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by Rebecca Silverman,

One-Punch Man

GN 1 & 2

One-Punch Man GN 1 & 2
In a weird dystopian future, Saitama is a hero for fun. He decided to change his life after facing off against one of the monsters that plague the country, subjected himself to a stringent fitness regimen, and three years later was reborn as the (bald) hero who can end any battle with just one punch! But is taking down bad guys any fun when you can end things with one blow? And will getting an apprentice help alleviate the boredom of Saitama's life? Maybe not, but things are certainly never dull for the readers in this parody of superhero life!

One thing you can say about ONE and Yūsuke Murata's One-Punch Man: the title does not lie. The shounen parody, which began life as a web comic both written and illustrated by ONE, follows the adventures of Saitama, a young man who got sidetracked on his way to a job interview three years ago and now works as a hero (for fun) who can fell any foe with a single punch. That's right – forget gimmicks and animal themes; all Saitama needs is a decent angle and a closed fist. Unfortunately, this is not the most exciting power to have, nor does it lead to massive battles or thrilling fights. Just one punch, and boom! No more bad guy. Suddenly being a hero just doesn't seem like as much fun as Saitama thought it would be.

Although it isn't the easiest manga to describe, One-Punch Man is easily one of the goofiest releases recently, and it is absolutely a lot of fun. The story never calls too much attention to the fact that its world is patently ridiculous – we are simply asked to accept that Saitama lives in a world where mad scientists, crazy mutated monsters, and cyborgs live side-by-side with regular humans, who really don't pay much attention to any of it unless there's an attack. Even then people are fairly calm about the whole thing: Murata's detailed art shows us the faces of many of the background players as they wander around the city, and most of them show mild alarm instead of screaming terror, with the exception of when they're actually being attacked. It's clearly business as usual for the average citizen to come face-to-face with a random crab monster or hero, and Saitama's just using that to his advantage.

The story opens with a monster who looks sort of like Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z with horns attacking a girl. He claims he does so on behalf of the earth, for humans have taken advantage of the planet and polluted its gifts for far too long. Now he must punish the people! His mission doesn't get very far, however, before an average-looking bald guy shows up and punches him. It's Saitama, the Hero for Fun, and he's here to save the day...even if all he wanted to do was go to the grocery store. That's the basic scenario for the first few chapters of volume one, and though it is repetitive, it's also consistently funny. The second chapter, which details how Saitama became a hero in the first place, has a supervillain who looks like a Sponge Bob character on steroids (and in tighty whities) whose laugh has to be labeled as such since it sounds like “gurgle blorgle,” thus officially challenging Eiichiro Oda in the “characters with weird laughs” arena. This is the mostly outwardly silly chapter, and it's appropriately lame as a backstory for our hero, who perhaps was just looking for a way to get out of having to become a salaryman. Chapters three and four are also basically one-shots involving Saitama taking on different (insane) villains, although chapter three makes an attempt at emotional content, before the actual series storyline begins in chapter five.

Once the main plot begins, however, there isn't a decrease in the ridiculous factor. We simply begin to get both multi-chapter arcs and more main characters, with the first being Genos, a cyborg who makes himself Saitama's apprentice in order to learn how to become stronger. Genos is the straight man of the series, at times visibly exasperated by Saitama's attitude and casual heroing style, and he balances the story out. The two spend their first story arc together combating strange hybrid human/beast warriors, with the most memorable being Mosquito Girl. Those of us who have seen bloated ticks on a creature could find aspects of this chapter difficult and not a little disgusting, but on the other hand, the juxtaposition of Mosquito Girl's fight with Genos and Saitama's total inability to swat a single, unrelated mosquito is quite funny. One is careful in both volumes to balance out the action with silliness, making this a very fast, entertaining read. Volume two finishes up the mad scientist story that incorporates Mosquito Girl and then brings us a new Big Bad and a ninja battle.

While ONE did the original artwork for the webcomic, award-winning artist Murata has taken over for the paper publication, and he captures the essence of the story well. From the small details of faces mentioned before to a well-timed “waiting” panel that practically plays elevator music, the art compliments the text nicely. Bodies have occasional issues, but the most noticeable one is Mosquito Girl's massive thigh gap, which is so large as to be a bit distracting, even if that's not a trend that bothers you. There's a deliberately uneven level of quality to Saitama himself that goes with the moment and largely works well, though occasionally it can just look sloppy.

Whether you see it as a send up of the superhero story or the sentai/kaiju tale, One-Punch Man's first two volumes are a lot of fun. With a hero who is verging on bored but keeps plugging away, an overzealous cyborg companion, and some truly weird villains mixed together with a healthy dollop of the absurd, it's the sort of goofy story you can read whenever you need a laugh. I'm not sure how long it can keep its momentum going, but as of these two books, One-Punch Man is the cure for a bad day.

Overall : A-
Story : A
Art : A-

+ Very funny in both its absurdity and parody elements. Very visually interesting monsters, story is able to sustain longer arcs as well as one shots. Some nice detail in the art.
Mosquito Girl chapter can be gross if engorged bugs are not your thing, massive thigh gap is a bit distracting. Change in art style from detailed to not doesn't always work, nor does the episodic nature of early chapters.

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Production Info:
Story: ONE
Art: Yūsuke Murata
Licensed by: Viz Media

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