Heroes? One-Punch Man Has the Answers.
What makes a hero? Is it their special abilities, their sense of right and wrong or the outfit? Some would argue all three and more. Some would argue that it’s none of those things. One -Punch Man wouldn’t care either way. One-Punch Man is a Japanese webcomic series that deals with the concepts of heroism and ordinariness.
Superman and Wonder Woman come from fantastical origin stories; these two are essentially aliens from a stronger species. Batman is a normal human but takes a darker tone in his origin story and so does the Shadow Hero despite being a less well-known superhero. They deal with the darkness of death in their stories. To be a hero then, does one need to come from a traumatic background? Something crazy needs to happen in that person’s life to inspire them to save the masses, right?
Well, One-Punch man had a day full of unsuccessful job searching and after a brief run in with a later enemy, remembers he always wanted to be a superhero growing up. So he became a hero. “Just an average guy who serves as an average hero”, he says. Not very tragic.
Superheroes nowadays have some super freaky special ability (like laser vision, be careful with that one) or a never ending supply of money to buy the most insane gadgets (Iron Man. Batman. I’d like to see these guys get by on just ten bucks). Audiences begin to idolize these strong, godlike individuals as they do the things we only wish we could do. There’s no way we could have a Lasso of Truth or T-Spheres.
One-Punch Man, if the name doesn’t tip people off, only has his raw strength. One punch and the enemy is done. The secret to his strength must be that he’s from another planet, a planet of warriors unmatched in physical skill!
No, he makes it clear to all who ask him that his training regimen (wait, training? Heroes train?) consists of “100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and 10km running EVERY SINGLE DAY”. By the way, he lost all his hair from training so hard, which I suppose is something we could all actually do.
A hero is never physically unattractive, either. Luke Cage is a strapping man with muscles bulging out his hideous fashion, Wonder Woman is an Amazon, and Mr. Terrific has tattoos on his constantly flexing biceps.
Here’s One-Punch Man, aka Saitama.
This character is more or less blank and looks quite ordinary. Perhaps his ordinariness allows us to project our own images on him and more easily imagine ourselves as the hero? However this is still a comic and the artwork does something incredible when One-Punch Man enters a fight seriously. The picture above doesn’t look like a man who does 100 sit-ups a day. What about this guy?
The reasons the creator (going by the pseudonym, One) and illustrator (Yusuke Murata) have for creating this difference can be endless. Maybe the first image is Saitama, but the second image is One-Punch Man? Maybe the change in art style mimics the internal changes he goes through when entering a fight? Or maybe this is a tactic to draw audiences in?
One-Punch Man is more relatable than the superheroes known to mainstream America. The concept of one punch and done is something most humans can’t do, but it’s closer to home than the concept of being bitten by a spider and becoming a human mutate.
There are some heroes in One-Punch Man that fit the typical hero mold. Here’s Genos, essentially a cyborg mix between Iron Man and Captain America.
Revived in a lab, constantly upgraded to defeat foes, and positively adored by the city for his looks and heroism. One-Punch Man, on the other hand, is barely recognized because he doesn’t have the flashy abilities, the flashy outfit or jaw dropping looks. He’s just “Just an average guy who serves as an average hero”.
So then, what really makes a hero? Is a hero someone more fantastical we wish to be like the heroes of DC and Marvel, or someone more relatable like One-Punch Man?