One Punch Man (2012)


Volume 1

One Punch Man - Volume 1 (2012)

Author: ONE
Artist: Yusuke Murata
Publisher: Jump Comics

A hobbyist superhero searches for meaning in life when every opponent he faces can be beaten in a single punch.

For those who haven't read my review of the manga, let me start by saying that this series is just the cure I need for my lack of interest in a lot of the series Shounen Jump is known for, which can extend to a large part of the shounen genre as a whole. I know I'm oversimplifying, but for a lot of the really popular series, there's a sense of "If you've seen one, you've seen them all." The shallow characterization, the increasingly ridiculous escalation... In a bid to keep hitting adrenaline highs, it just gets boring to me. How does this series solve the problem? Well, first off, they don't try to play it straight and they lampoon a lot of the stale tropes. Our protagonist Saitama could be a boring invincible hero but he is in fact a bored invincible hero. He's pretty much unstoppable and he's desperate to find an opponent that can stimulate his atrophying emotions. Also, we have weaker characters to have fight scenes with some measure of stakes. This is exemplified by Genos, who's an incredibly powerful cyborg but often outmatched. (Also, being a cyborg, he can suffer catastrophic damage and just be a repair job away from being back in action.)

This first volume introduces us to the character of Saitama and his primary conflict, gives us a flashback of his origin story, and sets up the first arc of the story with the House of Evolution. At times it feels like the rest of the cast are from a different story and Saitama just wrecks everything for them. It's great.

If any of you are familiar with the original webcomic, you know how crude ONE's art is. The whole point of this version is to update the original story with improved visuals and what an improvement it is. The art is simply amazing. It almost seems like a waste to have such impressive action sequences in a comedy series, but it actually serves to highlight the comedy, being played brutally straight until the punchline. Saitama is usually drawn in more of a gag style resembling the original art only to shift when he gets serious. And as a side note, Mosquito Girl is far more lovingly rendered than a humanoid mosquito has any business being (and no doubt explains why she remains on fans' radars despite being an early low-level mook).

This is one of those series that has an alternative cover under the dust jacket. Usually it's for a gag, but sometimes it's for fanservice. This volume gives us both. (Not gag fanservice, but rather a sillier picture on the front and spine and a pin-up of Mosquito Girl on the back.) I won't detail each under-cover as it's part of the joy of each volume.

Side stories are another common feature of each volume and this one has a glimpse of Saitama's days in middle school dealing with some bullies.

If you want high-octane superhero action played for laughs, this is the series for you. Basically, I'd say read the opening bit with Vaccine Man. If that has you chuckling, you're probably going to enjoy yourself. I enjoy it quite a bit and definitely recommend adding it to your collection.

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