Man kills monsters in one punch, except when he doesn’t.
One Punch Man is a pretty good action comedy. That’s how I felt about it when I first watched it, and that hasn’t really changed. What did change is how I perceived the first season. I’ve read and enjoyed the manga, and like most people I was seriously disappointed by the second season. And since I still sorta liked season two, that must mean the first season was amazing, right? What I’m saying is that, somewhere along the way, I started believing the hype around a show I’d already watched.
In terms of production, season one is in a league of its own. It has some really impressive animation that few other action series could match. But good animation by itself isn’t enough to get me excited (which is why I was bored to death by F/GO Babylonia). The action in One Punch Man S1 is fun to watch, but most of the time the stakes are low because Saitama is involved.
Revisiting season 1, and comparing it to the rest of the story, makes me feel like it was a good decision to start focusing less on Saitama and developing the other characters more. He’s a great character, but he’s at his best when he’s not fighting. Having him show up at the last moment works at the right times, such as with the Deep Sea King, where it’s not about Saitama saving the day, but about the other heroes who risked their lives and bought enough time for him to arrive. These are the times where One Punch Man really shines.
I know some people don’t like this narrative shift, and feel like it’s just playing it straight now as a superhero series instead of being a parody, but I don’t think it was ever really a parody to begin with. It’s a “what if” story where the main character is impossibly strong, but it takes that premise seriously. And it’s had a pretty consistent theme of heroism and its failures since the early parts. It’s a comedy, sure, but the jokes aren’t “look at how silly this thing from superhero stories is”.
My main complaint is that the season suffers from a weak stretch between the early episodes and the Deep Sea King arc. Once the novelty of the premise wears off, it takes a while for it to find its footing again, and there’s not enough good jokes to carry it all the way. But even at its worst, it’s perfectly watchable. It makes me wonder how season 2 would compare if it had the same level of production. Unfortunately, we’ll never know.