Title: One-Punch Man
Author: One (story), Yusuke Murata (art)
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump)
Volume: Volumes 1-2, $9.99
Vintage: 2012 by Shueisha, September 2015 by Viz Media
Genre: Action, comedy
Saitama is a professional hero, defending the land from all sorts of monsters. Or, rather, looking for a challenge to his strength. Saitama is bored because he can defeat any enemy with a single punch. He spent three years training to be strong, and trained so hard he went bald, but he’s unsatisfied with his life. Enormous man who can take out an entire city in one punch? One punch to the face and he’s down. Gigantic, genetically enhanced lion? One punch. Only in his dreams is he able to find challenging opponents. In life, he finds his emotions dulling with his eternal boredom…even though a single mosquito drives him to all-consuming rage. When a woman with mosquito-like powers and who can control all the mosquitoes nearby appears, so does another hero – a cyborg named Genos. After struggling to take down this villain, Genos watches Saitama smack her in one blow. Impressed, Genos demands Saitama take him on and teach him how to be super strong. They barely get past introductions when the city is attacked by genetically enhanced animals from the House of Evolution, who wants to study Saitama and learn the secret to his power. After pretending to be incapacitated, Saitama finally has enough and easily takes the creatures down, then demands to know everything about the House of Evolution. The mad scientists must be taken out before supermarket bargain day, but Dr. Genus is ready with his most powerful creation – Carnage Kabuto. With Genos along, they make quick work of the initial security obstacles. Sensing Saitama’s power, Kabuto demands to know his secret, but it isn’t much of a secret at all, and that enrages the creature, who thinks he’s been fooled. This enemy is dealt with much like all the others, of course, then the story moves on to the Paradisers. The Paradisers believe the rich and those who want to work should support everyone who doesn’t want to work, and they intend to violently enforce their utopia. Their main target is Zeniru, the riches man in town, but he has a special bodyguard, Sonic, that he sends out to take care of things. Saitama, meanwhile, is more concerned about being mistaken for a Paradiser because they’re all bald like him. Between them both, they make quick work of the gang, but much like Saitama, Sonic is always on the lookout for a good challenge, and Saitama is a perfect target.
One-Punch Man began as a web comic, and it retains similar pacing, with quickly moving, mostly self-contained chapters. There are ongoing plots and recurring characters, but the stories are relatively short and compact. I hesitate to call it a gag manga, although there’s plenty of that. The structure and the addition of characters aside from One-Punch Man make it much more than a simple comedy manga. Saitama is, straight up, a comedic character, frequently making (inadvertent) jokes, dead panning most of his dialog with outrageous seriousness, and basically being one massive walking punchline (oh, hey, Punch Man!). Genos is a nice foil, simultaneously trying to keep Saitama on track while also picking up his master’s habits. He’s more the quintessential shonen warrior, in looks and personality. The villains come and go, either because they’re destroyed by Saitama, or so thoroughly beaten (like the House of Evolution doctor) that they give up and decide to do something else with their life. The humor is juvenile at times, and honestly isn’t all that complex, but the timing is perfect, and the jokes are side-splitting. I was laughing pretty hard throughout both volumes. If this was just about One-Punch Man, I would say the premise wouldn’t last very long before becoming boring, but Genos is great at breaking things up, and the villains so far have been so over-the-top I’m curious to know what else the creators can come up with. Yes, Saitama can defeat an enemy with just one hit, but he has to first be able to get a hit in, and sometimes he just likes to goof around (he’s a bit lazy, really). Plus he’s always on the look out for a strong opponent to make a fight worthwhile, which means taking a few moments to observe before going in for the one-hit take down. He also tends to be more concerned with getting home in time for a supermarket sale than actually defeating evil. Most of the action is pretty typical of the genre, with the big bads having fancily named combat moves…while Saitama’s are more along the lines of “consecutive normal punches.” Saitama is really strikingly normal, which is partly why he brings so much humor to the pages. If you want to know more, I’d be happy to ramble on my favorite moments, of which there are many. It’s such a treat when I’m thoroughly surprised by a title.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.