Review: One-Punch Man Vol. 1

I’ve been waiting to check out One-Punch Man. Yes, I know I could have done so already in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump, but for some series I like reading the entire volume to start off with. You just get more time with the story and world that way. One-Punch Man is perfect for any superhero comic fan. Not any superhero manga fan, but any superhero comic fan. Much like My Hero Academia, One-Punch Man is a superhero story. Unlike MHA, OPM is a very true Japanese superhero story. There’s insect ladies, giant exoskeleton dudes smashing shit and monster men that look like something out of old Ultraman TV episodes.

The premise is very easy to sum up. Our main character Saitama is a casual hero. He does it for fun and the thrill of the challenge. The problem being, he’s too powerful. Every villain he goes up against, he defeats them in one-punch.

This is illustrated by our opening scene when a rampaging monster lands in City A and begins destroying everything. Also he looks like a bigger version of DBZ’s Piccolo which was pretty cool. Our monster informs One-Punch Man who arrives on the scene, that he’s the creation of years of pollution and there to ravage mankind. One-Punch Man destroys him in one punch which is very unsatisfying to him.

That’s the charm of this world. He’s the strongest man on the planet most likely, but he’s so tough and so strong that nothing is a challenge. Nothing is thrilling. We see this over and over for a bit before diving into Saitama’s back story, but no one is more frustrated with defeating a villain in one punch than One-Punch Man.

One-Punch Man Vol. 1Frankly the book is ridiculously funny. I read it from beginning to end with a big goofy grin. A lot of this comes from the art from Yusuke Murata. One-Punch is drawn in a different style than the rest of the comic. This is very intentional as it adds to the humor. Murata’s artwork is very detailed and some of the best I’ve seen in recent years. He has that manga style that people think of when they think of the style. Photo-realistic and yet he’s creating these monsters and characters that are out of this world. Except for One-Punch. One-Punch constantly looks like he’s in a comedy. His costume is baggy. He’s bald and expressionless and overall just looks goofy. And yet there’s so much more work that goes into him being that way then the rest of the photorealistic world.

I commend writer One on the story. The gimmick of defeating every villain in one punch instantly made me wonder how they’d tell any kind of long story sequence with this world. For a while, it’s just Saitama being bored and showing how powerful he is. Then the bigger story kicks in and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised that it had legs to stand on. The volume ends leaving you wanting more and wondering where it will go next.

I said in the beginning that this is a superhero story and with that comes tropes of the genre, but here’s also where One excels at writing. He uses those tropes, but changes them with comedy. For instance, a villain is gloating that a student of One-Punch’s will never beat him because he’s the third strongest of their group, not knowing that the second strongest is already defeated. When One-Punch shows him what’s left of the second strongest, the villain instantly changes his tune and cooperates with them. Typically, there would have been another fight or whatever, but by playing to the tropes and then go against them, the story manages to stay fresh and funny.

I was very pleased with One-Punch Man. Now granted, if you’re looking for stories to have deep character moments and battles with a lot of satisfaction then this isn’t the story for you. Personally though, I welcomed the change of pace and was just glad to find a story that was entertaining and actually very funny. What was even better was that the art was fantastic and the prefect compliment for this world. I will be reading more One-Punch Man and soon, but in the meantime check out this first volume and have a laugh.

Score: 5/5

One-Punch Man Vol. 1 Writer: One Artist: Yusuke Murata Publisher: Viz/Shonen Jump Manga Price: $9.99 Release Date: 9/1/15 Format: Trade Paperback; Print/Digital