One-Punch Man 84-88 – 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:

It’s been a crazy past couple months as One-Punch Man has seen a sudden bump in chapter releases, with damn near one per week. And some of these chapters are insanely meaty, with tons of pages, developments, and lots of set up/explanation.

There’s almost a back and forth to it. With one chapter devoted heavily to dialogue, the next action packed, the next exposition heavy, etc. Chapter 84 starts with Garo coming to understand the Monster Association, his invitation into it, and the conditions required for him to be considered a true member (Kill a hero.) This starts another Garo centric focused story, one that delves into his morals as a character, and just how much of a monster he truly is. I actually love this exploration, as Garo becomes more obviously an Anti-Hero, rather than a true to form villain. He’s confronted with what it really means to be a monster, and starts to find that it isn’t who he really is. Although it does feel like there’s hints that Garo is changing into something more. Even visually Garo’s all black costume, given to him by the Monster Association, starts to look a little more like fur at times, as if he’s literally turning into a monster.

This is backed up by the manga’s decision to explain how Saitama, and also Monsters, exist in this world. We get a fairly short and to the point exposition dump during Chapter 86 that explains the concept of Limiters, essentially a series of evolutionary gates for each individual that normally, when challenged, turn a man into a monster, or hero if they so choose, where as Saitama shattered his limiter completely, defying all conventional logic (to the House of Evolution guy anyway.) I don’t know that it’s really necessary for a more conventional answer to why Saitama is so strong (and I think at least aspects of this conversation might’ve been touched on in the House of Evolution arc), but coupled with what’s happening currently it feels like this explanation more exists to explain the change Garo is undergoing.

Beyond that, several other plots take up the majority of these chapter’s focus. Namely we build towards the conflict between the Hero Association and the Monster Association. We learn that Gyoro Gyoro is actually the mastermind behind the Monster Association, rather than the massively impressive Orochi, who is merely Gyoro’s pain/experiment. We also get a lengthy preview as to the strongest Monsters within the association, setting up who our biggest players are when the battle truly kicks off. This is filled with designs both epic and comical, making a fun visual blend between the more serious, balls to the wall side of One-Punch Man, and the absurd.

 

One thing I really like about this budding conflict is how the series sells the possible collapse of society so well. There’s little elements here, like seeing citizens lose their minds and actively want to give into the monsters that I wish we could get in My Hero Academia, the other major Shonen title toying with Good vs. Evil and societal collapse. Seeing heroes hospitalized, or permanently down for the count, coupled with unyielding destruction all help to sell that this conflict is going very, very poorly. There’s also the inner turmoil amongst the heroes, and Association itself, with distrust spreading as they seek tp keep Genos and Bang out of the loop, fearing neither can be trusted. It’s all the little things combined that help to give this foreboding atmosphere of doom just on the horizon.

One-Punch Man also knows how to hold the suspense. Garo is challenged by Monsters who don’t believe he has what it takes to join them, and attempt to kill a child that Garo refuses to harm. During the battle Garo is caught off-guard and torn to shreds by the Monsters, who then leave him for dead. Of course, Garo isn’t dead, he’s our focal character for this arc. But One-Punch Man knows it best not to deflate its Chapter 86 cliffhanger right away, and spends quite a bit of Chapter 87 on other plotlines before eventually returning to show that Garo is, of course, alive. Letting that plot lie, and allowing it it simmer, makes Garo’s return satisfying, even if we always knew it was coming.

But One-Punch Man isn’t without its flaws. Namely Machine God G5’s introduction. All the Monster Association really knows about him is that he’s a robot from “The Organization” and has offered to join them. But the Monster Association was recently targeted by Metal Knight, a robot controlled by the hero of the same name. Yet none of the monsters seem all that wary of Machine God and whether they can truly trust him. It makes the villains feel a bit naive.

Other problems consist of perhaps too much focus devoted to Saitama’s slice of life-esque plotline, which drags at times, damaging the flow of the story. What’s here isn’t without merit, and sometimes produces a couple good gags (along with the series pointing out just how often Saitama runs into monsters around his home, as if hinting at something greater.) but sometimes this becomes a tad overbearing in focus. Saitama’s material is stronger when it’s tying into the ongoing Garo plotline, such as when these two encounter each other during Garo, and Saitama’s, dine and dash.

Ultimately however these chapters are strong, and the further we get into this, coupled with all the crazy developments and world building, make me ever more excited for where the series is going. I’ve also been enjoying this increased release schedule and can only cross my fingers that it keeps coming out this fast for awhile yet.

 

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 13 released 3/6/2018. Chapters discussed today will be collected and released sometime next year.

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2 comments

  • Loving these chapters coming so fast, Chapter 88 came out in late March (5 month ago) compared to Chapter 83 coming out in laterDecember (6 months before the June release by Viz). Still pretty unformed on whether this relates at all to volumes (maybe they wait for the OK from the Japanese publishers?), but for my and other fans sake I hope the Japanese volumes get printed faster so that we can get translated ones faster as well.

    I think one of the reasons why Garou can fully question the line between antihero and monster is because he’s not the true protagonist of OPM, Saitama, and arguably Genos as well, are. In other series with anti hero protagonists, the author usually has to make sure people can root for the main character, otherwise people quickly recognize the villain is objectively evil and needs to be defeated. While Garou can be an antihero or a villain, it won’t forcibly change the entire series as would be the case if say, Saitama or Genos became villains.

    Saitama’s slice of life really stands out badly because we’re in the middle of focusing on Garou. If it had happened after the King/Blizzard arc, or even possibly after the Monster Association arc is over, it’d just be some more fun with Saitama and co. But because Garou is so interesting and compelling, the hijinks and hotpot bickering with Saitama becomes almost completely irrelevant.

    • I agree on all accounts.

      The increased release has been a godsend, though it makes me wonder if US Jump is basically piling them up on purpose, letting them run back to back for a month or two, before giving us a dry spell until the next load of 5-6 is ready.

      I think you’re right that Garou benefits heavily from not, technically, being the main character. He totally is during this arc, but since One-Punch Man was established as Saitama’s story, you can kinda ‘fool’ the audience into being more okay with a questionably moral character like Garou.

      And I also agree on the slice of life stuff. Very much unfortunately placed.

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