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One-Punch Man, Vols. 1 + 2

Despite the San Diego Comicon begin right around the corner, the reviews just keep on coming! This week I’ll be taking a look at One Punch Man, Vols. 1 + 2, but first a rather anemic look at news stories that caught my attention this past week. No doubt next week’s line up will be more robust in the wake of the con.

 

 

With that brief interlude done with, it’s time for this weeks featured review of One Punch Man, Vols. 1 + 2!

One-Punch Man, Vol. 1One-Punch Man, Vols. 1 + 2
Story by ONE, Art by Yusuke Murata
Viz
Rating: Teen (13 +)

ONE and Yusuke Murata’s superhero comedy, One-Punch Man, is something of a critical darling. It’s garnered high praise from many anime and manga fans, but despite this has yet to really breakthrough into the larger anime/manga community. The series tells the tale of Saitama, a young man who’s trained himself to become a nigh unbeatable superhero capable of defeating any foe with a single punch. Unfortunately such training and power has led him to nothing but incredible boredom, and a seemingly unending hunt for a challenge. Lovingly skewering both Western superhero conventions, shonen manga tropes and tokusatsu shows, One-Punch Man has the potential to be a break out hit, appealing to American comic book fans as well as manga readers.

One-Punch Man’s story is fairly straightforward. It’s always a variation of the monster of the week formula, with the conclusion being a single punch. You’re not really here for the plot or fleshed out characters though, if you’re reading One Punch Man it’s probably for one of two reasons; the wonderful sense of humor it has, or the spectacle it puts on. It’s humor usually comes from the satirical elements and how Murata and ONE constantly push the dial up to 11 with each bizarre foe Saitama encounters. Sure, along the way we’re treated to glimpses into his past, seeing the events that drove him to push himself the way he has and, like everything else in the series, it’s suitably ridiculous and hilarious. The series does not take itself seriously at all, and time and time again traditionally superhero elements are introduced and built up, only to fall apart as Saitama continues his one punch knock out streak. Secret organizations dedicated to human evolution, monsters that look they should be squaring off against Kamen Rider and more all appear and are defeated handedly. Much of the humor comes not just from the ease with which they’re defeated, but often with some of the ideas and characters themselves. Saitama worries less about defeating a giant beetle monster than he does about missing the weekly sales at the supermarket. A group of animal/human/cyborg hybrids include the typical fearsome lion, along with moles and slugs as well. At no point does the humor ever feel mean spirited, it always comes off as being a fond send up of the original ideas and genre that inspired them. The second reason you’re probably reading One Punch Man is for the spectacle, and that’s where things get complicated with these digital volumes.

When I first heard about One-Punch Man it was on Twitter when Deb Aoki and others were raving about the amazing visuals, claiming that it was far surpassing any other superhero book out there with it’s jaw dropping action scenes. To reinforce her point she posted several images of these absolutely insane two page spreads that were designed to function like a flip book when viewed in quick succession. These were amazing scenes of a a ninja leaping through the trees around our bald headed hero, or of Saitama sparing with his cybernetic sidekick, Genos, in a sequence that saw them carving a scar across the side of a mountain. The problem is, as absolutely fantastic as these sequences are, and as much as they’ve done to help attract attention to the series, they are not present in the digital collections that Viz is selling. These amazing eye popping scenes are removed and redrawn for the collected editions of the series, meaning the only way for readers to get the full One-Punch Man experience, is to buy a subscription to Viz’s digital edition of Shonen Jump for $25 a year. If you’re a fan of the Shonen Jump series, that might not be a problem, but if you’re like me and only want to read One-Punch Man, well. It seems like a misstep and one that I hope Viz is able to work around if they ever give the series a physical release, but as it is anyone who’s buying these digital volumes for the spectacle promised by such sequences will be sorely disappointed to discover that they’re completely absent in these collected editions.

Original Pages as a Gif

A sequence of 2-page splashes from the original Japanese serialized release compiled as a Gif.

Page from One-Punch Man, Vol. 2

The redrawn sequence from the digital collections.

That said, the artwork is absolutely top notch and it fits the humorous material perfectly. Imbuing the characters, threats and monsters with just the right amount of silliness but rarely to the point where the threats end up feeling like simple punchlines. When they do feel like punchlines, it’s clearly intentional and doesn’t really detract from the overall tone or humor of the book at all. The monster designs are wonderfully weird and threatening depending on what the story and their role requires of them. Saitama himself alternates between these two extremes as needed as well, looking alternately determined and bad ass, or like a very stripped down version of himself with a perfectly oval head with incredibly simplistic facial expressions devoid of any shading or detail. Also, while the huge two-page spread flip book sections are absent from these editions, the action sequences are still fairly dynamic and enjoyable to behold.

One-Punch Man is one of those rare series that truly has the potential to be a crossover hit with American comic fans and manga fans. It’s a nice light and fun take on the superhero genre, something that often seems to be missing in current American comics, but it also deals in the huge over the top spectacle that makes the genre so appealing. With the exception of the loss of the two page spread sequences, One-Punch Man does not disappoint and succeeds in delivering an enjoyable and hilarious superhero tale that any fans of the genre would do well to check out.

One-Punch Man, Vols. 1 + 2 are available digitally from Viz.

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  1. July 24, 2014 at 11:34 pm

    Excited to see that you reviewed this as I’ve been wanting to check it out for awhile; I saw the stuff Deb Aoki posted and knew I needed to! That said, I am super, super disappointed to find out the collected versions are different since I don’t subscribe to WSJ. Man!

    • July 24, 2014 at 11:49 pm

      @Manjiorin – Thanks! Glad you liked it! Yeah, the lack of the flip book-esque scenes are kind of heart breaking. My understanding is that they’re absent in the physical collections in Japan as well, meaning the only way to get them are to read it as it’s serialized. 😦

      It’s still a fun book, but since that was the sizzle that sold me on it. 😦

  1. July 25, 2014 at 12:31 pm

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