One Punch Man Season 2
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 5 of
One Punch Man (TV 2) ?
I'm very amenable to the concept of what's often uncharitably called “filler” material. There's this idea that everything in a story needs to serve a unilateral purpose in regards to moving a narrative forward, but I think that's a narrow-minded way to approach storytelling. People and their relationships are messy and complex, so it's only natural that this be expressed in the way that we tell stories to each other. “Filler” gives creators freedom to explore narrative and thematic avenues they might not be able to touch on otherwise. It can grant depth to side characters or grant additional flavor to an imaginary world. It can provide a grim story with some levity or add weight to a normally farcical one. I always want to see storytellers experiment, and sometimes a narrative detour is the best way to accomplish that.
All that said, this current arc of One Punch Man sure is some frustratingly unfocused filler.
At a distance, it seems like there should be a lot going on. Saitama is checking out a martial arts tournament. Garou is patrolling the city for heroes to hunt. Silverfang is on a mission to reel in his rogue student before he becomes another monster. Powerful monsters are executing a coordinated attack in order to completely overwhelm the Hero Association. And yet it feels like nothing of consequence happens in this episode. With all of these plotlines happening simultaneously, the result is a jumbled mess hopping from scene to scene without letting any of them gain enough momentum to do something meaningful.
Garou continues the fight he started with Metal Bat last week, and like the rest of the fights this season, there's not much to comment on. The gimmick this time is that Metal Bat paradoxically gets stronger the more he gets beaten up, but with no resources to communicate that visually, One Punch Man falls back on merely telling us what's happening, which is neither elegant nor particularly exciting. I do find it cute that the fight ends because Metal Bat's angry little sister shows up and tells them to stop. Again, it highlights that Garou is still a decent guy deep-down, who wouldn't stoop so low as to harm a precocious little girl, and he even defends her from the scheming of two nearby monsters. This is interesting, because as much as Garou aligns himself with the plight of monsters, the monsters themselves have zero allegiance to him. These guys just want to use him to further their own agenda, even trying to lure him in with a phony “Monster Association.” Fortunately for Garou, he's all about that lone wolf lifestyle right now. Since he's currently the most interesting part of the show, I want to see how his own twisted sense of heroic idealism rubs up against the reality of a monstrous situation.
Meanwhile, monsters everywhere are creating more chaos than the heroes can keep up with, but the supposed urgency of the situation is lost when the show keeps jumping back to a martial arts tournament going on without a hitch. It's also difficult to understand what exactly the monsters are trying to do. They make a point of showing that they have more than enough strength to do whatever they want, but then some of them decide to retreat for unspecified reasons. It honestly feels like the show is stalling for time by dangling some mysterious master plan in front of the audience. I have to commend One Punch Man's attempt to pander to me by throwing in another dominatrix villain, but halfway through the season is unfortunately too little too late. I can't even get too excited about a matchup between her and Blizzard because the show isn't able to make its fight scenes very intelligible.
At least the martial arts tournament has finally started! The emcee quickly introduces all of the competitors, and we're treated to some flavor about ongoing grudges and backstories, but it looks like most of this stuff won't pay off for a while. It also looks doubtful that we'll actually get to see any of these fights, but that might be for the best. I did get a modicum of amusement from Zakkos' complete whiff against Saitama, compounded by the spectacular failure of his ambition to propose to his girlfriend. The way Saitama and the audience mercilessly flog his arrogance tickled my schadenfreude just enough in the episode's final moments.
Much like a city-sized centipede burrowing its way underground, One Punch Man currently seems content to stick its head in the dirt and flail around instead of moving forward with any one of its subplots. With almost no narrative hook, mediocre production values, and largely stagnant characters, there's not much punch to be found in this man at the moment.
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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