I don’t like manga.

When friends told me I should check out One-Punch Man, I didn’t because – and I can’t overstate this – I don’t like manga.

This isn’t to say I haven’t tried to jump on the manga/anime bandwagon. Most of my friends love it, so not having seen the latest season of Attack on Titan or Food Wars has left me out of many inside jokes. I frequently find myself sitting in a living room re-reading Batwoman while everyone else watches anime and reads manga. But still, I just can’t seem to get into it.

Or so I thought.

Last December, I was feeling pretty down. An autoimmune disorder had caused chunks of my hair to fall out, leaving behind large bald patches. I was about to graduate from college, meaning pictures and relatives, neither of which I felt up for.  Once again, a friend recommended One-Punch Man to me. “You’re just like the main character,” he said, “he trained so hard his hair fell out!” I needed more young bald protagonists in my life, so I decided to finally check it out. I am so glad that I did.

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One-Punch Man is a shonen and superhero parody manga that pokes fun at ridiculously overpowered heroes and silly origin stories. The series follows a young hero named Saitama, who introduces himself, and the series, as such:

“My name is Saitama. I am a hero. My hobby is heroic exploits. I got too strong. And that makes me sad. I can defeat any enemy with one blow. I lost my hair. And I lost all feeling. I want to feel the rush of battle. I would like to meet an incredibly strong enemy. And I would like to defeat it with one blow. That’s because I am One-Punch Man.”

In volume one, we see Saitama struggle to find any excitement or meaning in life due to his condition. Next, in volume two, we meet Genos, a teenage cyborg dreamboat who wants to study under Saitama, despite his vehement objections. Volume three finds Saitama and Genos in need of rent money, so they decide to take the test to join the Hero Association’s registry. Finally, volume four brings us life within the association, as Saitama is required to perform one heroic deed per week to maintain his standing.

opm4More of the association’s heroes are introduced in this fourth volume as they compete with Saitama for ranking. His humble demeanor and appearance win him no friends, as they all assume he must be cheating. Soon, the populace is angered and Saitama must face the worst monster yet – mob mentality.

Volume four also adds depth and development to the Hero Association. All is not as well as it appears on the surface, as the heroes jockey for standings, focusing more on their ranking than on actually helping the community. Behind the laughs is a sharp commentary on academic and professional ranking systems that are inherently divisive and distracting.

Series writer ONE’s ability to seamlessly interweave action, humor, and social commentary is One-Punch Man’s greatest strength. Artist Yusuke Murata and his two supporting art members then bring the scripts to life with an incredible level of detail.  Only Saitama is drawn with less detail, visually signifying his status as an outsider and underdog.

As talented as he is, I want to love everything about ONE. Unfortunately, this seems to be another Orson Scott Card situation, where the work is amazing but the creator is not. ONE’s notes are often overtly sexist, and he doesn’t even attempt to veil his homophobia. This is clear at the end of volume four and in the bonus manga Prison. “I was doing 10,000 years for getting grabby with men,” says the villain, who deep kisses his cronies as punishment. I don’t care if it’s supposed to be a joke – sexual orientation is not a punch line.

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Creator personalities aside, One-Punch Man is a fantastic series. Smart, funny, and action-packed, each new volume is a treat, and I can’t wait for volume five. The level of detail in the art sets it apart from other manga, and its commentary on superhero comics makes it appealing for fans like me, who otherwise aren’t interested in the genre. I would recommend this book to anyone who reads shonen manga or superhero comics, and especially to anyone dealing with hair loss.

After several months of intense treatment, my hair is finally starting to grow back. Different patches began regrowing at different times, so I still get lots of funny looks when I’m out in public. If anyone asks what happened, I will explain that I was attacked by a sentient weed wacker, and defeated it with a single punch.

One-Punch Man Vol. 4 can be purchased at your Local Comic Shop or on Comixology.com

Overall Score
95 %

Life in the Hero Association is not all it's cracked up to be in One-Punch Man Vol. 4, a smart, funny, and action-packed addition to the hit manga series.

Writing 90%
Art 100%

About The Author

Kate Skocelas is a comic and book reviewer at DestroyTheCyborg!. When she’s not reading, she enjoys indoctrinating friends into Image Comics and explaining why Kate Bishop will always be the best Hawkeye.

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