One Punch Man Season 2
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 3 of
One Punch Man (TV 2) ?
Garou the hero hunter is on the prowl, walking the streets seemingly at random and picking fights with whatever heroes cross his path. While it doesn't feel like the most practical way to go about his business, he's certainly making a name for himself within the Hero Association, who are trying (ineffectually) to deal with this new problem on their own. Even Class S heroes are getting involved now, both as mentors-turned-enemies and as casualties. Most unforgivable of all, however, is Garou beating up Mumen Rider. That's a bridge too far, and with his seemingly unbeatable combination of raw strength and advanced martial arts training, it seems like Garou is well on his way to terrorizing the entire planet.
Until Saitama beats him down with a single punch. Or more accurately, a single karate chop.
Once again, that is the joke. It's not a particularly surprising or funny one at this point, but I do still have to respect all the setup that goes into making the lightning-quick punchline land. Garou also ends up being a fairly charismatic character. I still don't know anything about his motivations (and just as well if he's going to get Saitama'd out of the story), but he genuinely enjoys what he's doing, and that's more than most working adults can say. His bratty conversation with the kid on the bench endeared me to him too—he's messing with him, but in that wholesome way that teens and adults sometimes do with children who remind them of themselves. It's even cute how it later ties into the revelation that Garou is poring over hero trivia books in order to track their movements, which is a delightfully nerdy way to do one's nefarious deeds. I still don't forgive him for hurting the purest soul in the world, Mumen Rider, but this scene made Garou feel like a proper anti-hero instead of one of the countless forgettable villains Saitama chewed through in the first season. I'm also pretty sure this isn't the last we've seen of him, since I doubt Saitama put all his strength into a blow meant for what he assumed to be some random pickpocket.
Another good thing about Garou's presence is how he brings out the inherent dysfunction of the Hero Association. Unlike My Hero Academia's version of the same archetype (who is eventually interrogated by its narrative to its credit), One-Punch Man's league of superheroes truly feels like the kind of disjointed hierarchy you'd get if you threw a bunch of vigilantes together in a room. If they actually all worked together, they could probably take out a threat like Garou in no time, but anybody who's worked for any corporation for a while can tell you that this dream seems impossible. Both deeply bureaucratic and deeply ineffectual, the Hero Association is the slice of One-Punch Man's satirical pie that I enjoy the most at this point.
Saitama himself doesn't do much this episode aside from distribute some hospital bananas and buy a wig, but it's all for a (possibly) good purpose. When Silverfang's disciple Charanko tells him about a martial arts tournament, Saitama seems intrigued by the prospect of battles settled by technique rather than raw strength. Such a contest might leave Saitama at a disadvantage, so it might just be the sort of challenge he's been searching for this entire time. Also, I have to imagine ONE is desperate at this point to give his OP main character something to do, because the joke has worn off and he's pretty much been lazing around his apartment this season. I don't know if a tournament arc is necessarily the answer to those woes, but hey, it's something.
Unfortunately, it's hard to get too excited about the prospect of superpowered kung fu when the show continues to look this dull. I understand that the production is trying its best to create exciting action scenes with the resources available to them, but shaking the camera around a blurry single frame will never look as good as actual animation. To the episode's credit, Garou's fight with the Tank Top Master is able to sell its action decently with a few neat cuts and some dynamic storyboarding. Plus, a hero whose superpower is “tank top” is just wonderful. ONE's askew take on superheroes can still be fun! It's just doubtful that fun alone will be enough to sustain a production and story that's straining in so many other regards.
Garou comes out of this episode as a surprisingly likable piece of garbage, but unfortunately that's not quite enough to save a dull interstitial chapter in the saga of One-Punch Man. However, there's a glimmer of promise on the horizon with a new tournament arc coming up, and I do hope Garou sticks around longer to gum up the Hero Association's works. I just wish I weren't grasping at straws for something interesting to anticipate this early on in the season.
One-Punch Man Season 2 is currently streaming on Hulu.
Steve does 100 push-ups, 100 crunches, 100 squats, runs 10km, and watches 1,000 hours of anime every day. You can read all about it on his Twitter.
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