One-Punch Man 97-100 – 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.
One-Punch Man 97 to 100 are largely strong chapters, offering the kind of back and forth action, tight paneling, and excellent art the manga version is known for. But these chapters aren’t perfect, offering a mixed bag conclusion to Child Emperor and Phoenix Man’s fight, a ho-hum match up between Zombie Man and Pureblood the Vampire, and generally starting to feel like S-Rank heroes simply cannot be topped. Let’s Jump In!
The fight between Child Emperor and Phoenix Man is one of this arcs strongest set pieces. The visuals are fantastic, with strong paneling that makes the action easy to follow and a joy to flip through. The writing is tight too, keeping Child Emperor on his toes the whole way through, but never letting Phoenix Man just wipe the floor with the kid either. It’s easy in back and forth shonen action to make everything about 100% flips. Either the villain is totally winning, or he’s totally losing. Bleach was very guilty of this, especially in its final arc. Here Child Emperor struggles, but ‘realistically so, as if the fight is pushing both him and Phoenix Man to the brink.
Phoenix Man is also well realized here. His step backs from the brink of defeat remind me of Cell, a seemingly insurmountable villain who turns certain defeat into shocking victory. It’s a little predictable, but the build up works, and allowing Child Emperor to periodically succeed in his attacks or feints keeps the fight interesting, even when we know that Phoenix Man is just going to revive again. Phoenix Man also gets a few cool late battle abilities that would feel out of no where if they didn’t tie in so well with his whole concept of revival. He revives the dead and turns them into his zombie fighting force, which oddly feels well tied to the character’s concept.
All that said, this fight concludes in a way that I have mixed feelings on. Phoenix Man is ultimately defeated not with an even bigger attack, but by Child Emperor unleashing a small tickle robot into Phoenix Man’s costume, causing him to have to rip off the very thing giving him power. On the one hand it ties in perfectly with the character’s origins, on the other it turns one of this arcs best surprise villains into a quick joke in his final moments. It deflates him as a threat, and that feels disappointing, especially as none of the S-Rank heroes has actually lost yet during this assault against the Monster Association.
This brings me to one of my bigger sticking points: The heroes never lose. A lot of Shonen suffer from this; either because they refuse to kill any major characters, or because they can’t bear to let someone’s favorite character lay defeated on the floor without some claim to victory. One-Punch Man has already kept most of its S-Rank heroes from suffering the taste of defeat during the Alien Conquerors Arc and that’s fine. It made sense there as the only major, world-ending arc the series has had in manga form yet. It’s the place where we really introduce just how bad ass the majority of the S-Rank roster is. Now facing the Monster Association it’s feeling a little old hat if not one of these S-Rank fighters tastes the floor. It makes it difficult to feel like our heroes might ever lose, and while that might have been fine while One-Punch Man was more parody than serious, it’s gradually and comfortably fallen back to what it initially poked so much fun at.
That’s part of why I find the Zombieman and Pureblood fight so dull. We know Zombieman won’t lose, especially since his very power is in the name. It doesn’t help either that Zombieman is one of the more ill-defined S-Rank Heroes. This is his first major appearance, only appearing briefly during the Alien Conquerors arc. Heck even Flashy Flash has appeared more than him, and he’s not much more defined as a character either. While the fight is depicted with the usual stunning art, it’s still a step down from the Child Emperor and Phoenix Man fight.
That said, between all these are fun little comic relief beats. The thing I love about some of the comedy in One-Punch Man is how understated it can be to typical Shonen comedy. Often Shonen resort to characters screaming their ‘funny’ dialogue to call attention to the absurdity. It’s very ‘hey look at me! aren’t I funny? huh? huh? huh?’ This type of comedy is funny, but is often overused. In these chapters One-Punch Man displays characters just being themselves, and that quirky nature acting as a moment of levity all on its own. Like when Flashy Flash divines which fork in the road to take by letting his sword fall where it may, or Saitama’s reaction to two of the revived villains, who are both naked, wondering why the hell flashers are running around underground. It’s so much more understated and makes it charming rather than screaming for attention.
Ultimately I find myself coming around positively on this set of chapters thanks to the tease for our next big fight: Do-S vs. Amai Mask. Do-S has gotten enough presence earlier in this arc to feel like a real menace, and Amai Mask is a character who’s kept popping up through each previous arc. We’ve rarely seen him fight, and he’s not actually S-Rank, but rather the Top A Rank fighter. He’s been teased enough that I’m eager to see what his first big showdown is like, even if he ultimately wipes the floor with Do-S. Overall these chapters are fairly good, they waiver a bit in their ability to enthrall, but even then the lows are hardly the lowest One-Punch Man has ever seen.
Please do comment below on what you thought of the latest One-Punch Man Chapters!