Anime Reporter spares some thoughts on the latest volume of One-Punch Man to be published in English.
One-Punch Man has been fairly knocking people’s socks off since its debut and, if you’ve read my reviews of the last three volumes, you’ll no doubt have noticed that my feet are similarly bare. Thus far, I’ve praised the series’ great sense of humour and lack of pretension, its main character who’s both clueless and unstoppable and its wonderful imagination in the cast of supporting characters, all sorts of wonderful parodies of superheroes and villains. Well, Volume 04 certainly has these things. It does the same marvellous job of portraying Saitama as the type of hero who’d beat up a skyscraper and then pick his nose and get more excited about the prospect of free food than saving the world. However, I do have something of a bone to pick with this particular volume, something fairly regrettable that I found in its pages… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
One or two spoilers ahead, just so you know.
This volume starts things off with Saitama still ranking quite low in level-C of the Hero Association, despite his incredible strength. He’s doing what he can here and there to improve his rankings, while still struggling to keep up Genos’ devotion to him with Saitama still unsure how to pass himself off as a teacher and role model for someone who vastly outranks him, both officially and in general competence. That minor problem is somewhat overshadowed though by a colossal meteor heading directly towards the city, which there seems to be no hope of stopping. Genos leaps at the chance to do some good and ends up running into the only two other people trying to make a stand against the giant meteorite, two of his fellow S-class heroes. Well, I say the only ones… you know Saitama wouldn’t miss the possibility of something as interesting as a possible challenge, though his contribution does really amount to… well, you know the name of the series, just the one punch really.
What happens as a result of Saitama’s contribution to helping out with things is that he suddenly rockets through the ranks of C-level, but not everyone’s too happy to see his progress and a couple of higher ranked heroes try to turn popular opinion against him and brand him as a cheater and a liar.
What follows this storyline is the advent of a pretty formidable host of creatures from the ocean depths. Sea-monsters who seem to be making mincemeat of even the most capable heroes. Until that is, Puri-Puri Prisoner shows up. This is where I have that little complaint. Not about how the character fights or his design or powers. It’s in the extra chapter at the end of the volume, which gives a little bit of insight into Sonic, the villainous assassin and his incarceration. Sonic is locked up in the prison for the very worst of the worst. Among them, is the S-Class hero Puri-Puri Prisoner who isn’t imprisoned for any kind of crime, but rather because… well, because he fancied one of the prisoners and then realised that… he realised that he could stay locked in with all of those dangerous men and basically have his way with them whenever he wants and nobody can mind because they’re prisoners… The character is essentially there to force himself on any prisoners who misbehave, feeling that that’s a decent punishment for naughty prisoners, making him a brutish beast, while also imbuing him with the overly flamboyant exaggerated tendencies of far too many manga series. This character is the first strike for this series, but it’s something of a whopper and I can really only hope that they do something drastic to redeem things soon.
One-Punch Man Volume 04 has all of the elements that have made this series such a delight thus far, with just one new addition that really doesn’t have any place in a twenty first century story. I’m all for edgy writing and taking risks with characters, but portraying a character as a flamboyant pervert on the basis that they’re gay just doesn’t feel like anything other than a very old style of prejudice which, fully aside from its offensive nature, lacks any of the originality and wit of the rest of the series.