As Google says, a parody is “an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect”. Hence in the definition that the particular work does not copy, but merely appears similar and pays homage, whether of respect or satire.
Rarely does a show attempt to parody multiple sources at once, and they seldom ever come out alright. However, One Punch Man does what few anime before it have been able to do, marrying both Western and Eastern cultures together. The various powers and tropes from Marvel and DC’s superheroes coupled with the bashing of Japanese shonen manga leaves us with a show filled with hilariousness, action, and over-the-top scenes that make One Punch Man such a pleasure to watch! The characters/plot, animation, soundtrack, and even Biblical implications all contribute to this as well, and have given me a great impression of the show!
The world of One Punch Man takes place in fictional Japan with fictional districts in fictional cities. The setting itself is extremely generic because of the main focus on our characters, and doesn’t necessarily need something creative or complex. In this universe thrives the Hero Association, a group of superheroes who combine forces to save civilians from evil monsters, and thugs that terrorize them. The story revolves around a particular man named Saitama who joins this organization and climbs his way up the ranks, protecting the area from disaster and proving himself as strongest hero.
Our hero Saitama is an ordinary man with nothing special about himself. He goes to work for a business firm in a suit, finds the biggest sales for radishes at the nearby supermarket, and sits in his apartment reading manga. Not an orphan from outer space, not an orphan from the death of parents, and certainly not an orphan from specifically coincidental situations (*cough* Superman and Batman *cough*). Suddenly, after witnessing the attack of a crab monster on an innocent boy, Saitama gains the drive to fight justice! He trains day and night for three years with the most intense, out-of-this-world training: 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats and a 10 KM run! In the present, our protagonist is the most powerful superhero in existence and has the strength to defeat any enemy with one punch, hence the name One Punch Man.
He experiences not insane ambition to rule the world like most characters from anime that hold his kind of power, but instead boredom. Because every foe Saitama faces can be destroyed by a simple fist bump, he thinks that life is not exciting anymore, and always looks for a new challenger that is stronger than himself. Of course our hero is near invincible, so he never finds that person who can evenly match him. Saitama, whether through his ignorance or immense power, is oblivious to dangerous situations, which only adds more to the irony of his character.
The other main protagonist to One Punch Man is Genos, who is a human cyborg. When his town is destroyed by a cyborg and his family murdered, he contacts a traveling scientist named Dr. Stench, and convinces him to perform bodily modification on him. Now equipped with metal limbs and impressive fire power, Genos has the drive to avenge the people that he has lost and achieve justice for society. Seeing Saitama’s display of immense strength, Genos decides to be disciple under him in hopes that he will learn something to make himself stronger.
Serious and focused are the easiest words to describe Genos’s personality. He doesn’t desire anything more than to grow in strength and will do anything to achieve that. The everyday stresses and material things that grab Saitama don’t take the attention of Genos, and sometimes he is confused whenever his master makes laid back decisions. This contrast between the two creates a majority of the comedy and tests what truly makes one stronger. Genos, despite having most of his humanity ripped out of himself for mechanical parts, has flickers of emotion from varying situations such as the terror and desire that Saitama’s strength brings.
There are other superheroes in the story that make minimal impacts to the overall story, but help advance the hilarious scenes that ensue! Tornado of Terror, Silver Fang, Puri-Puri-Prisoner, and Mumen Rider are a few names that immediately come to mind, and they all have their own unique quirks and attitudes that contribute well to One Punch Man.
Out of everything that One Punch Man offers, I believe that the animation is the best. Produced by Madhouse, a company already notorious for amazing animation, the show was given a lot of special attention and had a very large production budget. If the name does not ring a bell, the company also did work on projects such as Death Note, No Game No Life, and Hunter X Hunter 2011, which should reveal how relevant the animation really is. One major advantage that the series has over other anime is that it can correctly focus on many different animation styles and imitate them all with perfection. From intense action and fight scenes to bare comedic panels, One Punch Man pulls off something that few other shows can do. It is my personal opinion that it has the best animation of any anime that I have ever seen.
Each piece of music for the series was chosen with a specific purpose in mind and I found the soundtrack to be equally as dominant as the animation. Loud, guitar-oriented songs were used for fight scenes while quiet, acoustic instruments handled the everyday moments that were showcased. These had different variations and allowed One Punch Man to contain a unique soundtrack that I can never get tired of! Most notably would be The Hero!! by JAM Project, which was the opening to the series. Everything about this song clearly defines what the anime is all about and the vocals in particular impressed me the most! The rock drums had a loud, steady beat throughout that guided the almost “alive” electric guitar, and had a profound effect on the piece.
As I discussed at the beginning, One Punch Man is unique in that it decides to imitate the styles of both Western and Eastern cultures. Plays off of Marvel and DC’s popular superhero comics are apparent through the different characters in the show and their powers. For example, a hero like Tornado of Terror has psychic abilities to control the trajectory of objects while others such as Lightning Max has gunpowder tucked inside of his shoes that allow him to improve his physical speed. Even the Hero Association is a direct reference to the Shield agency that exists in the Marvel universe, a group that brings Earth’s mightiest warriors together to fight threats to humanity.
At the same time, however, One Punch Man also parodies tropes and stereotypes from shonen manga that exist in Easter culture. One common unsaid rule in the media is that trials and sorrows must be done in combination with intense training in order to achieve great power. Gon from Hunter X Hunter, Sasuke from Naruto, and Edward from Fullmetal Alchemist are good examples of this, yet Saitama breaks every rule by becoming the strongest in existence through normal strength training.
These specific satirical spins and turns on both superheroes and anime really shape One Punch Man into something totally different than the typical Crunchyroll show.
Being a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ, I find connections to my faith throughout Japanese anime, and One Punch Man is no exception. Spiritual training is one topic in particular that is clear and relates to Saitama’s bodily training.
Our hero, achieving the greatest power of any hero in existence, must have some secret to his training, right? That’s what Genos thought as he stared wide-eyed and mouth open when he heard his master’s training regiment. He had just defeated a mad scientist and his drugged subjects who were pumped with strength-increasing shots, taking them all down with a single punch. These same enemies that Genos had trouble against his master could take down like they were nothing, and he wanted that kind of power. However, the secret was not what he was expecting and almost didn’t believe Saitama.
When it comes down to it, consistency in training is what brought our hero the immense power that he posses (although major plot armor was a big influence). Unlike his disciple, Saitama created an intense workout that was kept constant on a daily basis and never ceased. This was accomplished through discipline, self control, and heart.
Similar to Saitama’s training strategy, I believe that believers can benefit from taking their faith a step at a time. Overly throwing ourselves into everything Godly can not only burn out the flame of our faith but also make us lose hope when we miss the mark of perfection. Genos reminds me of that, the believer that seeks to be flawless and learn everything at once, which rushes him towards a process that requires time and consistency. Saitama had the right idea when he merely suggested a rigorous training that took time and patience, and Christians should have the same mind in their own faith.
One Punch Man not only fully satisfies my qualifications for the categories of characters, plot, animation, and sound, but also parodies well off of two distinctly different cultures. Biblical implications about spiritual training taken from Saitama can give believers extra reasons to watch this show, and it definitely can transcend to anyone of any faith! The show was one of the best that I have seen in a while, and I will be adding the Blueray set to my collection as soon as possible!