to the tailor’s shop we just saw, where the strung out thug is just leaving, pausing long enough to mess with the shop keepers hair piece. Saitama clearly doesn’t like the look of this, but lets it slide, mostly because the shop owner hasn’t out right asked for his help, I suspect.
Turns out, whenever Saitama rips his track suit, which is what he is wearing as a superheroing outfit right now, this is the tailor he goes to in order to get it fixed. From what I can tell, the tailor is a friend, and doesn’t charge him for the work. Which is a pretty generous gesture, as we also learn the old man’s shop is failing due to lack of customers.
Apparently, the old tailor is also aware that Saitama is training to become a superhero, and in an effort to support him, has designed him a superhero suit. Saitama takes a look, but instead of the yellow spandex we all know and love, it’s more of a samurai getup. A very elaborate samurai getup. The kind Atomic Samurai would probably laugh at, and that guy is basically just wearing a robe with socks.
Naturally, Saitama isn’t thrilled. The old man has been so supportive and helpful, though, he doesn’t feel like he can just turn him down, especially with the old man basically calling it masterpiece. Torn between guilt at not loving it, and a desire to not wear it, Saitama does what we’ve seen him do with Genos.
He pulls a good excuse completely out of his ass. It’s really pretty brilliant.
In a nutshell, he tells the old guy that this suit is too good for him, at least, right now. He hasn’t become the hero he wants to be yet, and until he does, he doesn’t feel right wearing such an obviously superheroic outfit. Once he finishes his training, and is a proper hero, then he’ll give it a try.
He also tosses in some bullshit about still wearing the track suit so he doesn’t forget where he came from. Lucky for Saitama, he manages to sell it and the old man agrees to hold off on making the outfit. Before he can go, though, the two have a brief discussion about the state of things.
Now, this is still before the area of City Z that Saitama lives in was basically a ghost town, but it is clearly already on the way there. The old tailor points out all the closed shops, and Saitama basically begins to realize that the entire area is slowly being vacated by all but criminals. The main reason the old man brings this up is because he feels Saitama should drop the hero tag, with it getting so dangerous in the area.
In all honesty, I see where he’s coming from. Saitama hasn’t achieved his invincible power yet, so running around a crime infested neighborhood declaring yourself a hero, even as a hobby, is just asking to get killed. Frankly, it’s nice of the tailor to think of his friends safety, while still supporting him in his goals.
While they have their chat, the strung out looking thug from earlier is checking in with his boss, who is a real piece of work. I guess the guy considers himself high class, or something, since he lounges about in fine clothes, sipping wine. He looks like a douchbag to me, though, but I really hate pretentious asshats, so what do I know?
Anyway, the thug tells him that the old tailor couldn’t pay, so pretty soon, his store will belong to the boss, which makes him happy. Thugsy doesn’t really get why, since the place doesn’t get any costumers, so it won’t make any money. The boss tells him he doesn’t care about money, as he is driven by something far greater. The need to destroy.
He goes on a bit about how it’s an impulse, a force within him. Frankly, I think the guy isn’t playing with a full deck, but we get a bit of a hint that it may go deeper than that. There’s a weird pulse thing that keeps happening, indicating that he may actually be telling the truth.
Which does kind of make him slightly creepy. Only slightly, though. Mostly, he just seems like a dick. When another thug with a blue mohawk runs in carrying the ownership papers for the candy store, the boss gives this weird laugh. The kind a dick would have.
I’m gonna just call it. Guys a dick.
Rejoining Saitama as he walks home, we see him pondering on the downturn of the neighborhood. In just the past week, he’s caught three delinquents, and seen even more crimes taking place. Just what it all means, though, eludes him, it seems, as he arrives back home, the apartment building we saw him mention getting kicked out of after the meteor crisis.
Then he lays around watching tv and scratching his ass for a while. This is interrupted by the landlord, a creepy old lady, comes around asking for rent. Seems Saitama is three months behind. She suggests he find a way to make this hero as a hobby thing pay, or else he’ll be getting kicked out soon.
The next day, he swings by to pick up his tracksuit from the tailor, and is there when Thugsy comes by and takes the deed to the shop in exchange for the money his boss is owned. Turns out, this place called Niya Niya Loans has been extorting money from the local shop owners as “insurance”. I’m sure you guys have seen enough gangster movies to know what that means.
The old tailor has lost his shop to these crooks, along with a lot of other businesses in the area. Saitama asks why he hasn’t called the police, and it turns out that these guys operate out of an apartment complex where even the cops won’t go. Since Saitama hasn’t heard of it, the old man draws him a map.
Yeah. It’s where Siatama lives. Figures, don’t it?
At least now he knows why the rent is so cheap.
Blue mohawk guy wanders by, letting us know that it really is the right place. Saitama asks which apartment the loan company is in, but since he isn’t looking for a loan, mohawk tells him to piss off. With nothing left to do, Saitama sets out to go door to door until he finds the place.
The first door is the landlady. Saitama decides to hide from her and move on to the next door, because he’s brave.
The next apartment is a weird old crossdresser. This is not a slight against transvestites, because this old dude is straight up freaky. The next place is a couple of guys in track suits that are counterfeiting. Saitama tries to walk away, but they think he’s after the reward for their capture, so instead of leaving, he captures them.
Like ya do.
Mohawk comes back in time to see him dragging those guys upstairs, then taking out another crook living in the building. Realizing it’s the same guy that asked about the loan company earlier, he assumes Saitama is rounding up all the criminals in the building for the reward, and calls the boss to let him know.
Turns out, all these crooks living in the apartment complex work for the boss. I dunno about you guys, but I think it’s nice that these criminals have consolidated their efforts into a single location. Keeps down the overhead, you see. That’s just good illegal business sense.
The boss learns of all this just as Saitama knocks on his door, and panics a little. Regardless, he lets Saitama in, probably to learn who he works for, as this would still be before the Hero Association had risen to such heights. Turns out, Saitama just wants the papers for the old tailors shop back. Past that, he doesn’t really care about what else this guy is up to.
Not that the boss buys that, of course. Mind you, he has no idea who he’s dealing with. In case you’ve forgotten, Saitama is kind of an idiot, and rolls at this guy by pointing out that legally, he’s not allowed to overcharge the shop owner’s loan with excess fees and interest, no more than he has a legal right to just take his shop away.
Yes, Saitama points of the illegality of what the criminal is doing. I really think he missed the point of all this somewhere. That aside, he politely asks for the papers back, while the boss starts to have meltdown over this idiot. He can’t believe Saitama beat up all his men just to tell him all this.
Saitama then points out that him beating those guys up was just an accident, and has nothing to do with this. The boss goes into full meltdown at that, and has the worlds worst magical girl transformation scene. Really, it just isn’t working for him at all. Clearly, he needs to leave this sort of thing to professionals, like Puri-puri Prisoner. That guy knows how to do a magical girl transformation.
Back at the shop, the old tailor is working at his sewing machine, wondering if shouldn’t have tried harder to stop Saitama. He knows the boss isn’t going to respond to reason, much less legal based arguments. He fears he allowed Saitama to head off to his death, but yet, he also feels as if he should, and can, believe in him as well.
Before he left, Saitama assured him that though he does this as a hobby, he’ll keep being a hero. As he walked away, the old tailor saw him in a new light. A superheroic light, prompting him to abandon his previous super hero suit design, and begin another one. One befitting his young friend, Saitama.
Back at the apartment complex, the boss has finished his magical girl transformation and is now a… bondage fish?
Uh… yeah. He’s a bondage fish. Huh. Okay, then, I guess.
Seems when humans take evil to a new level, they transform into monsters, which makes the world OPM is set in one seriously fucked up place, but also may explain just how Saitama attained his powers. I mean, think about it. If being completely evil can turn people into monsters, then it makes sense that being completely good, taking heroism to a new level, would transform people into superhumans, like Saitama.
That aside, Bondage Fish thinks Saitama’s dumbstruck face is due to fear. I don’t think this guy has had a chance to look in the mirror and see just what he’s turned into. I mean, dude is basically the S&M version of Finding Nemo, which is a thought I am now sorry I shared with you guys.
Not sorry enough to edit it out, but that’s mostly because I’m lazy. A little bit because I want you to share my sudden urge to scrub my brain with soap, but mostly just lazy.
Saitama admits it’s the first time he’s seen anything like this, just before the guy declares himself to now be the Fish of Darkness. I dunno who his agent is, but he needs to fire him. Bondage Fish rolls off the tongue way better. That, or Nemospanker. Either one, really.
Again, I am so sorry for the mental image you now have. My bad.
That aside, Saitama points out that they guy didn’t really transform into a monster, he’s just a weirdo, and upon closer inspection, it would seem Saitama is right. Dude just had this on under his clothes. Which makes him really strange on a number of levels.
Saitama explains all this very scientifically by calling him a weird weirdo, or rather, a pervert. Bondage Fish takes this poorly and tries to spank Saitama, but our hero is quick enough to dodge his… uh… let’s just call them attacks. Yeah. No need to dwell on what he was really trying to do.
He does manage to land a few blows, but all it really does is shred Saitama’s track suit. Bondage Fish admits he’s pretty tough, and Saitama returns the compliment, fearing for a moment he may be out of his depth with this guy, especially since part of his attack included spitting… balls. Yeah. Those were balls. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Balls.
Bondage Fish tells Saitama that there’s a reason he has the highest capture reward of any criminal in the area for a reason, which probably wasn’t the smartest thing to say.
Yup. Bad move, Bondage Fish.
A short time later, Saitama knocks on the landlady’s door, and offers to let her collect the reward for all the crooks he’s captured in exchange for his rent money. This would normally be a good move, but it turns out, the old lady knew all about them being criminals, and was collecting rent off them. Her building is now vacant except for Saitama, who can’t afford to pay her anything.
For this, she kicks him out. Somehow, Saitama is stunned to learn this.
Now homeless, Saitama sits on the street, trying to figure out what to do, when the old tailor finds him and takes him back to the shop. There, the old guy tells him he’s decided to close up shop and retire, though he does very much appreciate Saitama saving his shop. He’s just gotten too old, and the neighborhood has gotten too rough. It’s better to cut his losses, sell the building, and call it quits.
Despite being disappointed, Saitama gets it. As thanks for all he’s done, the old tailor gives him a special super hero suit he made, the familiar yellow and red outfit we’ve seen since the beginning. Taking off his hair piece to show his balding head, the old man tells Saitama that his heroism inspired him, and that this outfit is his greatest achievement. That he can finally retire, feeling proud, that he accomplished something great.
For his part, Saitama is thrilled about it, until he sees himself in the suit, and realizes he looks kinda dorky. Still, to honor the old tailor, he wears it as he fights crime, because it’s what a hero would do.
Turns out, this was all a story Saitama was telling Genos, about how he got the suit. At first, he was embarrassed to be seen it it, so he wore his track suit over it, but over time, he got use to it, and even became proud of it. The suit came to hold a lot of importance for him, and honestly, I can see why. A friend made it for him, out of love, and respect. That’s a pretty special thing, if you think about it, even in this jaded world.
Naturally, Genos totally misunderstands the whole point, and thinks that what Saitama was trying to tell him was that in order to become a powerful hero, you have to have something special to you. Then, for no apparent reason, he thinks Saitama should change suits, going so far as to offer to get him a new suit as a gift.
Saitama is understandably baffled by this, as are we all.
There’s no post credit scene, which makes sense, as this is just an OVA, nor is there any indication of when the next one will be out, or what it’ll be about. Those last things kinda bum me out a bit, to be honest.
While the origin story of Saitama’s rather unique superhero suit is a pretty interesting story, it’s what’s in the subtext that makes this worth watching, as we get our first hint at what really lies behind Saitama’s absurd power.
Way back in the first episode, it was revealed that he had, as a kid, dreamed of becoming a superhero that could defeat any enemy with a single punch. We also know that those events took place before the existence of the Hero Association, because it was Saitama’s actions that caused that to come into being. So, we know that his desire to become a hero was somewhat unique, even if the existence of monsters wasn’t.
One thing Bondage Fish said does make sense. He claimed that when a human surpassed a certain level of evil, they changed into a monster. This would actually explain Crablante back in the first episode. Now, while Bondage Fish didn’t actually transform into a monster, he just took his clothes off and put on a freaky fish hat, there may well be some basis in what he said.
All of which means that, since Saitama’s desire to become a superhero predates the existence of the Hero Association, and the registered heroes, his goal wasn’t based in the desire to become famous. It was a real, true, pure desire, based in doing good, and being a real hero. If evil humans can become monsters, then it follows that pure humans can become true superhumans.
While none of this explains Tornado, it does actually make a certain kid of sense in regards to Saitama, and why his very basic training regime would result in him having the kinds of powers he does. In fact, I’d say that they have pretty much confirmed that this the real secret behind Saitama’s power.
Which leads to the question of what kinds of abilities other people may have manifested from desires that were neither purely good, nor wholly evil. Not to mention, what is going on in this world that would account for people being able to turn into these sorts of things?
Of course, not every mystery needs to be solved. In fact, I’d say that having a full understanding of all this might even bog the world setting down in it’s own logic, so it’s probably better if there’s still a little mystery to it all, at least, for now.
Since I don’t know when or if another OVA episode will be available, much less what it’ll be about, I’ll wrap this recap up by saying, see ya next time, space cowboy.
I can totally say that. Stop anime judging me!