One-Punch Man 110-117 – 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:

One-Punch Man fares better with chapters 110 through 117. It’s in part due to how frequently we skip around the battlefield, leaving us on quite a few cliffhangers as to the fate of heroes like Atomic Samurai, Zombie Hero, or Handsome Kamen. It helps to obfuscate how married this arc is to formula and that’s a big boon when this arc had showed such poor ability to surprise. Let’s Jump In!

Chapter 110 sees Atomic Samurai on the ropes against Black Sperm. Even when he turns things around at the last minute we cut away before it’s clear who the winner is, allowing the audience to live in suspense for a few weeks. Zombie Hero vs Homeless Emperor is another fight we begin and leave hanging. By leaving both fights before they’ve concluded One-Punch Man achieves a couple things: First it obfuscates how formulaic these fights are. Hero gets beat up, maybe a bit of back and forth, and then hero wins. By leaving the fights mid way we help to delay that realization, while also keeping the manga moving at a more brisk pace, flitting away to other fights to constantly give the audience new, shiny events to distract. How effective this tactic is depends on how tired you already are of the formula. It works wonders if you’re still generally sucked into the world of One-Punch Man, but if you’re already certain of the fight’s ultimate outcome it’s just delaying inevitable disappointment.

But that isn’t all these chapters have to offer. Comedy makes a not too subtle come back. Homeless Emperor’s origin story hinges on the pure absurdity of God appearing before some random homeless man and implying he destroy society. Saitama and Flashy Flash have an encounter, rife with the usual misunderstandings. The comedy with Handsome Kamen however, is much more uneven. The entire goof with Handsome Kamen is how he cannot stand ugliness, and thus finds himself at the mercy of President Ugly, a monster that is simply too hideous for Kamen to possibly handle. The joke’s innate issue is propagating the good = beautiful and ugly = evil stereotype. I’m not surprised we went there, considering even in Mob Psycho, author One’s other major title, he’s always seemed to give life to that overly tropey concept, particularly in ways that bolster the idea, rather than challenge it. It’s not a huge issue, and it’s hardly the worst stereotype anime/manga as a whole tends to propagate (that would be the dark skin = evil trope.) but it puts an ‘ugly’ tint on this goof, one that keeps me from enjoying the gag, even if it is nice to see such a smug schmuck like Kamen crumble.

By Chapter 117’s end none of the above has been resolved, and there’s plenty more snippets of the war between Monsters and Heroes I haven’t even discussed. We really do cut between so many new fights and enemies popping up. We don’t return to any of these dangling threads, giving the audience a plethora of events to keep them on the edge of their seats. It helps to make these chapters exciting, but at the same time means we’re probably a ways off this arc’s conclusion. And that’s where no matter how much we obfuscate the formula, the series ultimately really needs to break from it. We need to start seeing a few S rank heroes lose. Maybe some need to die, but more importantly we need a few of these bad guys to walk away the victor. Just going through the One-Punch Man wiki we’re at a staggering 51 Monster Association baddies introduced, of which around 33 have already been killed. Only 2 Hero Association fights are out, and both were taken down before the assault on the Monster’s base even began! It’s an increasingly one sided fight and that really needs to change otherwise the Monster Association ends as an even bigger joke, and not all that funny of one, compared to the Dark Matter Thieves.

For all the distractions and efforts to keep the story moving, this set still has one hell of a low point and that’s undoubtedly chapters 114 through 116. This section sees the villainous Nyan brutalizes all the A rank and lower heroes defending the surface. The problem with what should be a harrowing massacre is that none of these characters are people we ‘know.’ One-Punch Man, like so many shonen, suffers from cast bloat. A lot of shonen series like throwing an increasing number of characters at the audience, often differentiated from each other by nothing more than their visual design. While those efforts help to make the world feel full of unique individuals, we still remain distant from all these supporting characters. It reminds me of old Transformers cartoons. Eventually you’re inundated with so many new and unique robots, with little exploration for any of them, that it becomes hard to care about what’s happening to them, no matter how awful, because you never get to know who they are. It’s important to caring about fictional characters that we know their dreams, origins, passions, what makes them mad, what makes them sad, etc. We need details and when we don’t that’s a problem. All these low rank heroes are just fodder, and we remain so distant emotionally that no matter how much suffering Nyan doles out it’ll never feel as harrowing as if it was instilled on characters we are actually intimate with. Like when we saw Genos, some odd number of chapters ago, get absolutely wrecked. That meant something because Genos is a major cast member, and someone we’ve grown to love. (Also of note, Lairon and his group facing off against Evil Mineral Water is harrowing because Lairon, in particular, is someone we’ve come to know and potentially love since his introduction back during Alien Conquerors Arc when he was badly wounded and lost an arm.)

All that said, this set doesn’t go out on a whimper. While Nyan’s ultimate defeat at the hands of Drive Knight is predictable the moment the hero steps onto the page, we instead close out this set with discussion of potential traitors within the heroes’ ranks. Namely Metal Knight, someone who has seemed sketchy from the moment of his introduction, appears to be set as the hero association’s great betrayer. Alongside this turn of events Genos reappears, giving me hope that one of our leads, and someone we care about deeply, is prepped to take a greater role in the battle.

Overall these chapters aren’t the series’ lowest of lows, managing to scrape by thanks to obfuscating the series’ slavish adherence to formula, giving Saitama and Genos much needed page time, and teasing us with cool ideas like Metal Knight’s betrayal or Garo’s deepening transformation towards evil. If the series would just be willing to allow one of its S rank heroes an actual defeat, we don’t even need to kill anyone, then these Monsters might again feel like the Threat Level Dragon so many are supposedly listed as.

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

One-Punch Man is published bi-weekly (sort of) in Shonen Jump.

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