Monday, September 07, 2015

Manga Monday: One-Punch Man

One-Punch Man (Volume 1)
ONE and Yusuke Murata

One-Punch Man is an action-packed manga from Viz, that turns the superhero genre on its head.  The story follows Saitama, a scrawny bald kid, who lives in a world where supervillains attack constantly.  He decided to fight back one day (just for fun) and practiced enough that with one punch, he can take out any villain he faces.

This is quite a parody of superheroes.  It's a book with tons of violence and destruction, yet it's always resolved very quickly, with one punch from our hero.  It's always a sort of anti-climax, the story really being about the build-up.  The villains are over-the-top - stupid muscle guys who make absurd mistakes, or over-sexualized women in ridiculous outfits with magical powers - but the variety of villains keeps things interesting for the most part.  One of the problems with this title could have been its repetitiveness, but once we saw a few of these built-up scenes that ended abruptly, some secondary characters were introduced to keep things from becoming monotonous.  And it was smart to give us those first few chapters with only our protagonist battling villains, as it perfectly established the premise and illustrated Saitama's abilities and the issues with them, with perhaps some ways to circumvent them later for interesting stories.

The best thing about this book is the humor, hands down.  This title is so aggressively for boys that it kind of turned me off a bit, but then there were these solid, perfectly-placed scenes of humor that would completely take me aback and make me smirk.  Of course, the humor is kind of built into a title like this.  Saitama ends his fights with one punch.  It's frustrating for him.  He can't find a worthy opponent.  He's desperately looking for someone he can really duke it out with, at the same time as he goes numb to it all from boredom.  It's kind of the perfect comment on the absurdity of superheroes, and at the same time has this wit about it that's really clever and written into the story masterfully, inserted into key moments.

This book almost seems too simple, but it is deceptively clever.  The art is balanced nicely between fast-paced panels flowing quickly into one another, with detailed backgrounds and mayhem, to panels that pull back and slow down to give us a closer look at the characters and inject that humor that is so necessary to a title such as this.  One-Punch Man is genuinely funny, offers all of the gratuitous violence and destruction anyone could ask for, and is paced masterfully.  Everyone will find something to appreciate in a book like this.

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