Now here’s an interesting manga: One-Punch Man started off as a self-published webcomic created by someone called One back in 2009. After a while, the former artist of Eyeshield 21, Yusuke Murata, approached the creator about doing a collaboration, which eventually led to the remake of One-Punch Man, now drawn under Murata’s pen.
While I never read the original webcomic, I did find myself being drawn to this title when I ended up reading one of the later chapters in Weekly Shonen Jump. With all the praise behind the title, I think it deserves a look. Is it good?
One-Punch Man Vol. 1 (Viz Media)
Written By: One
Drawn By: Yusuke Murata
Translated By: John Werry
In the past couple of years in One-Punch Man‘s storyline, there has been a strange increase in super-powered beings and monsters in Japan; they are super strong and extremely dangerous, causing a lot of trouble that threatens the country and the world at points. However, these foes stand no chance against a powerful hero called Saitama, who can take down any bad guy in one punch. However, Saitama isn’t without his own problems.
1. He’s probably the most plain and boring looking individual ever, so that gets him really no respect.
2. He’s so strong that there’s no challenge for him anymore, essentially making him bored with his life.
One-Punch Man is basically a superhero parody and comedy. It’s a series that has a lot of melodramatic and serious moments and characters, but it’s often contrasted against Saitama, who barely takes anything seriously since nothing ever really poses a threat to him and whose appearance makes him look completely out of place in the manga. There are tropes and ideas from superhero comics used here for plot points, motivations, and drama but none of it ever overwhelms the more comedic aspects of the series. It’s the type of manga that fans of superhero comics would absolutely love with how it pokes fun of, but also respects superhero-style stories.
In regards to the story, the manga plays out in formulaic fashion at the very beginning. The bad guy shows up, being all super strong and dangerous, and we get a bit of his dramatic backstory… then Saitama shows up and kills the bad guy in one punch. We get the backstory for Saitama in one of the early chapters as well, but that’s really it in terms of story (the comedy helps keep it fun at least). Things do definitely pick up in the second half when we get the first story arc, introducing Genos and the House of Evolution.
There are two main characters in the manga, with everyone else being just a bit character that doesn’t really have any importance. Saitama, while a heroic and nice person (he genuinely wants to help people), has only become a hero for fun; he’s rather lazy and bored with his life, seems unimpressed with almost anything he fights, and is really just looking for a fight that will actually challenge him for once. These things actually make him a pretty interesting character, like someone who has reached the mountain top and sadly realizes he has nowhere higher to go from there. In any other series, he might be a side or supporting character…
I can imagine he goes through a lot of clocks.
… whereas Genos would be the main character. Genos basically has all the makings of what you would consider in a more typical hero type character: tragic backstory, the dedication and willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good, a real interesting visual look to him and a serious nature. It’s the perfect contrast with Saitama, who really only has strength and heroism to him, as Genos’ fights are often more intense and interesting to watch unfold (especially since he can’t simply one shot a villain). While not as funny Saitama, he’s certainly a character you’ll really come to enjoy and want to see more of in the future.
The writing on this manga is very strong all around. The pacing and story structure are both strong, the characterization is solid and even the one-shot villains do manage to feel memorable in their own, unique ways. The dialogue and narration are great, providing some great exchanges and jokes between the characters. Speaking of which, the humor is hilarious in this series. There are plenty of great jokes and gags, like Saitama’s epic struggle to kill a mosquito or how when one very serious character stops talking all dramatically, it actually changes the font for his speech balloons. The timing is perfect and the superhero-related jokes and homages don’t beat you over the head with their references either. Great stuff from start to finish.
However, this remake would be nothing without the incredible artwork by Murata. One is a great writer, but the artwork raises the story and writing to another level. The designs and look of all the characters, from the main heroes to the villains to even the simple civilians are great and diverse. No two characters look the same and all of the villain designs are creative and full of detail. Of all the people in the manga, Saitama is probably the best, though; he looks so plain and is drawn in a very purposely cartoonish and amateurish way that honestly makes it look like he’s from a different manga. It makes him such a great contrast against all of the others in the book.
The action flows well, full of intensity and accentuating just how powerful and devastating every attacks is. The level of detail is impressive and really brings this world and characters to life. The angles are great, giving the right tone and feel for every scene. The only other thing to note about One-Punch Man is that it is a bit on the gory side of things. It may be rated T for teens, but the manga can reach the gruesome levels of something like Deadman Wonderland or Gangsta when people get killed or brutalized, so those with queasy stomachs be warned.
Sorry sir. I’m just trying to comprehend how you put your underwear on with those claw hands.
Is It Good?
One-Punch Man Vol. 1 is a terrific start for a series. It sets up everything you need to know right away about the series, from the type of humor and tone it is going for to the wild and imaginative characters. While a bit formulaic early on, the manga really starts picking up in the middle and delivers a fun time. For fans of the superhero genre, even ones not into manga, this is definitely worth your time and money.
One-Punch Man is available from Viz Media, along with five other volumes. This remake is currently ongoing and can be found in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump from time to time. The original series this is based on is not licensed by Viz, but can be found online and is also ongoing. An anime adaption has been recently announced, but not much else is known about it at this time.