In 2009 a man who simply goes by the name ONE uploaded a self made manga on a japanese website known as Nitosha. By the 5th chapter the manga had exploded in popularity garnering thousands of comments on a website where popular comics usually had 30. This manga, was One Punch Man. Needless to say over the past decade One Punch Man became one of the most popular anime, manga, and well, memes of all time.
It’s protagonist Saitama is arguably responsible for the explosion and outpouring of love for this series. When something is so widely loved, my first question is always “why?” what is it about this piece of media that speaks so deeply to our humanity that it can be enjoyed on such a massive scale? It’s important to remember that not everything is for everyone.
I’m sure you’ve tried at some point to get a friend to like a TV show or band, or book, and you just couldn’t. You know, either cause they’re one of those shit friends that wont do it simply because you asked, or it just didn’t speak to them the same way it spoke to you. My name’s Mike and take it from me, someone who has been creating content in one form or another his entire life.
Not everything is for everyone. So when something is able to become as massively appealing as say, One Punch Man, it’s important to take a look into it and see why. If you can find out how something speaks to the majority, you can also learn something about yourself, and about humanity as a whole. So let’s do that.
Saitama was once an ordinary dude in a world where destruction was imminent at any time. Kinda like ours, thanks russia and or north korea and us. Though One Punch Man doesn’t take place in japan, saitama was arguably a japanese salaryman down on his luck. So dead inside that even villains don’t deem it worthy to kill him.
That is, until his natural sense of justice sparked over a kid with nuts for a chin and a lobster guy with a bad attitude. Saitama realised his dream all along was to be a hero, his eyes lit up with fire as his passion ignited. He found his reason for existence. When i was 11 i went to see the misfits at toads place in connecticut with my uncle.
It was my first show. When the band came on and the club exploded i knew that that’s what i wanted to do with my life, to entertain, to be on stage. That’s my reason for existing. However, reaching the most people possible is a constant work in progress. I will never have the eyes and ears of the entire world, just a chunk, and the larger that chunk grows the more accomplished i can feel, its a goal that can last a lifetime.
But saitama, he accidentally went a bit too fast. He trained so hard his hair fell out and became so powerful he could never lose a fight, or even enjoy one. With one punch he could black out a solar system if he really tried. And so, we find him back where he started, dead inside. It’s an idea of mine that people NEED something to keep them going, a goal, a set of goals, a purpose.
Without one we wither away. Why exist when you don’t have to? That’s a question that has been buzzing around since we started looking at bigger pictures, at least scientifically. Before it was you know, gods and stuff, easy answers that don’t take a lot of thought. As time moved forward those bigger questions have become harder and harder to answer.
Regardless, when the world went to war in the 20th century we began to see new gods popping up. We required change, We needed modern gods, so we created them. Superman, batman, aquaman, the DC brand of godlike heroes who gave us a security blanket and hope, and punched hitler and protected us from THE BOMB.
later during social upheaval we created the Hulk and spiderman, characters who have supernatural abilities, but were more like us. Flawed characters, but with the addition of superpowers, people who were tied to society and did the right thing or more importantly, TRIED. One Punch Man is the superhero, the god of the modern age, the age of technology, of information.
The age of boredom. In this age we don’t need protection. We’re fairly safe all the time. Society demands it. We’ve come to the point where we must CREATE our own purpose, our own reason for existence. Because there is no inherent reason. There is no reason we exist. There’s no fight to survive, there’s no struggle to overcome.
We’re bored. Therefore we are left with a choice. Look to god, or CREATE our own reason for existence. This isn’t a conclusion everyone comes to, but it is a necessary step to take in self realization. Do you think it’s a COINCIDENCE that depression rates have risen in equivalence to modernization? We’re bored.
And lonely. And left with our thoughts and questions that have no answers. We no longer have the daily fight to live that covered up these worries that keep us up watching grey’s anatomy and crying all night. For Saitama, his goal was to be a hero, a goal that should be a constant struggle, a constant fight, but it isn’t.
While One Punch Man is arguably a comedy, it’s often comedy that brings up the darkest depths of our subconscious. Saitama is a doofus, he does doofy things, it’s what makes him relatable as a character despite his ability to destroy literally anything with a single punch. But the narrative that the show follows through saitama as a complex character is one of deep existential questioning.
Saitama isn’t simply a powerful idiot, he’s an isolated and bored human, one who is lacking purpose and is lost in monotony. He’s unfocused and dull, and has issues communicating with most people, simply because he is lost in his lack of life purpose. Over and over again we see Saitama’s fire within build as he hopes for a challenge, for something to give him the same feeling he had while fighting the lobster man.
And over and over again we see that fire burn away as each fight takes nothing more than a single punch. He even gives his opponents ample opportunity to get their attacks in. Waiting or just simply dodging to let the fight last a bit longer before ending it all. This idea might seem foreign, how can we relate to such an overpowered being? But honestly, it’s something we all can understand.
We survive on struggle, on obstacles, on things to make life difficult. We do things that challenge us. That’s how humans are, and that what makes us different from cats, or dogs or any other animal. We find purpose in struggle, and so we seek out struggle to define our life. We climb mountains, create new technology, play sports, educate ourselves, travel, play blog games, all for the purpose of having a struggle to overcome.
It’s this idea that makes Mumen Rider such an important character. In a very distinct way, he’s the opposite of Saitama. He has no powers, no special abilities, nothing. Yet he rides head on into danger with nothing but a bike and helmet. He wants to a hero, and needs to work constantly to prove that he is.
But every step of his life is immersed in difficulty, pain, and a struggle to survive. It’s obviously rough on him, but he keeps at it week after week. A life without difficulty or problems is no life at all. The fire of life is stoked by hopes and dreams, we need something to work on, we need something to reach for, otherwise our species has reached a false zenith.
In first world countries surviving is rarely an issue, it’s certainly harder for some, much harder for others, but the need to go out everyday and bear the brunt of nature is gone, hell even if you go out and steal your food you get to go to jail and they’ll take care of you there! You got options is my point.
Hence our boredom and dissatisfaction. I’ve worked many MANY jobs. I hated them all. I always went home with a feeling of having wasted my life for a company i despised simply to get some cash to burn on food and cigarettes and maybe a blog game. It disgusted me, there was nothing to it, nothing fulfilling, i didn’t believe in what i was doing, i don’t live to simply exist.
I don’t want to live, i want to BE. and saitama, that’s what he wants too. He wants to struggle. He wants the fight. And it’s what drives his character through every moment of the show. Yet his original purpose, to take down villains, has become so easy that it’s not a struggle at all. And ironically, he’s reached a point where trying to catch a mosquito is more challenging than saving the world.
His new purpose is finding a struggle he can’t win in one punch. This is reflected in the other issues he has to resolve from his choices. People not knowing his name, people thinking he’s a cheater by how quickly he’s moved up in the hero ranks. These issues give Saitama something to fight for. A purpose.
A spark. It means Saitama hasn’t reached the pinnacle of herodom yet. There’s still more to climb. There’s still something to work on. It proves that he’s still human despite his godlike power. You have to ask yourself, where is the line between human and other. When does someone become so powerful they cant relate to the soul of humanity anymore? It’s not like it hasn’t happened before, hitler, stalin, mao, ceasar people who kill in cold blood, mass MASS genocide.
And the secret silent killers who lurk in the backgrounds collecting paychecks that would knock you to your knees while others work themselves to death, in their name. It’s the great dichotomy of one punch man. It’s a story of a person who could have anything he wanted, someone who is arguably invincible and all powerful, simply wanting to have fun and be happy again.
Saitama is incredibly human. So naturally comes the need for others. Humans are social creatures. People who isolate themselves entirely can die from it, socializing is a need that we have biologically to keep us functioning at our peak. One punch man delves into this with the relationship between saitama and Genos.
Saitama at this point has burned out his personality. He’s bald, which anyone can tell you how difficult that is to deal with. His social skills are crushed from being alone and depressed, but genos sees through that to the core of an incredibly talented individual. Because of Genos, Saitama is able to feel again, even if its annoyance or exasperation, his life is given purpose again, though it’s not necessarily what he was looking for.
Which brings me to another point, purpose, passion and dedication come in many forms. You should never live for another, but instead live with another, alongside another. There are people in this world born to enrich your life and you never know when you’ll meet them. But you will, it’s a good reason to keep going.
Also, your passion may not find fruition. I certainly didn’t start as a youtuber, i was a struggling musician for over a decade before i made the switch. But if you have the will, you will find a way. It’s for these reasons that one punch man and saitama struck such a chord with so many people. He is the perfect hero for our time.
A guy who already has everything, much like we do in modern society, we lack the genuine life or death struggle and have to replace it with other goals to keep us interested enough in life to bother living it. His imperfections make him relatable to the average person because none of us are perfect, because perfection is merely a concept designed to push us further in quality.
His need for fulfillment and his disappointment in how mundane things have become despite the horrors his world faces is so like our own reality the irony is palpable. Yet it’s his unlikely friends and allies that bring him back from the brink because despite his talents saitama is simply a human being who needs companions as bad as the rest of us.
He’s a god in the times of the godless, a shining light highlighting that the perfect are ordinary and that the ordinary are perfect, as long as you have a goal to stoke the fire of your life. Hey, look at that, no spoilers! Thanks for watching to the end, i always want to say something like “hopefully you enjoyed this” but you’re here so either you’re a masochist or you enjoyed what you saw.
In that case why dont you subscribe and hit that bell so you get notified next time we release? And if you REALLY like what you watched go and throw a buck at our patreon, really, only 1 dollar makes a difference and you get an extra show, entrance into our private discord and a chance to be shouted out like coal the coward here, our ultimate lucky patron of the week, THANK YOU! And finally, tell me what your purpose in life is, what is it that drives you forward? I think that’s a pretty good question and if you have an answer, well, you’re a step
ahead of the pack aren’t you. Go get em tiger. Anyway if you liked one punch man go check out mob psycho 100, we did a blog on it here, they’re made by the same creator, or if you want to find out ho i got into anime, check out our blog on how sailor moon changed the world. Thanks for reading, and i’ll catch ya next time, bye.
That’s me, Andreea Blaga, author of the blog anime-everything.com. I work as a content creator in the US. I am also passionate about Japanese Anime.