“The Strongest Hero”
Epic, Bombastic Action:
Where do I begin with an episode like this? Anime only viewers (like myself) were being promised rivers of gold by manga fans building it up, who I imagine were secretly praying their expectations would be matched. Madhouse have delivered throughout this adaptation, but this final episode was always going to have the highest expectations. The Sea King arc had some emotionally stirring moments, and the past two episodes of this Boros arc had plenty of sakuga action, but it wasn’t as magnificent as I was hoping it to be. It was still epic, but you could tell they were stretching the previous episode out to make room for the promise of an epic, bombastic finale. In a way, it could have gone wrong, but thankfully it did not. In fact, you could say that One-Punch Man saved the best for last with this one.
The first twelve minutes of this episode was constant, electric, explosive, outrageous, colourful, mind-boggling action. Rarely halting, we were thrown back into the fight without time to catch a breath, as the OP played throughout Saitama and Boros’s epic showdown. However, back on the ground, we managed to wrap up the fight with the S-Class heroes. Frankly, they disappointed me last week, but this time around they delivered a swift victory that almost makes up for their previous incompetence. And as expected, Tatsumaki was the just as awesome in this episode as she was last. She has an incredibly powerful ability that never fails to impress; but if there’s one negative with her, it’s that every other hero pales in comparison. No one else (bar Mumen Rider, of course) has blown me away or displayed why they deserve the rank of S-Class. Perhaps my expectations are too high, but to me One-Punch Man is the Saitama and Tatsumika show, which is good for me because they’re my two favourite characters! Poor Genos is fun and likeable, but he’s nothing more than an appetiser for the main dish of epic.
I could throw out five-hundred adjectives to try to capture how brilliant this final episode was, but all I’ll say is that it was one of the best fights I’ve seen in anime. Every blow, kick, explosion, and eruption had impact; the camera never seemed to stop moving as Saitama and Boros blitzed through the air (and space) in the most epic fashion possible. I could not have asked for a better finish to this series, which has consistently impressed with its animation. This goes to show you that not everything is because of a ‘budget’. Good work comes from those who care and who are dedicated to their craft. Animation is strenuous work, so I have to thank every single animator who worked on this: from the animation directors, key animators, all the way to the underpaid inbetweeners. They should all be proud of themselves, because they’ve delivered a sublime production that has blown everyone away, even when expectations were already ridiculously high.
Aftermath of Destruction:
I’m glad this battle didn’t end with one punch, but with several. Just like Saitama, I’m thrilled at the prospect of him facing a real challenge. We saw that back in his dream sequence in the first episode, but since then he’s destroyed his opponents with very little effort. Here, however, he actually had to try. Mind you, his injuries were practically non-existent, which is even more amusing once you consider the fact he went out into space and simply held his breath. Of course, it’s not realistic in the slightest, but it’s so out there that it works, and I got a chuckle from it.
After the battle ended and Saitama walked away in an epic fashion (which is likely how Genos always sees him), we get a chance to wrap up after all that destruction. City A is gone, but there are glimmers of hopes and promises of bad things on the horizon. Metal Knight is being presented as a potential threat, which isn’t too surprising. We still don’t know his full story, but I expect he’ll get his own arc at some point. Sweet Mask also made an appearance and came across more intimidating than most of the S-Class heroes combined. I wasn’t too keen on him before, but after this episode I quite like him. He’s obsessed with ‘justice‘ and there’s obviously something villainous about him, but he’s certainly one to watch.
Going by Sweet Mask’s words, it seems he’s only staying at A-Class in order to prevent weaklings from rising above him; in a way, he’s controlling who gets to rise to the top, but it appears he (and I alike) is disappointed with what the S-class delivered in this fight. Perhaps I’m not meant to sympathise with him at all, but I have to admit, I do agree with him. Bar Saitama and Tatsumaki, everyone else has been a let down in some manner. Perhaps this is ONE’s way of acknowledging that, but I can’t be sure. All I know is after this encounter I have more interest in Sweet Mask than I originally thought possible.
Overview – Final Impressions:
Ah, One-Punch Man. It’s gone by so quickly, but what a roller coaster it has been. My experience with this series wasn’t what I expected; I really enjoyed the first episode, and thought Saitama was a promising lead. But, as you will know, the next few episodes failed to excite me as much. In fact, I was becoming more and more disappointed with what we were getting. It was all getting a bit similar, and I was worried I wouldn’t get much enjoyment out of a series that everyone else seemed to be loving. Thankfully, the Hero Association was properly introduced and everything just clicked. With the introduction of stronger, more credible foes, and the opportunity to highlight heroes other than Saitama, I begun to truly appreciate what I was getting.
Saitama is awesome, but I would like him to face even more challenges. We’re still only one cour into an ongoing manga (and web comic), but the more he has to push himself, and punch his opponents, the better. Genos is incredibly likeable, and serves as a competent sidekick, and has banter with Saitama feels just right. But as far as fights go, he’s a failure. That may seem harsh, but he exists solely to build up his enemies in order for Saitama to arrive and deal with the final blow. In a way it is disappointing, but at least Genos gives us some flashy sakuga whenever he’s involved. As for everyone else, I’ve already said my piece, but Tatsumaki and Sweet Mask are easily the most respectable and fascinating heroes (and let’s not forget Mumen Rider, the one true hero). Tatsumaki is hardly taken seriously by her peers, yet her power is undeniable. Sweet Mask has me intrigued to see where his sense of justice will take the Hero Association in the future.
I say ‘in the future’, because I know there must be more One-Punch Man. Sales are solid, and the popularity is undeniable. I’ve heard that there may not be enough source material (at least in the manga) to adapt another cour, so if it means we need to wait another year or so for that time to come, I think our patience will pay off in the end. We ended here on a perfect note – the resolution to the Boros arc was epically satisfying, and it seems like the Hero Association will learn from the loss of City A. Also, Saitama has gone back to his One Punch Man ways, defeating opponents with a single blow. He wants a proper fight, and so do I. Hopefully we shall see what happens down the line.
One-Punch Man has served as an epic adaptation of an already acclaimed manga, that perhaps even exceeded expectations. I wouldn’t say it was the best of the year, but it’s certainly up there was the most defining and memorable action anime of not just this year, but of many years before it.
Full-length images: 16.
ED2: 「Kanashimi Tachi Wo Dakishimete」 (悲しみたちを抱きしめて) by Moriguchi Hiroko