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Anime Review: One-Punch Man

One-Punch Man
Available on Netflix via MADHOUSE

If you’re like me and never watch anime, it is pretty important to know that: THIS IS NOT POKÉMON (IT IS NOT OKAY FOR YOUR LITTLE COUSINS).

One-Punch Man follows Saitama, a prematurely bald young man, who wants to be a hero for fun. He also can obliterate essentially anything in one punch (like the title suggests). Throughout the twelve episodes we see Saitama make friends, defeat many ridiculous foes (such as a freaking bipedal crab human thing) in silly, humourous ways, and try to be officially recognized as a hero. The show started as a viral Japanese web comic way back in 2009 and, due to its popularity, gradually developed into an anime that is now available on Netflix for you to consume all in one sitting…because Netflix loves keeping me from being productive ever again.

Throughout season one, One-Punch Man offers really gorgeously animated environments and characters. The animation is especially great in the many combat scenes where the action is gigantic and exciting, then you see Saitama make a dumb Caillou face you’ve probably seen in memes and the enemy typically explodes in a fun, gory way. There are a lot of great goofs that play off the now very common superhero tropes. Be it from an obnoxiously large footprint wiping out most of a city, to Saitama interrupting a nemesis and letting them know that he doesn’t want to hear their backstory, there are a lot of really good jokes in the writing. Beyond that the animation is super funny, too: climactic fights are often built up super well and then ended with that dumb meme-y face Saitama make as he punches them once and obliterates them. Other than the humour, the writing is often pretty good as well! I often had questions answered by the show before I had asked them and there are several instances where an idea presented early on is brought up again with a very satisfying payoff.

Unfortunately, the show does take pretty big missteps. An argument can definitely be made for it being pretty sexist, but it is also pretty blatantly homophobic. There is one openly gay character in the anime, and they are presented in a stereotypical physical and vocal fashion. The show also suggests that this character sexually assaults almost every man he finds attractive. Other than presenting a really poor image of a gay character, there are several instances where the joke the show presents essentially has the punch line, “Haha, ’cause he’s gay,” in response things such as that character being really creepy or stripping down naked before fighting. It is incredibly juvenile and did make the few episodes featuring this character difficult to enjoy.

In the end One-Punch Man is silly, ridiculous fun. It is apparent that a lot of work and care has gone into it, but the juvenile approach to humour shouldn’t be applied across the board. It’s funny when a big fight turns out to be really inconsequential, or the gore is over the top, but it isn’t t when it treats homosexuality as a joke that should be laughed at. While it lacks tact in this regard in a few episodes, I was able to enjoy the show overall. It is legitimately very funny, but be aware that it can be grossly juvenile — even if only in select episodes.

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