One-Punch Man is one of those series that’s best enjoyed by folks who are familiar with superheroes. It plays to the tropes of comic books to not only comment on them, but also point out how ridiculous they can be. That makes this series a laugh riot at times, especially since it defies expectations. We take a look at the twelfth volume of the latest series out this week.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Life gets pretty boring when you beat the snot out of every villain with just one punch. Nothing about Saitama passes the eyeball test when it comes to superheroes, from his lifeless expression to his bald head to his unimpressive physique. However, this average-looking guy has a not-so-average problem–he just can’t seem to find an opponent strong enough to take on! At the martial arts tournament, Suiryu of the Dark Body Art shows promise with his outstanding strength. But outside the stadium, a large number of monsters are pushing the heroes, even Genos, to their limits! Back inside and unaware, Saitama approaches his match against Bakuzan!
Why does this matter?
It’s an anime, so you know this is wildly successful and there’s a good chance you’ll dig it too. This volume contains a crazy tournament style event with heroes fighting heroes which ramps up the action well. There are also some visual references to Street Fighter which old school video game fans should love. The plot also thickens when it comes to the Monster Society.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Everybody likes a good fight.
This volume focuses heavily on the class of heroes and how they ultimately don’t matter. This is made even more evident when we find out there are people in the world stronger than even the strongest of heroes, but don’t care to file themselves into the system due to laziness or simply because they don’t care. This plays into One-Punch Man’s attitude of not caring about class, but from a different angle. Of course, most of the heroes who are ranked care very much, and writer One continues to show how meaningless their care ultimately can be. It seems this manga wants to point out–over and over at times–that those who are strongest don’t care about class rank at all. That we must all just do what we love, or be ourselves, in order to be the best. A strong sentiment for a teenager focused manga for sure.
Set in a coliseum where heroes are fighting one another to determine who is the best, One cuts back and forth between these fights and Genos taking down monsters. Once again, Genos is humble and only wants to see his master fight in the tournament, but ends up killing a ton of monsters on the way there. He’s incredibly powerful and cuts through most of them like butter. That is, until he encounters threats far stronger than he’s ever seen before. One essentially sets up a bigger plot via these extra powerful monsters as a secret monster society plots to take over the surface world.
Yusuke Murata positively kills it on monster design in this volume with many monsters cropping up. The extremely powerful ones are so well designed I was actually shocked how many show up given each one could carry a book. There are some excellent hero designs too, like Drive Knight and a kid who controls decoy bots called Dogman. There’s a lot of inventiveness when it comes to the character design and powers in this series, but this volume does a great job showcasing that on nearly every page.
There’s also a short backup utilizing the King character–an incredibly feared hero who actually has no powers and just likes to play video games–which toys with the idea of appearances. He’s challenged, but once again he uses his words to scare villains away.
So much pressure to win!
It can’t be perfect can it?
The manga opens on the tournament which I assume was set up in the last volume, but new readers might be a tad out of sorts since One-Punch Man doesn’t show up for quite a while in this volume. In fact, the character doesn’t show up much at all in this manga. The balance between the tournament and everything else going on is slightly jarring too. Take for instance a scene with a scantily clad villain. There’s fighting going on, but little context to jump right into this battling. This plot ends up with a cliffhanger of sorts–which will pay off later I’m sure–but it sticks out as stuffed into the overall narrative rather than seamlessly working itself in. This might be in part because of the chapter to chapter format of the manga as things can change on a dime, but when read in a single sitting the flow is jarring nonetheless.
Is It Good?
Bring on the action in this visually striking twelfth volume. If you dig Street Fighter or just like a good action story you can’t go wrong with One-Punch Man volume 12. It also has a ton of excellent hero and villain designs worth a look.