By Dustin Cabeal
One-Punch Man is a rare title. There will never be anything else like it because it is the perfect meeting of writing and art. While most people continue to be more familiar with the anime than the manga and really just falling in love with the gimmick and comedy, there is so much more going on in this series. To some, this will sound utterly crazy, but One-Punch Man is a brilliant representation of life.
In the most recent volumes Saitama has been scaled back, and with that, we’ve experienced other heroes and learned what they’re fighting for. Nowhere is that illustrated better than without two heroes on the cover. They get thrown from the ring when the monster enters to fight and go and get their costumes and come back. At first, it seems hokey that they would change when people are in danger, but then they explain why they got their costumes and what function they serve. They needed the right tool for the job.
There is also a conflict of ideologies presented in this volume. All of the fighters are brought back to the stage by the monsters, all but Saitama. The big ass monster reveals that he was the first winner of the tournament and that he eventually ran into some monsters that he couldn’t beat. They offered him the chance to surpass his limits as a monster, and he took it. Now he’s offering all of the fighters the same chance. Some of them take it, wanted to see if they can surpass the winner, the cocky guy that most of them knew they couldn’t beat. Strangely enough, that guy doesn’t take the monster fruit. He also shows that he’s no hero. He doesn’t rush into the fight and even when the guys on the cover put their life on the line, two men he knows he can beat easily, he still has some reservations about facing the monsters. At the end though Saitama shows up and talks to him and it becomes clear what the message that writer One is trying to get across. You can take the easy way and level up quick or the long way and build up properly. Saitama is the representation of hard work, and that is present on every page of this series.
If you look at the artwork by Yusuke Murata, it is clear that nothing but hard work goes into every panel. Yes, some of that is talent, but talent will only take someone so far. If it’s not paired with hard work, then it’ll fade. Which is why Murata’s work continues to be beautiful. Sure this is a shonen story, sure it’s heavy on the fighting, but if you stop and look at the detail poured into every line then you will see just how goddamn gorgeous this series is. I always thumb through the book a second time just to look at the art again, it’s that good. I would love to see a larger print of the artwork because sometimes the small size doesn’t do it justice.
Going back to hard work that might seem like a catch 22 given that Saitama can win any fight with one punch, but the great thing about his character is that he’s inspiring. People want to be like him, train with him and better themselves. No one gives up in his presence and are instead are lifted up by him. Some people would be faced with his accomplishments and give up instantly. Others would be inspired and find a way to accomplish things in their own power. I have always appreciated Saitama’s personality because of this and writer One’s message. No, you can’t write One-Punch Man. You can’t write an instant classic as he has… at least not without putting in hard work. You can write a classic if you keep writing and that’s what inspires me about One’s writing. The message is always to keep moving forward.
There’s a lot of drama and hardship in this volume. People die or give up their humanity, and the cocky shit is left feeling helpless and hopeless. And then Saitama shows up, and it’s funny as shit again. Life is like that more than people realize. We laugh, we cry, we watch some dumb show and get ready for the next day. Stories that genuinely reflect all aspects of life tend to be stories that touch everyone a little bit, just like One-Punch Man, though in his case it’s one punch that’s touching and usually a head is exploding or some shit. Anyway, this volume is great, probably an instant classic.
One-Punch Man vol. 14