「弟子の尻拭い」 (Deshi no Shirinugui)
“Cleaning Up the Disciple’s Mess”
While it would be easy to go into detail about OPM’s final episode and how it was a nice (if chaotic) cap to everything this season was building up towards, I think the results speak for themselves. We got that fleshed out flashback explaining Garo’s state of mind (and I dare say it was pretty good), the fighting, even if less visually impressive than last week, dominated in the fashion it was always meant to, and—oh yes—the One Punch Man himself landed the final hit, because of course. It was everything OPM to a tee, and even if an arguable case of too little too late, I cannot deny loving every minute. In more than one way, OPM still has it.
To say OPM was divisive would definitely be an understatement: of all recent blockbuster hits this one tripped the most, and while burdened with some seriously sky high expectations to meet, there’s no denying it still stumbled badly when personal opinions are factored out of the equation. It’s a case study in how name alone doesn’t a successful show make, and we got front row seats to the lesson.
Although most will be quick to pin all the blame on J.C. Staff for OPM’s sequel failures, the main issue in my opinion rests with OPM’s adaptation strategy. As discussed a few weeks back this season I believe was too faithful in its adaptation: we got the manga version more or less scene for scene, got every character seeing as much screen time as allotted in the writing, and received every joke as written, no matter the difficulty in changed format. Considering the sheer number of characters featured here and OPM’s single cour run the troubles are easy to see—i.e. pacing—but they were arguably easy problems to fix. Why? Narrative space. OPM’s semi-satirical nature at its core leaves lots of room for some creative imagination to fill in the blanks. Saitama’s fight with Gouketsu during the tournament arc for example could’ve easily been moved on camera, taking advantage of anime’s advantages over the web novel/manga format to better showcase the over-the-top fights which in part helped make this series. Likewise a little ingenuity with what was specifically featured (ex. emphasizing Garo and the Monster Association over the martial arts tournament fights) would have gone a long way to creating a tighter and more entertaining show. We may rightfully strive for adaptations to adhere closely to their source material (for some very obvious reasons), but OPM shows why this should never be a hard and fast rule.
With all that said however, OPM’s structure cannot entirely take away from its visual quirks. Make no mistake, OPM’s animation is not as terrible as many are quick to call out, but J.C. undeniably cut some corners which aggravated many of the faults revealed through the writing. Numerous fight scenes for example made excessive use of the still shot with motion blur, something which does work in practice, but becomes very noticeable when compared against actual animation. Likewise the choice of colouring and texture for Genos’ metal features was an agonizing itch inflamed with how the guy wound up looking previously. Nothing was ever going to come close to matching Madhouse’s labour of love of course (and anyone expecting that should seriously reign in such expectations), but these sort of visual choices only help intensify (whether rightly or wrongly) the troubles OPM has been called out for.
In the end though I cannot really hate on OPM’s second season too much. Sure it could’ve had more money and talent thrown at it, yeah it could’ve been better both visually and narratively, but at least we got a sequel—and a faithfully adapted one to boot—when such a thing was never guaranteed. Fans of the franchise may not look back as fondly to this season as compared to the first, but with a decent jumping off point and enough popularity to potentially see a third season somewhere down the road you never quite know. Much like with Mob Psycho 100 we might just get that sequel which can put the first season to shame yet.