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This Week in Anime
One Punch Man Ain't What He Used to Be

by Nicholas Dupree & Steve Jones,

One Punch Man's second season hasn't exactly come out of the gate swinging. This week, Nick and Steve weigh the few strengths of this filler arc's story against the disappointment of its production values.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet

You can read our weekly coverage of One-Punch Man Season 2 here!

Well Steve, it's finally time to talk about one of the most hotly anticipated sequels of 2019! It's hard to believe it's been over three years since this groundbreaking show debuted, about a brilliant detective who always solves mysteries on his first guess, but it's finally back!
Ah, but can he solve the greatest mystery of all: what's going on in this image?
Alright, we're jumping right in the deep end, I guess. It's no secret that the highly anticipated sequel to the animation explosion that was One Punch Man is a little lacking in terms of pure spectacle.
It is most certainly not operating on the caliber we remember from three years ago. That long momentum-killing wait, combined with a total change of production staff, seemed to spell disaster for this season long before it even started airing. It's a shame, and I'm sympathetic to the showrunners, but also yeesh.
The whole situation around this season reeks of all the most cynical parts of the anime business. Like yes, all these cartoons we watch are made for commercialism's sake, but it's still disheartening to see OPM, a show that was brimming with artistic passion from everyone involved, reduced to struggling to get through a fight in time to air for the sake of a profit margin.
Our current anime production bubble on the whole is a deadly combination of too much work on too little wages. There are simply too many shows being produced for all of them to come out looking decent. The first season of OPM was a total aberration with its cornucopia of lavishly-animated action scenes. It took a lot of hard work and planning, and it's not something any seasonal anime production can achieve. So it truly does suck that a completely average anime production like this second season has to be weighed against the first.
But also, why did they make the metal look like this?
I mean, have you seen the close-ups where they drew Genos' skin on top of the CG rig?
Frankly, calling this season "average" feels a little generous. Like yes, through sheer grit the animators have managed to work some solid action scenes in between ghosting over key frames and shaking the camera more often, but the quality of Two-Punch Man has been closer to the level of Food Wars! S3.
Okay, it's "average" in the sense that the average anime tends to look pretty bad in some weeks, because there's just too damn much anime being made. And to be honest, I wasn't super-hot on the first season to begin with. As an animation showcase it kicks ass, but as a comedy, One Punch Man didn't resonate with me in a major way.
I'm in a similar vein - I've been reading Yūsuke Murata's manga adaptation since it first started publishing over here, and while I enjoyed it well enough, the whole OPM hype train has always left me lagging behind. But it was still a unique creation that clearly had a lot of talented and passionate people behind it, so I definitely respect it, even if the whole arc of S2 has been trying my patience.
Right, the other conflating factor on top of the shoddy production values is the fact that we're currently in the middle of an unfocused mess of a filler arc that has taken up the bulk of the season. So even if you were into OPM for the story, it feels like we're experiencing the weakest part of it so far.
That's a shame because there's a lot of good elements in here that could be really fun - like King!
King is good because King is us.

For real, Saitama's singular hit dude joke wore out its welcome by the end of S1, so introducing his inverse—a totally powerless dude who everyone thinks is the damn terminator—is genius. And then King and Saitama become gaming buddies!
In retrospect, I think it was a stronger start for the season than I gave it credit for. Saitama is most compelling when the show hones in on his ennui, so I likewise enjoyed peeling back the tough exterior of King and exploring his anxiety-ridden true self.
So much of my own life is being swept up into things I can't control or don't feel qualified to be a part of, and I too would often rather play some video games.
King's an ordinary dude trapped in a prison of his own making, so it's just endearing to see him literally piss his pants like a regular person when presented with giant monsters. Though I do resent the anime for putting these words into his mouth. Don't pat yourself on the back too hard there, guys.

It's one of those things that was probably best to draw as little attention to as possible, and yet...
But yeah, King is a great addition to the cast, and there's a lot of interesting stuff it could (eventually, some day, maybe) do with him! Which is more than I can say for the other new superhero to join Saitama's entourage:
Blizzard mostly enters the scene so Saitama can pick apart the Hero Association's ranking system. It's a silly system that deserves the critique, but that also means her sole defining trait is that she likes being a big fish in a little pond, which doesn't make her the most compelling figure in the show. There's certainly room for her to grow beyond that, but we haven't devoted any time to her development yet.

Okay, you can't tell me you weren't enthralled by her fight against this Deadman Wonderland reject.
I mean, not specifically for character development reasons...
Look, I have to appreciate any morsels of entertainment I can get out of this season.
In that case, let's get to what should have been the backbone of this whole season before a dang martial arts tournament stepped in front of the TV.
Garou! I love this cocky piece of shit.
Let me say, having read the manga to its latest translated chapter: Garo is the best thing about OPM, period. Garo is the real hero of this series. Garo should be louder, angrier, and have access to a time machine. Whenever Garo's not on screen, the other characters should be asking "Where's Garo?"
I haven't read as far as his introduction in the manga, but based on what I've seen in the anime, he is far and away the saving grace of this season. He has goals and a personality, he bounces off different characters in unique ways, he actually moves the plot forward—and if those all seem like super basic things I shouldn't be this appreciative of, welcome to One Punch Man Season 2.
Garo's cocky, smarmy, picks fights just to prove he can win, and his entire mission is to hype himself up by beating your favorite heroes into a bloody pulp. He's basically the ultimate Pro-Wrestling Heel of OPM. Which I guess makes Saitama John Cena.
Oh no, I don't know enough about wrestling to get this joke train any further down the tracks, sorry.
Then while I'm on the topic: Metal Bat is the Roman Reigns of OPM, and he's never getting Over, sorry.
I'll tell you what I do know about: monster lovers. And in the age of Monster Musume, Garou is truly the anti-hero for our generation.
I do love how much twisted sense Garo's motivation makes in the bonkers world of OPM. He's been surrounded his whole life by tokusatsu monsters and the goofy, weird, often incompetent heroes of the world, being told constantly that they're cool. And he says nah, screw that, I'm rooting for the real underdogs. I think any kid who started rooting for Team Rocket after a few episodes of Pokémon can relate to that feeling.
That's my favorite part! As somebody who also grew up with a lot of fondness for villains, I just love that his motivation stems from the equivalent of watching Saturday morning cartoons. It's silly and childish, but he commits to it with fire and fervor, and I can't help but root for him.
It also helps that despite his lust for hero blood, deep down he's a fundamentally good guy who keeps having adorable scenes with children.
That's what keeps Garo sympathetic to me. He's doing unarguably bad stuff like incapacitating heroes in the middle of a monster invasion, but he's got enough of a moral compass to not personally involve civilians. And he even strikes up one of those awkward kid friendships, like he's hanging out with Kevin from next door because he's got the fancy bound Pokémon game guide that tells you where all the rare ones are.

It's so pure and good. It'd sure be nice if Garo got to actually do anything in the past couple episodes!
Yeah, that's where we hit the big ugly speedbump that is Tournament Arc City, Population: Too Many
That guy is literally just named Dave. Dave is the joke name you come up with when you're listing off meaningless tertiary characters in a cast list. And they made him real and made us look at him. Fuck you, Dave.
The tournament is especially baffling to me because most of the fights happen offscreen, and the rest are largely reduced to a couple quick cuts. Like, the point of a tournament arc is introducing a bunch of new characters who proceed to beat each other up with unique fighting styles. It's supposed to be a fun detour from the plot, but this one feels like a cage the story locked Saitama into because it didn't know what else to do with him yet.
That's exactly what it is! The whole monster invasion arc is only a conflict if Saitama isn't available to destroy everything, and the only way to physically prevent him from joining in was to distract him. So the whole arc could have been replaced with Saitama following a cartoonishly long trail of candy that the Monster Association laid out across the city.
Would've rather seen that animated tbh.
The only real meat to the arc is Suiryu, and you know what Suiryu is? Not Garo, that's what.
I mean he's trying, but his evil grin game needs work.
THIS is how it's done.
Suiryu is basically another foil for Saitama, because whereas Saitama's pursuit of power left him haunted by the boredom of having no further challenges to surmount, Suiryu gets off on being able to do anything he wants due to his strength.
That would maybe be interesting if it made Saitama reconsider anything about being trapped in stasis, or if he did literally anything besides stand on the sidelines and hold his pants up. Saitama's never been my favorite OPM character, but he still has a personality and energy to enjoy! But none of that's on display during the tournament, where he spends most of his time delivering a series of toupee gags.
Yeah, it's neither compelling character development nor compelling comedy when he sums up his entire tournament experience like this:

Thanks for acknowledging that this was a huge waste of time, I guess? At least I'm somewhat interested to see how Suiryu handles his defeat, especially with a big bad monster taking the most leisurely of walks toward the tournament dome.
Oh god, that monster has been taking his sweet time. For reference, this is the end of episode 6:
This is endemic to this entire arc. The story keeps flitting between Garou's stuff, the monster uprising, and the tournament, and there are just too many little subplots running to focus on giving any one of them much momentum. Ultimately, we end up with the most menacing monster ever progressing toward our heroes at a speed best described as moseying.
It's not a great sign when even your characters just want to get this over with already.
We're all so tired.
And the worst part is I know there's some good meat coming after all this. There's tons of great material that, weaksauce production or not, could be genuinely engaging. Sadly, it's all behind these sandbags.
Thankfully, with the tournament wrapped up, I think we're finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But this weak material couldn't have come at a worse time for an adaptation that needed whatever help it could get to stay compelling.
Honestly, my recommendation for OPM viewers is to just read the manga instead. The entire thing's available for two bucks on Shonen Jump. But if you're dead set on the anime only, well:
Me to any character that isn't Garo right now:

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