February 29, 2016

MANGA MONDAYS | One Punch Man and Satire

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This week, I want to talk about the One Punch Man hype train, now that it’s had some time to slow down. But boy, what a ride it was. I’ll spare everyone my thoughts on how awesome the show was, because let’s face it, essentially everyone who calls themselves anime fans (and even a bunch of people who don’t) watched it and loved every second of it. What I will say, though, is that my personal favorite part of the show was the spot-on satire. Yeah, the rest was great, but that’s where I feel the show really shines. However, I feel like a lot of people really missed the joke.

Photo Courtesy of Studio Madhouse

Photo Courtesy of Studio Madhouse

For the last few months, like 90% of the posts I’ve seen on Google+ have been something to the effect of, “Who would win in a fight, SSJSSG 86 Evolved Extra Shiny Chrome Super Goku or Saitama!?!?!?!111!?” And then the thread usually evolves into an argument over who is more invincible. Now I know that this isn’t a great example for measuring general reactions to the show – Google+’s anime community has a pretty young demographic (mostly kids abusing the fact that G+ isn’t blocked by many school filters). Nevertheless, it’s a bit disheartening that so many people could completely miss the point.

After all, the whole point of One Punch Man is, I think, to demonstrate just how absurd and melodramatic the aforementioned Goku-type heroes (and villains) are. Case in point: this clip. Saitama’s irritation at Genos’s long-winded backstory is, similar to how he deals with villains, a simple dismissal of things we often take for granted in anime. Of course the hero needs a deep, tragic backstory. Of course there needs to be a dramatic set-up for the hero’s self-sacrifice as he begs his mentor for forgiveness.

Unfortunately, many people seem to have just taken this at face value – assuming that One Punch Man is just a well animated, quirky action show. Perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised – the satire here is certainly not presented as openly as the likes of The Onion, and yet, plenty of people still completely miss the joke.

Then again, maybe One Punch Man really is just an unorthodox fighting anime. The Evangelion nerd in me certainly is no stranger to overanalyzing. However, I think that the idea of rejecting everything we take for granted is pretty important if we want to see anime, as a medium, go on producing even more interesting characters and stories. Actually, I’m excited by how much I see this sort of thing going on outside of One Punch Man – for instance, Concrete Revolutio. It gives me some hope that we’ll keep seeing new ideas in anime with each season.

That said, I’ll leave you with a Genos meme.

Photo Courtesy of Studio Madhouse

Photo Courtesy of Studio Madhouse


Michael Mauer is a sophomore in the college of Arts and Sciences majoring in Computer Science. His favorite anime is Neon Genesis Evangelion and he never leaves home without his Homura Akemi necklace. He can be reached at [email protected]. Alternatively, just hunt him down on Facebook or Google+.