One-Punch Man 101-104 – Manga Review

Synopsis: Saitama one day decided to abandon chasing the life of a salary man and instead work towards becoming a hero. Years later he grew so strong that there’s no villain that can stand against him, for he finishes every single fight with just. one. punch!

(Warning: Spoilers to Follow)

Monsters have begun showing up across the globe, causing all sorts of havoc. Things take a dire turn as not only do the heroes have to contend with a wave of monsters, but Garo, the hero killer. However, just as the heroes close in around Garo, it appears the Monster Association, the horrible beings behind the attacks across the globe, have other plans for the great and deadly hero killer.

Review:

Chapters 101-104 generally move at a rapid pace, seeing hero after hero defeat Monster Association baddies in the blink of an eye. Even the fight I was excited for last time, Amai Mask vs. Do-S, ends up being a mere handful of pages compared to some of the arc’s much lengthier fights. Amai’s turn towards sudden brutality is a welcome surprise, and really caught me off guard, but it’s over in the blink of an eye. I would feel as disappointed with the other fights being so short, if not for the fact that it’s become clear that S-Rank Heroes are totally untouchable, even for the Monster Association’s top baddies. You almost have to wonder if Saitama is even needed in his own manga, seeing as the S-Rank Heroes are rampaging through the monsters like they’re merely tissue paper.

Pulling back though, let’s talk about the two major events that aren’t rushed through. Chapter 102 focuses on a bunch of Atomic Samurai’s apprentices doing battle against Devil Long Hair. While this group of characters is hardly important to the story, because they’re presented as A-Rank heroes and don’t come off as overpowered, there’s a real sense of danger for these three and that immediately makes this fight more compelling a distraction than the rest of the fights. It’s probably my favorite chapter of this bunch and I really wish we could see S-Rank Heroes struggle in the same way.

The other thing I wanted to talk about was Chapter 103, or more specifically the focus on Puri-Puri Prisoner. [Note: This is pretty much the rest of the review, so, yeah, bow out now if discussion of Puri-Puri only grates on you.] Puri-Puri Prisoner is a troubled character. The entire idea behind his character is the classic portrayal of LGBTQ individuals in Anime and Manga. Frequently Anime and Manga portray LGBTQ characters as raging perverts, constantly violating your personal space in a sexual manner or showcasing more of their bodies than would be appropriate for anyone of any identity. This isn’t something that’s gone away, even this most recent anime season has a series that suffers from this.

So, Puri-Puri Prisoner is back after another fairly long absence in focus. I went back and forth on this a lot before sitting down to write the review, and what I’ve decided is that 103 generally helps to worsen Puri-Puri Prisoner as an example of a LGBTQ character. Puri-Puri Prisoner’s original introduction to the series was generally tame. While he did fight naked even in his first appearance, we kept enough of his background from his time at the Prison in shadows that he felt like, at best, an outlandish portrayal of a gay man, flamboyant and proud of his sexuality and body. (Save for a few lines about WHY he was in prison that set him squarely as the very kind of LGBTQ character anime and manga need to let go of.)

However, Puri-Puri Prisoner has gradually slipped further and further towards the same kind of offensive portrayal for LGBTQ members in the rest of the anime and manga landscape. He’s still not as bad as other, more horrendous examples, in part due to ONE’s efforts to try and keep the comedy on Puri-Puri Prisoner’s disconnect with reality; thinking his former prison ‘boyfriends’ feel as he does, when in actuality they hate his guts. It’s still not a great idea. It’s one thing to include sexuality as an aspect to the character, but their whole persona shouldn’t revolve around it to the point that it’s really all they are, especially if their sexuality often ends up becoming sexual assault on other individuals.

Unfortunately Puri-Puri Prisoner’s entire existence is wrapped up in his desire to define all his relationships through romance and sexuality. Again, it’s not the worst portrayal in manga, but ONE needs to be careful with how he utilizes Puri-Puri, as he’s walking a fine line between a simply outlandish portrayal and an insulting one. Puri might even be an okay character to have, it’s not as if LGBTQ people can’t have flaws, but when he’s the only major representative you have from that demographic, and he lines up with a near universally negative portrayal across the entire medium, then you have a problem. Yes, One-Punch Man is a comedy, but there’s ways to portray characters like this without skirting the line. In fact, Kama, one of the A-Rank Heroes in 102, is an example, I think, of a less offensive LGBTQ portrayal, primarily because Kama doesn’t try to assault Devil Long Hair, he just becomes wrapped up in what may, or may not be, heavy flirting from his opponent.

 

Otherwise these chapters are decent. The Monster Association Arc feels like it’s finally coming to a head. Saitama is getting peppered in more frequently, heroes are finishing off our baddies in just a few hits, and it shouldn’t be long until the climax. I’m looking forward to Saitama finally getting to be center stage again and then moving onto a new story. I just hope that we’ll finally hit an arc where the other S-Rank heroes aren’t quite so unstoppable. Saitama being unstoppable is a core idea to the series, but the rest really could be a little more fragile, otherwise it’s hard to believe anyone is in any danger ever.

Please do comment below on what you thought of the latest One-Punch Man Chapters!

One-Punch Man is published weekly (sort of) in Shonen Jump. Volume 18 releases 12/3/2019. Chapters discussed today will be collected and released sometime next year.

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