One Punch Man Review — Madhouse’s Nichijou

I know I said I wouldn’t review this anime, but here’s the thing: I lied. Now that that’s out in the open, enjoy my perfectly balanced take on One Punchline Man.

Goddamn, last season was heavy on the shonen/superhero stuff, wasn’t it? Seraph of the End: Battle in NagoyaUshio and ToraNoragami Aragoto. And of course, the most popular one of them all, One Punch Man. It’s going to be difficult to find something new to say about each of them, but lord knows I’m going to try my damndest to do so. Might as well start with the one that got everyone’s attention, even if not for all the right reasons. I mean it’s a giant understatement to say that I wasn’t the only one who watched One Punch Man, but it’s also a big understatement to say that I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t impressed with the thing.

It’s even worse in my case, because I don’t get shonen action as substance at all. I don’t hate it, and there was a time when I enjoyed pretty much everything that came out of Shonen Jump’s mouth the same way I enjoyed Marvel v. Capcom, but you’d think the genre would grow up along with the audience and focus more on substance rather than repeat the same outdated Dragonball Z-style over and over again because holy hell did we not get sick of that ten years ago. But with the explosive popularity of One Punch Man along with David Production continuing to make more bloody adaptations of Jojo, I think it’s pretty clear that that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. So who cares if the plot is weak? Who cares if the satire goes for all the easy shots? Who cares if the characters don’t have any real struggles or flaws or story or anything going for them besides how they look and a stupid name? It’s a popcorn anime, and it’s very good at what it does.

Except even by the standards of popcorn anime, I’m not sure it does. I mean you have the director of Space Dandy and the production values from Madhouse on this project, so obviously you’re going to get a great-looking show. With that said, why is the action so fucking bad? Every time it showed up, the camera would spin around or zoom far-out whilst characters threw massive explosions at each other or delivered a punch in a desperate attempt to make it look cool when in reality, it looks overblown and retarded. There is absolutely no choreography being applied to any of the action and it becomes really boring to watch as a result. And even if there was, it is an absolute cakewalk to determine who’s going to win the fight before it even starts because the whole show is built around Saitama saving the day in his own dry way with nobody in the entire universe being close to his level in terms of fighting prowess. Add in the fact that nobody really dies in this show anyways but the one-off characters who have less charisma than a Marvel villain and there’s a limit to how much tension One Punch Man is allowed to have in regards to its fight scenes (i.e. zero).

Not helping is the fact that Saitama is an incredibly boring character who has no depth to him besides one joke: he’s a normal dude who became the strongest in the world by training really hard and is bored with his life as a result. Every other hero in this show became powerful through genetics or body modification, and as such don’t believe Saitama when he says that he just worked hard, nor do they trust him because thanks to his lack of brains, he’s lowly ranked in the Hero Association. This could have made for some interesting conflict, but One Punch Man never really treats Saitama’s invincibility as anymore than a cheap joke or a deus ex machina trying to be a cheap joke, no thanks to the other heroes having zero chemistry with the dude and making DC’s good guys look like Marvel’s. Aside from a cyborg whose only real purpose in life is to lose so that Saitama can have someone to save, I can’t recall a single time he’s ever had a real conversation with anybody. Hell, I’m pretty sure Genos has had more overall screen time than him.

And don’t even get me started on the villains in this thing, who make Marvel’s bad guys look like DC’s. I can’t even remember anyone’s name, let alone what they added to anything. There was some attempt at making the final bad guy an “invincible contrast” to Saitama, but it was so poorly handled it made the relationship between Spiderman and Green Goblin look like Batman and The Joker – and I still didn’t bother to remember the dude’s name afterwards. Word of advice to anyone creating a bad guy: Marvel’s villains are absolutely awful! Nothing but a bunch of random animal or element gimmicks applied to some misguided fool trying to overcompensate for the fact that Mad Hatter has them beat in the character department. But you know what’s worse than that? Actual animal or element gimmicks fully realized in physical form, without even an attempt to make them realized as actual characters.

All of which could have been forgiven if the show was funny, as One Punch Man is supposed to be a comedic satire on the shonen action/superhero genre. Thing is, the show only has one joke (Saitama being Saitama) and said joke never made me laugh. Not once. Which would already have been a giant problem by itself, but the fact that the satire sucks too does it no favors. And not just because it goes for all the easy shots, but said shots are even misaimed a few times. There’s one moment in the show where Saitama makes himself out to be the bad guy in order to save face for the other heroes due to some random jackass who apparently never appreciates anything in his life, but it falls incredibly flat because it’s incredibly obvious it was done so that the show can repeat its one joke. Not one single person was buying the jackass’s bullshit, so there was no reason for Saitama to do that, especially since it’s never brought up again afterwards. It’s an extreme, but by no means the only part of the show where it’s clear the writers have no ambition for this show beyond taking cheap potshots at a genre that has been satirized so well in the past.

Let me make it clear that One Punch Man is by no stretch of the word “bad”. It knows what it wants to be and does it well, even if it wants to be is nothing higher than mediocre at best. Because if we’re judging it in comparison to the rest of the shonen/superhero anime that aired in Fall, One Punch Man is the worst of the shonen action anime that I have seen. Good visuals can only take you so far, and whilst I commend Madhouse for keeping the quality high for most of its run, thirteen episodes is a long time to watch something that has little to no substance. Hell, the specials don’t have anything noteworthy about them visual-wise, leaving you with nothing at all.

My advice to you guys? Watch Concrete Revolutio instead. And no, I’m not going to stop sucking Concrete Revolutio’s dick until more people admit they were wrong to abandon it for the much weaker Sunday superhero show.

28 responses to “One Punch Man Review — Madhouse’s Nichijou

  1. “And no, I’m not going to stop sucking Concrete Revolutio’s dick until more people admit they were wrong to abandon it for the much weaker Sunday superhero show.”

    I abandoned both shows. Unsure if this makes me better or worse than the people who chose One Punch Man over Concrete Revolutio.

  2. “but you’d think the genre would grow up along with the audience”

    Uh, the audience didn’t grow up. The genre stays firmly aimed at “shonens” – male teens and young adults. A specific work can have an audience that grows up – One Piece has been going on for decades now. But saying that shonen manga should grow up is like saying that children’s literature should grow up. It doesn’t make much sense. Shonen manga HAS evolved a lot since the time of Dragonball and Kenshiro, but it still appeals to the same demographic. It makes plenty of sense that you don’t enjoy it any more but it’s not the genre’s fault. There still are lots of kids who pine for this kind of stuff and enjoy it plenty. You simply happen to have grown up and not be one of them any more.

    • Comedies have mostly grown up from the canned-laughter days of Full House. The ultraviolent OVAs of the 80s-90s are no longer in existence. Visual novel adaptations are (mostly) no longer focused on just the incredibly artificial slice-of-life with multiple girls stuff that Maburaho and Da Capo indulged in. I didn’t say the shonen action genre should stop appealing to teenagers. I said they should stop using DBZ as a template.

      • I’m pretty sure the genre DID grow up from DBZ. One Punch Man is very different in many respects, as are a lot of modern shonens. But of course some core elements stay the same – or it wouldn’t even be the same genre. It just so happens that those core elements are those that end up displeasing you. Which is fine – it’s a genre aiming at teenagers, you DO end up outgrowing it, mostly. I liked OPM well enough if only because I like pretty visuals, but of course I don’t follow any shonen with the same trepidation I did when I was a kid – in fact I find most of them bland and boring.

        What you refer to IMHO isn’t even “growing up” in a proper sense – that implies an unidirectional process where what comes later is always better, more mature than what came first. What happens, rather, is that something new arrives, then it gets old, then it changes in order to fit the new tastes so that it can become new again. With a shifting demographic like the one in shonen of course this is less of a problem – the genre changes, but the readers change too, so something that’s relatively old can still look new and fresh to those who come in contact with it first.

  3. ‘Not helping is the fact that Saitama is an incredibly boring character who has no depth to him besides one joke: he’s a normal dude who became the strongest in the world by training really hard and is bored with his life as a result.’

    You’re a much better critic than the impression poor statements like these give. It’s a common thing among online critics to say there’s ‘none’ of something – no depth, no development – but it leaves you ridiculously wide open for readers to lose confidence in your criticism.

    What you call a joke is, for some (maybe many) viewers, a both humorous and serious exploration of a number of interesting concepts and themes. With OPM’s world in the shape of the Saitama prefecture, and the hero bearing its name, there’s a cry from the show to relate everything to the condition of real-world Saitama, which can be said to relate in many ways to City Z in particular – a cheap, unremarkable part of Japan that often gets a bad rap. Translate this into our protagonist, and we can see Saitama and his whole adventure as an allegory for the frustration of the salaryman (while fighting monsters he’s thinking about the sale on at the supermarket, and being C Class he has a weekly quote to fill, among other traits that mirror the kind of lifestyle) who has achieved full proficiency at what he does but has no hope of promotion.

    That’s one reading of Saitama, grounded in the over-abundance of references to the Saitama district and its nature in the show. The next time you offer comment on a character in a show, I recommend you do a reading of them instead of the lazy cop-out I quoted above. And below:

    ‘This could have made for some interesting conflict, but One Punch Man never really treats Saitama’s invincibility as anymore than a cheap joke or a deus ex machina trying to be a cheap joke’

    Episode 9? Mumen Rider fighting the Deep Sea King, and the reaction to Saitama finishing it off, and his reaction to his criticism? Only a joke of a critic could consider that a joke.

    This is a classic case of the critic having little substance, not the show. Try harder.

    • I’m fully aware that Saitama is supposed to be representative of the bored working everyman, as my cousin who loves the show has explained to me, but I find the metaphor to be explored at too elementary a level. All it’s doing is saying that this sort of working man you just described exists. And all I can say in response is “so what?”

      Episode 9? Mumen Rider fighting the Deep Sea King, and the reaction to Saitama finishing it off, and his reaction to his criticism? Only a joke of a critic could consider that a joke.

      Why do you have to take everything I say so literally? I know that moment wasn’t supposed to be a joke. I even referenced in the last few paragraphs explaining why it fell flat as satire. The reason I said that was to humorously point out that OPM’s humor doesn’t even qualify as a cheap joke at points.

      The reason I don’t think OPM is good is because I find the satire to not go beyond “well this exists” in regards to its subject matter and the characters to be dull because they have no personal flaws, what they represent is shallow, and they’re not funny. It’s like someone wrote a superhero show composed of DC heroes and Marvel villains.

      • ‘Why do you have to take everything I say so literally?’

        Because your hyperboles are awful when placed against analysis that undoes them. Also, I don’t find anything you post funny, so of course I’ll take it seriously, and, hence, literally.

        ‘I find the metaphor to be explored at too elementary a level. ‘

        I find you to be exploring the metaphor at too elementary a level.

        What’s the difference between my subjective take and yours? How are you going to evidence how ‘elementary’ a ‘level’ of theme exploration is?

        Then again, I doubt you’d begin to consider stepping outside that comfortable vague bubble of armchair criticism you use to respond to real analysis.

        As to the issue itself, I think the show argues that the salaryman must find humility in his job as Saitama does at the end of episode 9, letting his reputation be weakened for the sake of keeping the other heroes’ up. Following that, /he goes up in rank/. The narrative hence suggests that over-competence in a ‘dead-end’ job can be slowly solved by humility – you may want to rise to the top immediately, and you may think you’re able to. You may actually be able to! But you won’t get there with that attitude; you need to be humble. It’s a powerful employability skill.

        There’s your ‘so what’. As for your explanation:

        ‘ it falls incredibly flat because it’s incredibly obvious it was done so that the show can repeat its one joke. Not one single person was buying the jackass’s bullshit, so there was no reason for Saitama to do that, especially since it’s never brought up again afterwards.’

        God this is dumb.

        Had the crowd been won over into seeing Saitama as a legendary hero – which was Saitama’s goal at the start of the series, to be popular for his power – all the other heroes would look weaker. Saitama makes his speech not to quell the heckler, but because of the point the heckler raises – what faith will the masses have in all these heroes if they know there’s a guy who can take everyone out with one punch? Had he used the Deep Sea King’s defeat as the start of a journey to convincing everyone of his power, he would have been working towards the undoing of the Association. It’s him getting fame, not the heckler’s words, which are the threat to the other heroes.

        You spend a whole pointless paragraph saying how that moment was used for ‘one joke’, and evidence that claim with absolutely nothing. Now here’s me saying there’s none of something. All your statements about the show are contrary to what we watch.

        He doesn’t even make himself out to be the bad guy; just an infinitely shittier version of himself. What bullshit-tinted lenses were you watching this show with?

      • Also, I don’t find anything you post funny

        A dagger to my heart.

        Then again, I doubt you’d begin to consider stepping outside that comfortable vague bubble of armchair criticism you use to respond to real analysis.

        Hey now. Don’t insult me and make claims that aren’t true just because you didn’t like my review.

        You spend a whole pointless paragraph saying how that moment was used for ‘one joke’, and evidence that claim with absolutely nothing

        I never said that moment itself was the joke. What I meant was it was used just so they could repeat the joke of Saitama always being a downtrodden underdog despite being the strongest hero alive at a later date. Sorry if I did not make that clear, but that’s what the sentence meant. And my evidence to support said sentence is that said event is never brought up again afterwards. I don’t see why I need more than that.

        What’s the difference between my subjective take and yours? How are you going to evidence how ‘elementary’ a ‘level’ of theme exploration is?

        The difference between our subjective takes is that I’m not the one making your take on the show and vice-versa. The definition of subjective literally includes the words “personal beliefs”. As for why I think it’s elementary, maybe because I don’t find “salaryman must find humility in his job” to be an interesting message (or at least the way they conveyed this message to me)? Because the characters that are used to this tell this tale to me aren’t interesting because as I’ve said to you twice now, their characterization is on the level of DC’s heroes? I’ve never liked DC’s stable of Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Superman, etc. because they don’t have the personal struggles that made Spiderman so relatable to the masses. More plot device than person. They’re only interesting when they’re butting heads with their villains, and One Punch Man’s villains bore me to death.

        And as for further evidence, I’ve seen superhero satire done a lot better in anime. Samurai Flamenco was a good take on the common man being a superhero. Tiger and Bunny balanced out having to be a hero and having to be a father very well. Concrete Revolutio is jam-packed with all sorts of Cold War/historical Japanese metaphors throughout its entire runtime. Compared to them, I find OPM to be lacking.

      • ‘Hey now. Don’t insult me and make claims that aren’t true just because you didn’t like my review.’

        It’s not that; all your ‘criticisms’ and ‘reviews’ hardly have any weight. Hardly any evidence. It’s as good as armchair criticism; if it believes it’s something better, maybe worse.

        ‘And my evidence to support said sentence is that said event is never brought up again afterwards.’

        – His climb up C Class promotion to B Class is directly because of the event
        – He meets Mumen Rider afterwards to discover he was the one who said ‘thank you’; perhaps for killing the monster, but more likely for the words he said to him – ‘good fight’ – and the humble speech he made in victory.
        – It adds to the /growing/ reputation he has as a ‘cheat.

        You really, really need more evidence if that’s your line, because the event is certainly brought up again and is integral to the wider narrative of the show.

        ‘As for why I think it’s elementary, maybe because I don’t find “salaryman must find humility in his job” to be an interesting message (or at least the way they conveyed this message to me)? Because the characters that are used to this tell this tale to me aren’t interesting because as I’ve said to you twice now, their characterization is on the level of DC’s heroes?’

        Now we’re starting to get to fairer comments on why you didn’t enjoy the show’s themes, rather than attempts at grand statements of value like ‘elementary level’. You can do a lot to demonstrate how similar it is to DC and what’s wrong with that. That would have been a much stronger comparative foundation for this review.

      • It’s not that; all your ‘criticisms’ and ‘reviews’ hardly have any weight. Hardly any evidence.

        You can do a lot to demonstrate how similar it is to DC and what’s wrong with that.

        You can argue the former as much as you want, but I always try to back up my claims. I’ve explained quite clearly why I thought the action in this show sucked, I said the bad guys were awful because they’re just elemental gimmicks that move, and I said in the intro that the characters don’t have much of a story to them, which is generally vital to what makes a character interesting.

        As for getting in-depth on the DC thing, I didn’t do that for a few reasons. 1) I assume people already know why DC’s heroes are boring, specifically Superman and Batman since they’ve been around for so long now. I always assume my readers know what I’m referencing whenever I make one and if they don’t, they can look it up. 2) That would not flow well with the review and it would make the thing longer than it needs to be. I don’t look at my reviews as some sort of essay regarding the show’s objective qualities. I write them more like how I’d describe a show to a friend, asking him “do you see what I see?” If he doesn’t, we can have the in-depth discussions in the comments section, because that’s what it’s for.

        – His climb up C Class promotion to B Class is directly because of the event
        – He meets Mumen Rider afterwards to discover he was the one who said ‘thank you’; perhaps for killing the monster, but more likely for the words he said to him – ‘good fight’ – and the humble speech he made in victory.
        – It adds to the /growing/ reputation he has as a ‘cheat.

        But him being a cheat was completely irrelevant in the final arc because he had as much of a role in it as Sonic does in most of his modern games along with that godawful Sonic X anime (aka most of that arc was focused on the other S-ranks), and the other two events are incredibly circumstantial and could have done better.

        rather than attempts at grand statements of value like ‘elementary level’

        The reason I make grand statements like that is because all reviews are subjected to personal opinion and stuff that tries to play it safe with the wordplay doesn’t make for good discussion afterwards.

  4. I’ll admit, I’m someone that liked One-Punch Man but I can see where you’re coming from with some of your points. The show didn’t get too many episodes so there’s a chance that the character and the plot will be fleshed out better if it gets a second season.

  5. “There is absolutely no choreography being applied to any of the action and it becomes really boring to watch as a result.”

    And people think that this show actually has good “fight” scenes. Contrast this with something like Air Master or Baki, which have good choreography and actual tension in the fights, and yet are both swept under the rug to make way for the next DBZ clone. Admittedly, neither of those shows has any real substance, and the humor is terrible as well, but at least they know how to make an entertaining fight.

    • Anime fight scenes seem to exist in this strange world that can’t be judged on the level of live-action fight scenes. Or the fight scenes in western cartoons like Batman or Avatar.

    • Choreography is something that works the best for people who can appreciate the most technical sides of a fight. Not everyone will. It’s a niche thing, like scientists complaining that something features unrealistic physics – while a movie with realistic physics may be enjoyable to them, most of the others don’t give a shit. I like good choreography in a fight but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a bullshit anime fight where someone gets *kicked into the freakin’ Moon* on a different level, just for how over-the-top and spectacular it is.

      • but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a bullshit anime fight where someone gets *kicked into the freakin’ Moon* on a different level, just for how over-the-top and spectacular it is.

        2niche4me. Also, I personally blame Square Enix for inability to enjoy that sort of stuff on their own terms these days.

      • Square Enix? How so? Guess I have to be glad that I really never played much of their stuff then (nothing newer than FF6. So yeah.).

  6. I enjoy One Punch Man, and think its fight scenes are fine for what they’re supposed to be. I find the humor to be fine, but not “hilarious”, for what it is. But I have to admit that it has its issues, especially early on.

    I mean, it’s fairly obvious how this started out. ONE, the author, wanted to make something casual, and it shows. It just caught on, more so than he’d have hoped. So the tone in the earlier arcs is somewhat ONE dimensional. Hur hur hur…

    Anyway, past the Boros arc, the story starts shifting away from humor and more towards some character arcs, as well as plots that can’t easily be solved by Saitama’s strength alone. I guess ONE is taking this seriously now that it has a following. I found it interesting to read the original webcomic and see the gradual shift in tone. Though it’s still light hearted, there’s a bit more thought put into the characters.

    On a side note: Concrete Revoltio didn’t show One Punch Man jack. Even if it’s better written, Concrete lost hands down if this was a contest. Like, absolutely destroyed…

  7. > the action was bad
    > concreto revolution is the best anime of 2015

    Jeez. Can you be even more of a contrarian?