One Punch Man is AWESOME.
I don’t think that’s a secret: it was released to hugely receptive audiences, and quickly rose in popularity almost over night. An entertaining series that parodied the traditional action/superhero genre, One Punch Man was something new and innovative, with great production value to boot. However, as many people know, the series did not start out with this great success.
From Humble Beginnings
One Punch Man can be traced back to the work of a Japanese mangaka who goes by the pseudonym, “ONE.” His work was modest at first, starting in early 2009, with the original edition of One Punch Man, on his own website. As you might note, this edition isn’t quite as polished as the original- one might even say the art is just bad. However, what it did have was personality and imagination, attracting people by the thousands. By 2012, he had attracted an audience of hundreds of thousands, garnering 7.9 million visits by July of that year. Despite this fame, ONE was facing life troubles-he wasn’t making money from this passion project, and so, he was considering quitting to get a real job, around 2011. Luckily for ONE, a single particular individual took an interest in his work: Yusuke Murata.
Murata was a rather well-known manga artist in his own right at the time. Gaining fame through illustrating the manga, Eyeshield 21, this man was no joke. According to an interview conducted by the company Sugoi Japan, Murata found One Punch Man through a tweet around 2009, when Eyeshield 21 was ending. He loved it, to the point where he pulled an all-nighter to read what was there, and kept up with it afterwards. However, upon hearing that ONE was worried about quitting, coincidentally with his own personal life problems, Murata decided to act. Contacting ONE immediately, he asked if they could work together on any project they could, and, like that, they created several one-shot manga together.
Eventually, the two approached ONE’s most famous work, One Punch Man, and pitched it to Young Jump, leading to a decision to ultimately publish the new series online. Popularity for the manga gradually built up, until, whaddya know, Studio Madhouse decided to pick up the series for an anime release in 2015, and a year later, you have the acclaimed, mainstream, kickass series we know and love today.
The Appeal of One Punch Man
Now. That story relied on a HUGE amount of luck- but also, the fact that it appears to be so dang charming seems to be a help as well.
One Punch Man is a parody of action anime in general, and on the common superhero. Through its hero, who defies all logic by finishing a conflict that would normally be intense, scary, and thrilling, by simply throwing one punch. Through its very definition of a “hero”, which is shown in universe to range from true powerhouses, to literally the common man off the street. Subverting the common tropes of Shonen anime, the series has received huge attention for keeping the mind blowing animation and fight scenes that the genre is known for, while also obviously being aware of all the common tropes that such stories often use, from tragic backstories, to a focus on personal honor, power, and other such serious motivations.
Saitama is the core of this all- the One Punch Man himself, the Caped Baldy, is at the core of this, and, in fact, is one of the specific reasons as to why Murata enjoyed the series too much. If I had to describe the series as one thing, to anyone, it would probably be like this:
One Punch Man is about an invincible, yet inexplicably normal man, living in a Shonen world.
Any subversions that One Punch Man pulls off are based around Saitama’s refusal to adhere to the rules of the normal Shonen world. Everyone around him takes their roles surprisingly straight. You have monstrous, strength-obsessed supervillains, numerous powerful heroes, even a protagonist figure in Genos, yet, all of that doesn’t matter, next to someone who breaks those rules, and doesn’t even do much growing himself. But because he’s so static, yet so carefree, he, surprisingly enough, functions as a grounding force in a fantastical world- Saitama, simply enough, redefines what it means to be a hero.
It’s a freaking joy to watch, and I’m sure many people can agree with that.
Of course, One Punch Man’s popularity only continues to grow. With a second anime season on the way, a continuing manga and web comic, as well as shirts, toys, and much more miscellaneous merchandise, it’s clear that the story of Saitama is only getting more popular. It put the once-obscure artist ONE on the map for his creative ideas, and allowed him to pursue a career as a mangaka, helping him provide yet another great story in Mob Psycho 100. Just, overall, One Punch Man allowed for some great things to happen, and a fun, unique story that I don’t think we would have gotten anywhere else.
I’m personally looking forward to the continued adventures of Saitama, and honestly, the announcement of the release date for OPM’s second season can’t come soon enough. The future is looking bright for this subversive, fun anime, and I can’t wait to see how it will fare in the future!