One-Punch Man 89-93 – 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.
It’s been awhile since I last talked about One-Punch Man. By the time there were enough chapters to make it worth reviewing Shonen Jump had started their overhaul, and One-Punch man was upsettingly absent from the ‘starting line-up.’ By the time they did add the title to their new and improved service Winter was wrapping up and it was time to get April 1st Episode Previews underway. That means that I’ve got a lot of ground to cover, as 5 whopping chapters landed in that time, each with increasingly impressive page counts.
To start things off let’s discuss Chapters 89 and 90. These two chapters end Garo’s escape attempts/direct challenge against the Monster Association. As always the art is one of this manga’s greatest selling points and helps to bolster the wealthy page count of 60+ pages. Not only that but Chapter 89 flows with well connected, escalating content. Garo’s ever increasing proficiency for fighting allows him to evolve right past his opponents in this chapter, save for a couple of the Monster Association leaders. It’s just as the fight seems to be petering out, demanding we shift gears, that the series switches to Saitama and the silly way in which he’s ‘introduced’ to the Monster Association Arc. With hearing the combat coming from deep below the ground, Saitama ventures into the sewers, marking the start of his gradual, and likely long traveled, introduction to the main plot. But his mere presence helps to shift the tone from the bombastic and tense battle for Garo’s life to something a little less perilous. Saitama’s mere presence on the page eases the tension, allowing even Garo’s fight to take on a looser, even more comedic, tone. Chapter 89 ends with the twist that the Monster Association was, still, merely testing Garo, seeing how well he’d work for their purposes.
With Chapter 90 we learn that the Monster Association seeks to brainwash Garo and use his ever evolving combat ability to create the most perfect and deadly monster ever. Again on display is an incredibly detailed fight between Garo and Orochi. The chapter doesn’t hold up quite as well as 89, dragging out Garo’s ability to constantly evolve as he’s knocked down numerous times only to get back up each. It almost overstays its welcome, until Orochi undergoes a transformation himself, displaying unbridled ability to evolve as well, and putting an end to Garo’s resistance.
Chapter 91 is where the quality dips however. Taking a break from the action we have a chapter entirely dedicated to furthering the plot, with spots of character interaction to please fans of some of our less utilized heroes. The chapter honestly runs a little long, offering too much bickering and in-fighting just to get that character work in. It doesn’t help that King arrives during the S-Rank Heroes discussion of the situation to little more effect than providing his standard “This guy isn’t the absurdly amazing hero everyone thinks he is.” A funny gag in and of itself, but one tired by this point. The Chapter does pick up once it moves away from the bickering, furthering the VIP rescue team’s plot line and also Bang’s plot. He’s being kept out of the loop, for fear he didn’t do everything he could to stop Garo. The gag here for King, and Bang pointing out they shared hot pot (thus making them friends) feels fresher.
With everyone prepared for battle by Chapter 91’s end, Chapter 92 sets the Hero Association to battle. Unfortunately for as massive a start to this epic finish as Chapter 92 is (154 pages), it opens predictably. For as much as One-Punch Man began as a parody, there are places within this chapter (and 93 as well) where it’s clear the series has gone from parodying to instead simply mimicking the very tropes it once mocked. I’m talking about the flow between the Monsters taunting our heroes and then the way they’re absolutely crushed. That heel turn is very overused in shonen manga as a whole, as is Tornado’s easy take down of the Monster’s seeming top guy.
The chapter isn’t a total wash however, injecting brief moments of comedy that harken back to the early days when the series really landed that parody feel. Also, once the small fry are dealt with, Rhino Wrestler pops back onto the scene. This section works, even if Rhino is ultimately defeated in one blow by Atomic Samurai, because there’s no massive shifting of tides. Rhino isn’t stomping the lower class heroes, although they aren’t doing much to him in return. It keeps the battle from suffering the classic Shonen whiplash that is often so overused and ridiculous, where who is winning changes dramatically at the drop of a hat.
Sadly, we end on a low note with Chapter 93. With the battle in full effect, we get a chapter singularly dedicated to Flashy Flash, an S-Rank hero we haven’t spent a lot of time with. Here he delves deep into the Monster Association’s lair, only to be confronted with two characters seemingly related to what little we’re given to Flashy Flash’s backstory. Something about secret organizations he’s deconstructed and villainous teams he’s slaughtered. I imagine this chapter was conceived as parodying these types of revelations and the smarmy super villains he faces off with. The problem is that whatever punch-line exists to cap this moment off as a parody is absent, or held over for another chapter. Because of this, and how little subversion and how few gags are actually on display, it feels like it’s played purely straight, making for a visual feast, but one that lacks the comedic oomph or one-punch man’s hearty subversion of expectations. Flashy Flash, beneath his impressively detailed design, is kind of a nothing character, and by focusing so much on him without subverting expectations, or providing enough comedy to mock the tropes presented, makes the chapter in turn feel like a nothing burger.
Still, I’m excited to see the conclusion to the Monster Association storyline. I’m crossing my fingers we don’t have too many chapters focusing on these smaller heroes, at least not without stronger writing. I’m all for spectacle, especially as One-Punch Man’s art makes it something you can even enjoy as a ‘junk food read’ where you just appreciate the sheer artistic prowess on display, but I hope we can offset that with more meaty chapters, focusing on Garo, Saitama, Genos, and Bang, who at least offer more meat to the narrative, if not more opportunities for parody.
Please do comment below on what you thought of the latest One-Punch Man Chapters!