Thursday, March 31, 2016

Superhero Media: One Punch Man

So this anime was memeing pretty hard and I figured I should probably check it out. Something about a guy who was so strong he could kill anything with only one punch. Given the tedium that overpowered anime and video game characters tends to inspire in me, I was reluctant to get started. What anyone failed to tell me was that the protagonist, Saitama, suffers from such a degree of existential ennui that he is occasionally unable to function and borders upon suicidal. No one mentioned that One Punch Man was a pastiche of exactly the kind of overused tropes and cliches that I'm growing sick of in comics, anime, films and video games and that there are some unique concepts explored very cleverly. Also, there's big fights and a really strong guy, that's what really counts, right? 

Of all the overpowered anime characters to grace the small screen, Saitama is by far the most humble and, frankly, the most reasonable I've ever come across; he just wants to help out. After rescuing a child from a massive crab monster, Saitama dedicates himself to training, with the aim of becoming the strongest hero in the world; he succeeds, but the credit always seems to go to someone else. Also of interest is the public registration, payment and ranking of heroes, in which heroes essentially become public servants or, at the top level, special forces. One of the "S-Class" heroes is actually a criminal, who spends most of his time in prison, either for rape or sexual assault, it's not clear, but he's powerful enough that he's pulled out for the biggest fights. Imagine the level of amoral bureaucracy that requires. It makes a great counterpoint to the whole "Civil War" thing.

For a more international take on the interaction between superheroes and governments, give One Punch Man a go, there's a lot there to explore in games. The fights are pretty spectacular and Saitama's struggle with motivation and mental health give it a bit more mileage than it might otherwise have. Despite my usual tendency to veer away from really powerful characters, I am a bit tempted to track down a 28mm Saitama, he's really strong, but he requires an activation roll to get up and going. In the next series, I'd like to see some more explanation of how the Hero Ranking system works and what the plan is for when the number of heroes grows too large, or someone really powerful goes rogue.

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