It feels like things of consequence actually happen in this episode of One Punch Man, which is small praise but a welcome reprieve from the last few weeks of wheel-spinning. The tournament arc finally comes to a head (and a shiny head at that) as we blitz through the final rounds. There are still too many stories happening concurrently for us to connect with any single one of them, and somehow we”re introduced to another new subplot this week about Silverfang”s friends. Meanwhile, Garou shows up for all of five seconds, and Genos wakes up at the end of the episode in the same crater the big bad monster left him in at the end of last episode. There”s no sense of flow to how all this is pieced together. This probably won”t be as glaring an issue when the season is digested all at once by later viewers, but the week-long breaks just add to the sense of disjointedness.
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This entire arc feels structured like a hedge maze—full of branches but with few leading anywhere. A particularly weird consequence of this is the name of this episode, “The Class S Heroes.” These heroes are present in the episode, but they”re nowhere near what I”d consider the most important part of this segment, which is Saitama finishing his tournament. The staff don”t even consider them the most important part, because all of the production value they can muster goes towards Saitama”s fight with Suiryu. The handful of Class S heroes pretty much show up to introduce themselves to the audience, presumably because they”ll be more relevant later on. That”s fine for basic storytelling, but they”re certainly not a significant enough presence to deserve the episode title. This might seem like a petty complaint—and it is—but it”s one of the many consequences of this arc”s lack of focus.
At least the Class S showcase gives One Punch Man the opportunity to flex some if its weirdness. Some of the top heroes have predictable powers—Tornado and her telekinesis, Silverfang and his martial arts, Genos being a robot, etc. But some of them are just plain out there. Garou is all too eager to pick a fight with a dude who wears a dog costume and sits sphinx-like in the middle of a public plaza all day. The big poisonous muscular snake lady is defeated by the Pig God swallowing her whole, like he”s some kind of snake. It”s hard not to make comparisons to My Hero Academia and its variety of Quirks, but One Punch Man”s more jokey nature sees it indulge in much more esoteric means of fighting evil. Sometimes the jokes don”t land, but I appreciate the willingness to experiment and poke fun at the absurdity of superpowers.
Despite its many divergences, the main thrust of the episode is the conclusion of the tournament Saitama grifted his way into. Naturally, he makes his way to the final bout with little effort, punching out both the boisterous Sourface and the sadistic Choze on the way. Choze unleashes an entire spiel about his inherent genetic superiority guaranteeing him the victory, only to be immediately knocked into the stratosphere. It”s a familiar riff on one of ONE”s pet themes, which is that people are defined by their own choices and their own actions. Nobody is born with any kind of guarantee, and that sure as hell applies to a eugenicist wannabe-übermensch. It”s good to see some people get punched.
As he finally squares off against Suiryu, the fight actually manages to craft some tension in an amusingly absurd way. Saitama is never in any danger of losing the match, but he is in danger of losing his toupee thanks to the sheer force of Suiryu”s blows. It”s difficult to make any battle with Saitama interesting, so I”m glad for this outside-the-box thinking. Along the same lines as Choze, Suiryu postures himself as one of the chosen, whose strength alone is more than enough to elevate him above the masses. To him, being strong is fun because it lets him do whatever he wants. Saitama, of course, is the complete opposite. Becoming strong has sapped all of the fun he once had from his life, because there”s nothing to struggle against except his own ennui. Saitama is a thoughtful and humble guy when it comes down to it, and Suiryu is too shortsighted and intoxicated with himself to actually reflect on what he could do with his strength beyond proving its potency. His fate is the same as all the others who meet the business end of Saitama”s fist—only in this case, it”s Saitama”s butt, which is even more poetic.
Saitama is still disqualified because his non-Charanko identity is discovered, but the damage to Suiryu”s inflated self-esteem is done nonetheless. And the story isn”t over, because monsters are still overwhelming the city, and a particularly bad one seems to be headed the tournament”s way. This episode also makes sure we know that people can ingest monster cells to become monsters themselves. Silverfang has already cautioned that Garou might be going down that road, and it”s possible Suiryu might succumb to that temptation as well in his pursuit of unmatchable strength. Either way, with one of its biggest subplots concluded, the end of this mess of an arc should hopefully be in sight.
One Punch Man Season 2 is currently streaming onHulu.
Steve does 100 push-ups, 100 crunches, 100 squats, runs 10km, and watches 1,000 hours of anime every day. You can read all about it on his Twitter.