(What the Hell is Anime? Is a hopefully recurring series where we take a look at the beautiful weirdness of manga, anime, and the surrounding culture and package it up in what we’re calling “satir-ucation.” Which is all to say that this is both well-meaning and entirely John’s fault.)
Hello and welcome back to the show which asks the only question that matters: How many pushups can you do before you destroy the Earth?
As a brief recap for those who missed part one in this series, Anime (pronounced “HA-nee-may”) was first discovered by Jeff Gerstmann in or around the year 2001, and then again in 2018. In between those years — and before them — Anime was a naturally occurring art form which grew primarily between the Kurile and Izu trench. Today, it can be found just about everywhere, including in this here article, where we’re going to tell you how to identify two species of Anime from the genus “action.” Come with us, won’t you?
One-Punch Man is either the the wild extrapolation of a famous Bruce Lee quote or else it’s the manga adaptation of Forest Gump. Take your pick. Once again, I will attempt a synopsis, this time without the aid of a famous rap star.
An enormous super-continent which is totally not Japan is suddenly having a real problem with monsters. As such, it’s in need of super heroes, although it overdoes it a bit until they’re basically over run with those too, leading the super-continent to start ranking the super heroes as one might students, from Class C to Class S. Again, totally not Japan.
Out of this whole mess comes an unranked super hero named Saitama, who will become our protagonist. Saitama is self trained, having done so many push ups, standing runs, and practicing only a single punch so perfectly that he now has the power to destroy a solar system. He also looks a mildly concussed egg, which may or may not be part of his power, this part is unclear. What is clear is that he’s now mentor to a student who’s half-man, half-robot and all resentment — his own personal Lt. Dan. Saitama teaches him in the ways of calisthenics, monster thrashing, and occasionally shopping for groceries.
Like Akira, One-Punch Man is a commentary on the state of society and our desire for power. Not only does it lampoon western and eastern comics with its portrayal of super heroes and kaiju, it’s also a mediation on just how lonely this generation finds the world. How distant we are from one another and how we try to fill that gap with even more isolation. Even Saitama’s self training and narrow focus, the very seeds of his power, could be seen as a depressing indictment of a world that is retreating in on itself in as it grows more colorful and amazing.
As Saitama quests to find a worthy adversary, we are left wondering what the point of a power fantasy is when it’s all goal and no journey. We’re also left wondering why Saitama started that shrimp company, and how an egg can even run a culinary empire.
“If you want a vision of the future, imagine an electric guitar melting a human face forever.”
George Orwell, 199X