Over the past few months, while surfing the ever-expansive realm of the internet, memes displaying a bald anime man, in particular, wearing a cape and yellow spandex may have emerged in your news feed. Regarded as the story that anime and manga fans long deserved, One Punch Man has been a phenomenal success both in Japan and surprisingly the West. Recently topping New York Manga Bestseller list and attaining equal success with its anime, One Punch Man deserves acknowledgment of its humble origin.
Initially starting as a viral webcomic created by the obscure “One”, One Punch Man follows the titular protagonist, Saitama as a low-class hero and his journey in protecting the earth from evil. It may come out as the most generic synopsis in the history of synopses, except for the fact that Saitama is tremendously strong to the point where all he needs is a single punch to annihilate his foe. The simple artistic style and brilliantly unique take on the generic action manga resulted in Jump Comic adopting it to the company’s ever-expanding family. Here are in-depth reasons why One Punch Man managed to land a successful punch to the world of anime.
Saitama, a man that excludes himself from the Japanese societal norms after discovering his true passion of becoming a hero. “100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and 10 kilometers running everyday” has turned him into the strongest man in the universe, enabling him to vanquish his foe in one single punch. After three long years of perseverance and hard work, Saitama became too strong and lost all interest in the world around him. He yearns for a worthy opponent that will present the exhilaration he needs. Dubbing himself as “a hero for fun”, Saitama became a hilariously self-centered individual with very simple goals and seldom cares about the everyday things that most people care about. In the midst of the politics among ambitious heroes and continuous spawning of disastrous monsters terrorizing the cities, the emotionless, ignorant, and the simplistic Saitama contrasts the world of One Punch Man very well. The vast world around him means nothing as he simply indulges in things that make him happy.
For years, the anime industry has been bombarded with archetypical protagonists. Every batch of new anime will unarguably have those “chosen ones”, “the I want-to-be-the-very-best”, “the mysterious transfer student”, “the happy go lucky”, or “the protagonist with exceptionally high libido”. Most main characters of anime produced today can be classified to one or a combination of these tropes. These archetypes may serve as the definition of what makes an anime, anime. However, likewise, these stereotypes have been portrayed numerous times to a point where many anime productions lack distinctiveness and become very forgettable. In today’s age where the standard of media entertainment has increased significantly, despite the growth in awareness, the anime industry is struggling at captivating devoted audiences. Saitama is the embodiment of the anime industry’s progressive attempt in character creation. Does he carry any of the excessively used Anime tropes? Yes, Saitama is definitely drawn using the outline of these hero’s archetype. Nevertheless, unlike the standardized protagonist, despite Saitama technically being “the chosen one” of the story, within the entirety of One Punch Man, he is regarded as a nobody. He lives his life as an outcast. Yet, never once does he see the importance of fixing his status. These fresh qualities serve as the catalyst to his successful characterization.
Today, there are common tropes that define anime and manga. For example, it has to involve stereotypical principles such as high school life, emphasis on Japanese-ness, having deep and complex lore or the necessity to be dark and greedy. Again, these premises may serve as a general rule to “what makes an anime?” Nevertheless, these premises also create a barrier to entry for those who lack any knowledge about anime or Japan in general. One Punch Man shatters these general rules, taking anime and manga storytelling to its simplest form. Emphasis on hero action rather than overall Japanese-ness (Although the setting of One Punch Man resembles Japan, all of the cities are named solely after the alphabet, e.g. City A, City B making the cities mere background). One Punch Man also lacks heavy politics and conspiracies, nor in-depth lore and backstory of characters. One Punch Man is just an action packed and creatively simple story of the hero Saitama and his day to day adventure as the “hero for fun”. The straightforwardness of One Punch Man at times questions why no one has thought about such a concept before. Saitama’s adventure reminds us that at times simplicity is the best and One Punch Man is a fresh addition to the industry.
Excluding his overpowered-ness, One Punch Man titular protagonist, Saitama probably is one of the industry’s most relatable character in years. Despite Saitama’s simple, oblivious and ignorant attitude, he surprisingly exerts numerous remarkable qualities. Saitama is the embodiment of “do not judge the book by its cover”, a common yet often forgotten mindset that people should have. Saitama may not look like a charming or cool stereotypical hero but he is the strongest in his universe. In the world filled with an ambitious hero, Saitama rarely takes credit for his achievements. He simply does what he knows best which is saving the world with his fist. However even so, a lot of people think that he is a fraud and many ridicule him, but his self-centered attitude enables him to focus on the true meaning of becoming a hero. Saitama teaches us about the importance of being true to yourself not to pursue things for status or adoration. But above all, One Punch Man defines the potential of a human being to all of its audience. As said by the bald hero, “human beings are strong because we have the ability to change ourselves.” Most anime and manga fans are in their early to late 20s and this age-range is regarded the most crucial and most complex of one’s life. Decisions after decisions have to be made and anime and manga exist to temporarily relieve these individuals from harsh realities. However, not only One Punch Man does that excellently, it also provides endless quotes of encouragement that may resonate with its audience.
In conclusion, the anime industry has evolved remarkably throughout these past decades. We have come a long way since Astro Boy to having a bald man defeating a towering man with a single punch. One Punch Man is proof that the anime industry can and will continuously advance. One Punch Man also serves as a promise for what the audience can look forward to.