Nothing about Saitama passes the eyeball test when it comes to superheroes, from his lifeless expression to his bald head to his unimpressive physique. However, this average-looking guy has a not-so-average problem-he just can't seem to find an opponent strong enough to take on! Every time a promising villain appears, he beats the snot out of 'em with one punch! Can Saitama finally find an opponent who can go toe-to-toe with him and give his life some meaning? Or is he doomed to a life of superpowered boredom?
The best thing about children is for the most part they have the ability to exaggerate and make it sound perfectly logical. So in describing, say a boxer, a child would say that with training, the boxer could take on a man their own size. If they're beaten by another, larger boxer, he or she simply trains harder. Now, that's where adult logic stops. Because children, who don't understand physics and such, would say that the same training regime would apply if the boxer wanted to defeat a wall or a building or an asteroid. I like that kind of logic. If you're reading this and being incredulous at the thought, remember that DragonBall Z, One Piece and other Shonen genre titles use that exact logic. So, here comes One-Punch Man for artist One and Yūsuke Murata with their story of Saitama, an ordinary salaryman who decides to be the strongest man in the world and be a hero to humanity. He trains for three years with a daily regime of 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and 10 km running and gains superhuman strength. And when I say superhuman, I mean it. He can punch people so hard they fly through multiple buildings and can survive blows and strikes from opponents fifty times his size. Too bad he's terminally bored all the time.
Saitama really has the kind of life that we'd have if we had his strength. While it's great that he can punch meteors and destroy giants, that doesn't pay the rent, doesn't make you popular with insurers plus: when you're that strong, what do you do for kicks? Life doesn't hold much excitement for Saitama. He perpetually looks bored or listless. He lost all his hair while training for some unknown reason and looks like he should be working at a Buddhist temple or a Shinto shrine. Despite his look, he lives a pretty sedentary life, buying only what he needs and nothing more. While he acts like a badass, his speech patterns seem to give the impression that he doesn't quite "get" things. It's like he's too wasted to notice things going on around him. When the Subterranean creatures and their King arrive on the surface to kill all surface dwellers, Saitama is more annoyed initially that his house has been wrecked. Once he gets into it, the fight is what keeps him going. But afterward, Saitama has this moment of inner reflection where he asks himself that question that everyone else asks when they climb to the top of their metaphoric mountain: Is that it? What else is there to do once you've made to the top? Thankfully, the answer as if you haven't guessed it that every opponent he faces makes him stronger and faster pushing him onward to higher skills and techniques. If there wasn't any opponents, it would be a very short story, right?
So when Genos, a cyborg searching for the killer of his human family, turns up in the local area, Saitama goes into the fight between Genos and Mosquito Girl. Genos looks like he's fighting correctly, taking his time with the fight but after a mistake he is battered and beaten by Mosquito Girl. Saitama is drawn into the fight in such a ridiculous manner, that I laughed when he revealed why he was angry. Genos, who is a wandering cyborg looking for his own answers, sees that Saitama is much stronger than he and begs him to make him his disciple. So Saitama naturally says: "No". I'm really not doing the manga much service to how the action gives way to side splitting laughs. Saitama defeats his foes and then panics when he realises he forgot to put out the rubbish for the week. He's sleeping and hears a noise, finds it curious and is then promptly pulled through a wall by a giant hand. This sort of thing. I never know where the story will take me.
One Punch Man lives and dies as much on its writing by writer ONE as it does with its artwork provided by artist Yusuke Murata. The art works so well because it zooms in and out of the bigger and smaller pictures the story demands. Saitama is at times a lean body-building machine and at others a completely blank looking idiot. Enemies swarm around our heroes, creating defined swirls and eddies in the clouds, releasing kinetic energy impacts whenever they hit objects and buildings. They cry out battle attack names and then unleash hell. Flurries of punches and slams make you feel there's more going on behind the battle since Saitama is usually the one in the middle of the action. He then ducks or casually moves away.
The manga doesn't feel like a standard shounen fighting manga in that while there are enemies then end of level bosses who then in turn respect our heroes, it's not in the natural "fighting tournament" method that other mangaka like to do. At least, not yet. Until it does, and even if it does cross over into that style, I'll be happy to keep reading it.
Please note that while this reviewer was able to buy and download One-Punch Man from Amazon Kindle US, it has since become unavailable on that platform so we suggest that you head to the VIZ page for it and download it though their provided links.