Watching Wednesday #2 – When Watching Works
One Punch Man: ONE PUNNNNNCH
The short of it: Beautiful animation and wry humor combine in this internet sensation of a webcomic-turned-anime. It’s got the epic fights from nostalgic shonen animes mixed with the self-awareness of a well-done parody. Most importantly, it allows itself to be as deep as the viewer wants– consider a villain a metaphor for something grander or just a sweet looking alien. It works brilliantly either way.
With Bill Burr’s recent mention of One Punch Man on his podcast, I figured it’s a good time as any to bring it up on PCP.
Every villain on OPM has their traditional villainous monologue– the evils of pollution, the corrupting nature of luxury and excess, and so on. Each of these monologues is met with a thunderous single punch from the mild-mannered Saitama.
Saitama, a typical salaryman who decided that he could no longer be weak after being forced to fight a crab monster, trains every day for three years with basic jogging and bodyweight exercises. This results in him becoming the ultimate power in the universe, effectively able to end any monstrous foe’s life with a single blow.
Arguably the highest point of the show is Saitama and how he handles himself. He’s not self-deprecating or vain; he isn’t a martyr for humanity or out for some grand revenge.
He’s just a dude. He does his best. He’s nice to others. He likes his food.
When the monsters show up and humanity seems to be facing its doom, with civilians running and screaming, he scratches his chin and deals with it. No speeches, no tense standoff. He’s much like a casual viewer; sure he’s invested, but he’s not in any real danger or threat.
It’s why OPM, and other shows like it, is so satisfying. It knows what it is and it doesn’t step out of those lines. It’s got meta-humor and non-silly moments and all, but it wears its brand proudly. Here’s a dude who punches the hell out of stuff. Of course, the top-tier animation on all of the fights helps make this so consistently gratifying.
Much like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, OPM embraces their ability to be wholly outlandish while grounding it in a world that accepts that outlandishness. They create a reality that allows for unreal moments, either for action or humorous purposes. This established world has a whole cast of characters that possess their own backstories and histories; these stories and characters are often chock full of tropes. While JoJo can claim to have pioneered some of those tropes, One Punch Man parodies them nearly perfectly.
Characters will monologue about their glory and history, replicating the tiresome filler that plagues most action-oriented anime. Much like a bored viewer, Saitama just skips right past that and gets to punching.
There’s a lot of ground for the show to be examined as commentary on anime and tropes, but that’s not nearly as fun as taking the show at face value. And it’s a beautiful face.
+ Amazing fight scenes and animation
+ Funny as the fights are vicious
+ As deep as the viewer wants it to be
Punch it: Netflix