Anime Review: One-Punch Man (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 12.07.2017

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One-Punch Man (UK Rating: 15)

It's unlikely that there will be any anime fans who haven't heard of One-Punch Man. This rebirth of a cult Japanese web-comic has been running for five years now and the inevitable anime adaptation hit Japanese TVs and streaming for fans in October 2015. Since then, fans have been clamouring to get their Western release and it's now finally here courtesy of Manga Entertainment. Following on from Cubed3's original look at the online streaming version of this, now the complete collection, contains all 12 episodes, along with the six OVAs, is finall here and due for release on 17th July.

The series was originally released as a web-comic in 2009 by secretive mangaka ONE and in its original incarnation it looked awful - filled with horribly amateur art and rough scribbles. Despite this, the quality lying beneath the surface was evident and it quickly gathered a massive cult following around the world. It was given something of a rebirth thanks to Shueisha's Young Jump web-comics and the hyper-talented Mangaka Yusuke Murata of Eyeshield 21. The result was an unbelievably good-looking series. Murata breathed fresh life into the existing chapters, delivering fight scenes that look so ridiculously good that just placing the panels, one after another in an animated gif, delivers action sequences that look better than many weekly anime.

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This first season chronicles Saitama's first steps from the strongest in the universe to… becoming the strongest in the universe? While regularly incorrectly labelled as a parody, this is very much a deconstruction. The series completely subverts the usual shonen-style by introducing a character that is the exact opposite of the usual protagonists. Instead of having to struggle and train to gain power, Saitama has to deal with the issues of having limitless power. He's become bored with every fight ending after a single punch; he is desperate for a challenge, to feel the rush and excitement of battle again. There are 12 episodes here and not a single bad one in them. Admittedly each is rather formulaic in that it deals with monsters of increasing strength appearing and quickly being dispatched by Saitama, but it's the backdrop to these episodes, the individual moments, and the memorable characters within the episodes that makes this something truly special.

There are so many of these that it's impossible to even begin to cover them without just ruining the entire season. The moment the secret of Saitama's strength is revealed; the moment Saitama realises his huge mistake when fighting Carnage Kabuto; when Sonic's momentum means Saitama's fist makes… impact; when Lord Boros' armour breaks… There are just so many moments that manage the perfect marriage of grandiose and hilarious.

For fans who watched One-Punch Man already thanks to streaming services, something they would yet to have experienced is the English dub. This is always a worry and a subject of contention between fans, mostly because of a long, long history of bad English dubs. Thankfully, there's nothing to worry about with this dub. The same cast that graced Seven Deadly Sins and Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans is coming en-masse to this new English dub. Persona 5 fans will recognise plenty of character voices in the English dub, too. Relative newcomer Max Mittelman - Persona 5's Ryuji - delivers a killer performance on par with the Japanese dub. Another relative newcomer, Zach Aguilar, stands beside Saitama as Genos, previously best known for his recent performance as Slaine Troyard of Aldnoah Zero. Aguilar captures Genos' naivety and earnestness completely, giving a great straight man performance to bounce off Mittelman. There are similar top quality performances for others in the supporting cast, like Sonic, too. Persona 5 fans will also recognise gruff old Sojiro voice actor Jamieson Price as the Tony Stark-esque Metal Knight. Junior Detective Goro Akechi VA Robbie Daymond is class C hero Mumen Rider. Keith Silverstein villains it up once again here as the Deep Sea King after playing Yakuza boss Masayoshi Shido in Persona 5. Even the protagonist himself is in attendance as a class hero and disciple of Atomic Samurai Iairon, amongst many, many others. To help the dub further, bit part monsters and heroes have got some major names voicing them, with actors like Vic Mignogna and Chris Sabat in attendance.

Considering the quality of the art in the source material, the anime had a lot to live up to, and it's no easy task considering the manga did so well thanks to the level of detail and quality of art, something impossible to translate to a weekly anime series. The team at Madhouse was more than up to the task and did a fantastic job in making up for the limitations of the medium by exploiting other benefits, using slick animation and a rocking soundtrack to accentuate the action. While the word epic is far too overused these days, it is absolutely fair to use it here, with fantastic cinematography and choreography. The action scenes look amazing but still managing to mix in comic moments. The deadpan poker faces of Saitama, drawn so simply, stark against the huge dramatic action all around are absolute perfection.

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On top of this English dub, there are plenty of other new features to make up for the wait Western fans have had to endure. Most importantly, the collection contains all six OVAs, absolutely excellent short stories that live up to the high standards of the full episodes. There is also an interview with Chikashi Kubota, the man who took on the considerable task of animation director and character designer for the series. There's also an interview with cast and crew from both the Japanese and English dub that gives some interesting insight into the creation of the show and its localisation. Finally, there is also an interview with JAM Project, a group of J-Rockers that grew tired of seeing so many anime series receive opening themes from J-Pop and Idol groups that had nothing to do with the show and so dedicated itself to crafting theme tunes to anime series.

Rated 10 out of 10

Masterpiece - Platinum Award

Rated 10 out of 10
Considering the absolutely massive amount of anime series released every year, there are very few that really stand out. One-Punch Man is one of the very best in recent memory, and this Western release truly does it justice. It is a spectacular combination of hilarious comedy, dynamic action, and absolutely top-tier quality all around. It's also the perfect gateway to anime, worth introducing to everyone and anyone. There's so much more greatness to come, too; hopefully the long rumoured second season isn't too far away.

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