I fucking hate hype.
All it does is build you up to in almost every case let you down. Especially in anime, “meeting the hype” tends to simply mean “I thought this show would be good and it was.”
But One Punch Man’s hype was different.
I first heard of One Punch Man three seasons before it aired, and the first two people who told me about its manga counterpart are not people I regularly discuss anime with. One of them didn’t even know the origins of the comic; they just described it enough until I realized it was One Punch Man we were talking about. That shit doesn’t happen often. Usually when an anime gets an above-average amount of hype behind it, it still stays confined to the community. And I’ll be honest, this had me worried, even more so than I usually am going into “hype” shows. The premise sounded silly but ultimately kind of flat; the hero can defeat everything in one punch. Great. How are you going to build a plot out of that?
Thankfully, while One Punch Man’s hype was different, so was the show.
To say it obliterated my expectations like JAM Project obliterated my eardrums in its OP is an understatement. Really, I should’ve expected this; Madhouse are about as capable a studio to tackle OPM as any one out there, but even the level of detail, fluidity, and care put into each frame of this show is magnificent above their standards. Whether the protagonist Saitama is demolishing an incoming asteroid or just trying to slap a pesky mosquito, the animation is smooth as silk. I figured the quality would taper out after the first episode or two, but no, it kept going and going as strongly as it started. There’s not a doubt in my mind One Punch Man is objectively the most well-animated show of 2015, and there shouldn’t be in yours either.
Even the story, which I will admit at some points can feel a little dry, is otherwise carried by fantastic dialogue and voice acting, perfectly level in hamminess and seriousness. It’s almost but not quite a superhero satire; a show that features a broken justice system with insane characters whose strangest oddity seems to be its most down-to-earth, normal person, Saitama. His passion for helping people isn’t entirely his passion, and he doesn’t go out of his way to make himself be praised; he wants the thrill of the fight (which he can hardly find because, well, he’s One Punch Man) and as a bonus, it’d be great for unsuspecting people to not die if they don’t need to. Him and his bald head are allowed to act like their own comic relief in situations everyone else takes too seriously or not seriously enough. Beyond the superbly choreographed fight scenes, OPM’s biggest selling point is its keen sense of comedy, and it’s a weird one, not too unlike Samurai Flamenco’s, but more polished and inviting.
And it’s huge that One Punch Man ends up being inviting, because with all the hype attached to it – hype you’d better fucking bet it delivers on – it has the potential to be (and already might be) the gateway anime for a new generation. I can’t imagine this wouldn’t end up on Toonami as soon as it gets dubbed, and with sufficient support already backing it up and an audience of Western kids wanting to try something that’s still anime but doesn’t consist of panty jokes and shounens with ninjas, OPM offers an alternative I didn’t realize those people needed until it got here. Whatever the case, it’s here, it met the hype, and regardless of what fandom will inevitably form around OPM in the future (if there isn’t one already – there probably is, never mind), One Punch Man is a success that shines as bright as the glare off Saitama’s goddamn head. Enjoy it.