One Punch Man Season 2
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 6 of
One Punch Man (TV 2) ?
I haven't been coy about the fact that I believe Garou is currently the most interesting part of One Punch Man's second season, so it feels particularly spiteful for the show to completely ignore him for an entire episode. On top of that, this episode unfortunately falls victim to the same major problems that plagued last week's—namely a lack of focus and forward momentum. We're still deep in the tournament/monster uprising arc, flitting back and forth between several concurrent storylines, yet seemingly nowhere closer to discovering the purpose of all this. At least these plots seem to finally be converging both geographically and thematically, but neither the hot-blooded tension of a martial arts bout nor the impending doom of a monster apocalypse come across in the execution.
On the tournament front, I was blown away by the audacity to just skip over most of the matches with not even a single animated punch shared between them. Granted, these are extraneous bouts between competitors who haven't been personalized beyond their names and appearance, but from a writing standpoint, what's the purpose of setting up a big tournament then? If we're only going to focus on a handful of matchups, why not shrink the number of competitors down to something like 8 in the first place? And if this is some kind of metatextual joke about tournament arcs, it's not a particularly funny or clever one.
The fights we do get to see aren't that noteworthy. Saitama's bout with the former champion is over in—you guessed it—one punch. The setup for the joke is that he actually wanted to have a somewhat fair fight, but getting his wigged noggin manhandled triggers his reflexes too soon. Like a lot of One Punch Man's jokes, both the setup and execution are too laconic to pack much impact. Sourface has an evenly matched and satisfying fight, and while he's almost exclusively there to bounce off Charanko-Saitama (and from a comedy standpoint it's more a thud than a bounce), it is nice to see him being his own person. Surprisingly, Snek carries the most pathos out of any character in this season so far. A former big fish in a little pond, he's been kicked down several notches since the formation of the Hero Association and his disastrous attempt to haze Saitama. He's a strong hero, but now that he's seen just how many stronger heroes exist out there, he's faced with an existential crisis. With so many people footing the bill of justice, is there any point in him specifically doing the same work? The corporatization of vigilante justice has reduced him to another cog in the machine.
I like this questioning the nature of the Hero Association, and I hope it's something One Punch Man continues to do. Vigilantism is certainly rife with its own problems, but the pursuit of justice being driven by capital is equally thorny. The Hero Association's priorities might shift away from serving the public and toward protecting its own interests. In fact, that's exactly what happens when the committee throws all of its resources at rescuing the director's son, solely because of the revenue he brings in. That's capitalism for you!
Still, heroes need some kind of codifying morality beyond a will to power, because the alternative is a person like Suiryu, i.e. basically a sociopath. He cultivated his strength purely for its own sake, and now he takes twisted pleasure in showing up people who actually trained with purpose but simply didn't become as strong as him. Life is cruel that way; having nobler intentions doesn't guarantee anyone a better or easier life. Still, one of the great things about humanity is that we're able to make up for each other's shortcomings, and we have the ability to protect the vulnerable, should we choose to act on it. We don't live in the reductively Darwinian free-for-all that Suiryu imagines, and he likely only imagines so because that worldview places him at the top of the food chain. Naturally, he's going to run into a brick wall once he fights Saitama, so just desserts should be arriving in short order.
Meanwhile, Genos goes and fights some bad guys, including a face collector and a big cockroach. There's not much else to his scenes in this episode, and they seem to be thrown in just to give him something to do, even though none of the ongoing arcs have much to do with him. It's kind of funny that he beats cockroach dude with a makeshift fly trap, but then he gets unceremoniously thrashed offscreen to hype up some new elite monster. It's such an afterthought and such a weird way to treat one of your main characters. Also on the monster front, Blizzard continues her fight with the big bad bondage lady, which is notable primarily because it marks the return of Tornado to the story. These sisters are pretty much the only female characters of any importance in OPM, so it's just nice to see both of them together, especially with Tornado crudely drawn in her gremlin-esque finest and voiced by perennial favorite Aoi Yuuki.
Once again, One Punch Man spends an entire episode winding up a whirling dervish without actually following through with an impact. We're in the middle of an unfortunate confluence of a weak arc with a humdrum adaptation, but there still might be light on the other side. At the very least, I had better get to see more of Garou's shit-eating grin next week.
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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