Good things don’t always come to those who wait. After a three-year hiatus One Punch Man has returned to Japanese television and the reception I have seen online is mixed. Many viewers have been quick to condemn season two’s visual downgrade. The consensus is that, in terms of animation and artwork, J.C. Staff have failed to meet the high standards set by their predecessors Madhouse..
Judging a piece of entertainment solely on aesthetics is a bit shallow though. Take video games for example. How many big budget releases have come out recently that boast stellar graphics, but lack the enjoyment of a more modest looking indie game? The second season of One Punch Man may look rougher, but I can get over that. I watch this series more for the comedy than the spectacle, and in that regard it succeeds. Depending on your sense of humour there’s even a case to be made that season two is funnier than series one.
I would also have to say that season two has a better antagonist. The big bad of this instalment is a martial artist named Garo. He uses his fighting techniques to challenge any heroes who cross his path. Apart from wanting to test his strength against worthy opponents, Garo’s motivation for beating up heroes comes from the belief that he identifies himself as a monster. That mindset originates from his youth. Back then Garo’s classmates would always force him to roleplay a monster, whenever the group played superheroes. Maybe they should have played Cowboys and Indians instead? Had the kids picked Garo to play a Native American, all the time, the worst thing that could happen is that he would learn archery and how to do a funky rain dance.
Garo also admires villains, as in fiction they often hold their own against multiple do-gooders. If you think about it, he has a point. What’s so heroic about a team ganging up on one bad guy? He’s the type of person who left the cinema with nothing but respect for Thanos, after witnessing how well the mad titan fared versus the entire Avengers roster.
One thing that surprised me about season two was Saitama’s lack of screen time. He spends a big chunk of the series competing in a DBZ style fighting tournament. That keeps him away from the main storyline, which in retrospect is a good idea. Twelve episodes of Saitama knocking out foes in one hit would get stale. One Punch Man has a great supporting cast of quirky characters, so I didn’t mind seeing them get a moment in the spotlight. I was especially impressed by the action scenes featuring Metal Bat who, as his name implies, kicks ass using a piece of baseball equipment.
Another minor character who is worth mentioning is King. He is finally revealed this season and turns out to be the complete opposite of Saitama. King is a weakling who through serendipity has managed to earn the reputation of being the strongest man on Earth. That is in contrast to mighty Saitama whose feats of strength never get acknowledged by the public. Early on in the season the pair become friends. Despite being a joke character, King occasionally utters lines so inspirational that they even manage to motivate apathetic Saitama. King is also the only person able to defeat Saitama in combat… granted that is only in video games!
My rating for this season of One Punch Man is three and a half stars. I am giving the series a slightly lower grade than season one, but not due to the lower production values most people have crucified it for. In terms of gags and characters this season matches the series that came before it. My beef with season two is with its finale. The fate of Garo is left up in the air, as is the plot about a monster organization recruiting superhumans into its fold. Unresolved plot threads really irk me in anime. I understand that the manga is still ongoing, so this sort of thing is inevitable, but it must be said that season one concluded better. The first series holds up as a standalone piece, whilst season two doesn’t. Fingers crossed that we get a third season to see what happens next. One Punch Man is popular enough to get a follow up, but then again so was Haruhi Suzumiya. We all saw how that property vanished without a trace, after the sequel we waited years for didn’t quite meet expectations.