One-Punch Man Vol. 1 - 3 - Manga Review

The story of an incredibly strong bald guy!

The Lowdown

Saitama is strong. Actually that’s a bit of an understatement - Saitama is too strong. So strong in fact that he’s become a superhero for fun, valiantly patrolling City Z and protecting it from dastardly villains who seek to destroy it. However, these villains can’t quite measure up, and much to Saitama’s chagrin he beats them all with only one punch. From the artist behind Eyeshield 21 comes the epic story of a man trying to defeat villains in time to get to the discount sale for vegetables at the store.

Who Is It For?

If you’re looking for a parody of the superhero genre, or just an enjoyably odd take on a shonen series, give this a read.

How Was It?

One-Punch Man’s first chapter is possibly perfect, with each panel being used to perfection in setting the tone for this hilariously off-beat story (Viz has this chapter up as a free preview, give it a read!). The premise is simple - a villain has finished destroying the scene and is about to attack a young school girl when a dashing hero swoops in to save her in the nick of time. However, it’s revealed that the valiant hero looks like a bit of a dope until he promptly destroys the villain in a single punch.

This perfectly illustrates the basis of this story, as Saitama somehow manages to save the day before revealing how out of whack his priorities actually are to comedic effect. Author ONE perfectly played off of my ingrained assumptions of how a hero should act for hilarious effect, providing plenty of laughs. (Sidenote: it’s interesting the way One-Punch Man and My Hero Academia are mirror-images in the way they use the idea of heroism - My Hero Academia treats it as a point of inspiration while One-Punch Man uses it as a point of hilarious subversion)

The contrast between Saitama’s awesome powers and his impressively blase attitude to just about everything is the main source of humour as he takes on villains before becoming more worried about whether he’ll be able to make discount hour at the local store. Plenty of the humour comes from the fact that Saitama seems to do everything for the most off-beat reasons, often vanquishing his foes accidentally or out of frustration rather than any particular desire to save the day. Each of these three volumes is more a series of events rather than a cohesive story, showing a succession of loosely connected episodes starring Saitama. While it never reaches the territory of becoming strictly a gag-manga, I found myself getting a tad worn down to the point of hoping for more of an overarching story to engage with as I read through the volumes. Thankfully the events never become repetitive over the course of these volumes, but I hope that the series really gives more of an ongoing story as it proceeds.

Along for the ride with Saitama in these three volumes are a growing cast of characters including his cyborg disciple Genos and the speedster Sonic. An ongoing joke is that nobody tends recognize any of Saitama’s ability as a hero, both the general public and the hero organization completely ignoring his contributions. This plays into one of the longer-running storylines where Saitama and Genos attempt to become certified heroes but have to start at the bottom. I generally enjoyed the interactions between Saitama and these characters, but this was thanks to a number of memorable exchanges rather than an interesting relationship. Since Saitama is the main focus of the story each character tends to be framed in relation to him. This isn’t bad by any means, but I think the series could be even better if it utilized the personalities of the rest of its characters more the keep things fresh.

The art is one of the strongest points of One-Punch Man, portraying events on an epic scale with an amazing amount of detail. Thanks to artist Yusuke Murata’s art, this is likely the most impressive looking series on the market today, and I was continually amazed by the impact of these drawings. The consistency is also impressive, with literally every panel in each of these three volumes drawn with an immaculate level of detail.

The fight scenes were fantastic, and I loved the way that Murata showcases the extreme scale of each situation, making each villain both creatively and impressively designed. Importantly, they all also feel like a credible threat until Saitama demolishes them, allowing the humour to land solidly and emphasize Saitama’s power. I also loved how Saitama himself was drawn in varying ways, alternating between the same hype-detailed style as the rest the art as well as a simplistic cartoon look depending on the events going on. This was used for comedic relief multiple times and done to perfection, accenting many scenes such as his initial reveal in the first chapter fantastically.

Final Thoughts

The first three volumes of One-Punch Man are excellent, with some of the best art in manga today. The humour is also spot on, nailing the comedic timing to a tee and taking perfect advantage of both Saitama’s personality as well as his powers. Although I was feeling a wee bit burnt out at the end of the third volume and was wishing for more of a story to dig into,One Punch Man should be on the radar of anyone looking for an awesome action-comedy series.


One-Punch Man Vol. 1 -3 were published by Viz Media on September 1st, 2015 (Volumes 1 and 2), and November 3rd 2015 (Volume 3). Based on ONE’s original webcomic, this series is authored by ONE and drawn by Yusuke Murata. The series began in 2012 and is still ongoing in Shueisha’s online Young Jump Web Comics. Volume 4 was published in English on January 5th, 2016 and there are 10 volumes currently out in Japan.

Verdict:

A

Date of Publication: September 1st, 2015, November 3rd, 2015. 

Translator: John Werry

Author: ONE + Yusuke Murata

Publisher: Viz Media



Matt

Matt is a broke law student by day, broke law student by night, and one of the co-founders of Taykobon in his dwindling spare time. Although his favourite series tend to be shonen adventure series, he also has a soft spot for slice-of-life shojo romances. He enjoys following the manga industry, and is a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Blue Jays in other nonexistent spare time. 

Favourite series: Bakuman

Favourite author: Io Sakisaka