As a Tokyo-based writer, I will introduce you to various aspects of pop culture such as manga, anime, movies and music. I want to spread the joy of Japanese pop culture around the world.
Hey everyone, this is Mokugyo, the anime-loving writer of MANGA.TOKYO! I’m sure a lot of you know that Japan is one of the world’s safest countries to live in. In Japan, we usually do not need to worry about being in danger when we are walking on the streets. That’s why I can write this article sitting in a café. I’m not in danger of any monsters attacking, but if one suddenly did? Who would protect me?
I’m pretty sure the police would try to do something, but I think that they would be powerless against a creature. Oh, how I wish there were a super hero who could save the city! Today, I would like to tell you about Saitama, the super hero from One-Punch Man who can defeat any monster with one punch!
One-Punch Man was originally published as an online manga. The author, ONE, started writing the story in 2009 during his free time. It is a story about a guy called Saitama who can defeat evil monsters with just one punch.
Saitama fights the monsters as a hobby, just like ONE started to write the story for his pleasure. The online manga started gaining popularity, and Yuusuke Murata, the author of Eyeshield 21, made an offer to ONE to remake the manga. Murata is well known by fans for his good drawing skills. One-Punch Man was then remade with Murata’s beautiful drawings and has been serialized on the online manga website Tonari no Young Jump since 2012. One-Punch Man became very popular in a flash, and was adapted into an anime in 2015. As of April 2016, its manga volumes have reached a circulation of 9 million copies. This is a remarkable success. It is very rare for a manga which started on the Internet to become such a great hit in Japan, and in that sense, One-Punch Man is a very valuable manga series.
The protagonist of One-Punch Man is Saitama, a young man who is called Hage Manto (Caped Baldy) in the story. As you can easily guess from his nickname, he is bald-headed and is always wearing a cape. He does not look stylish nor does he speak in an intellectual manner. He does not look powerful at all, but he is the one and only superhero who defeats all evil monsters with just one punch.
Although he is the lead character of the story, it is hard to say that he is ‘cool’ just by his appearance. That is exactly why the reader gets surprised when they first see Saitama knock down a monster with his punch. The gap between Saitama’s looks and his power is vast. The story originally included gag-manga aspects, and that is why Saitama’s character is rather comical. Yuusuke Murata remade the story to make the action scenes stronger. As a result, the gap between Saitama’s usual silly looks and his cool fighting scenes became even bigger.
There are many unique superheroes in One-Punch Man. Their names are simple and easy to remember. For example, the powerful S-Class Rank 6 superhero who is well-known by everyone is called King. It is a perfect name for the king-like character. Another superhero is the S-Class Rank 2 Tatsumaki (‘tornado’ in Japanese), and her name resembles her windy superpower. The name of a B-Class Rank 1 superhero is Fubuki (‘blizzard’ in Japanese), which is a name that reminds you of a snow-stormy day. Considering the fact that Tatsumaki and Fubuki are sisters, Fubuki’s name may just come from the word ‘fubuki’ which also has the meaning ‘wind-blowing’.
Now, let’s think about Saitama, the superhero who starts out from C-Class Rank 388, and let’s think about what kind of meanings we can associate with his name. ‘Saitama’ is a very rare name for a Japanese person. When we hear the word ‘Saitama’, the first thing that comes to our minds is Saitama Prefecture.
Saitama is the neighboring prefecture of Tokyo, the capital of Japan. It is close to Tokyo and has lots of green, so it is a rather comfortable and convenient area to live in. Nevertheless, it is a place which is often made fun of and is called ‘Dasaitama’ (a conjoined word of Dasai (lame) and Saitama) on the internet. This is because people believe that Saitama is not so urbanized, although it is adjacent to the urban area of Tokyo. Also, the other two neighboring prefectures of Tokyo are Chiba and Kanagawa, and they both have popular tourist spots such as the Disneyland in Chiba and the Minato Mirai 21 in Kanagawa. Compared to these two prefectures, Saitama does not have a tourist site which is famous nationwide. These are some reasons why Saitama is thought to be ‘a place which is boring and not urbanized although it is close to a big city’. (The actual prefecture is a wonderful place to live in!)
Just from this stereotype, the character name ‘Saitama’ gives the readers the image of ‘a man who is wearing a superhero suit but cannot completely become the cool guy in the story.’ In other words, just like the prefecture, the hero of his story is somewhat boring. It is such a perfect name for the protagonist of One-Punch Man.
One of Saitama’s charms is that he is acting as a superhero just for fun. It is not because he wants to become famous.
Fubuki, on the other hand, is a superhero who is obsessive about her title of B-Class Rank 1. She forms the ‘Fubuki-Gumi’ (Fubuki Group) with the B-Class heroes and tries to prevent the rookie heroes from moving up to a higher rank. Saitama would never gang up with other heroes. He is the lone-wolf type who loves to battle alone. Also, Saitama is often times called a ‘cheater’, for his powers are way over-standard, but no matter what people say to him, Saitama doesn’t really care.
For example, after Saitama defeats Shinkaiou, one of the monsters, some ordinary citizens start saying, ‘The other superheroes who were beaten by Shinkaiou must have been very weak.’ Saitama tells them that he was able to easily defeat Shinkaiou because the other heroes had made the monster weaker. By pretending to be a sly superhero who took the other heroes’ credits, he protected their reputations. This scene, which is also illustrated in the anime series, is one of the best scenes in One-Punch Man.
Saitama is distressed by the fact that he is so strong. His battles always end with just one punch, and he can’t feel the thrill of the fight. That is why Saitama is searching for a formidable enemy who he can battle with all his might.
And that’s it. That’s the only driving force behind his existence. In many Japanese manga, the protagonists tend to worry and think deeply about many things. I believe this comes from the unique characteristics of the Japanese people. People in Japan tend to like stories about protagonists who overcome many difficulties in life by coming up with the best solutions. Many people are moved by and get teary with these types of dramatic stories.
However, One-Punch Man hardly has any episodes which would make the readers cry. It actually emphasizes on the comical aspects. Saitama is more concerned about a bargain day at the supermarket than his own psyche. Saitama’s comical character is one of the factors which make the story entertaining.
The obvious meaning of the title One-Punch Man comes from the fact that Saitama can defeat all enemies with one punch. However, in the story, almost nobody knows about Saitama’s true powers. For a while, the only character who knows that Saitama is so strong is Genos, the cyborg warrior.
The viewers know about Saitama’s powers, just like Genos does, so they empathize with his story. Viewers start to think that Saitama should be praised more by the Hero Association and the general public. The superheroes in the story are all categorized under classes and ranks, but the heroes themselves are not aware of the true abilities and powers of each other. Will Saitama ever be called ‘One-Punch Man’ by the other characters? This is something that the viewers start to look forward to as the story moves on.
Saitama is a fascinating character with a unique appearance and an amazing superpower. In January 2016, the French-translated version of One-Punch Man’s comic series was released. Its first edition, which consisted of 65,000 copies, immediately sold out, and an additional 30,000 copies were printed right away. The comical and unique character of Saitama, who looks silly on the outside but has the most powerful punches, has captured the hearts of fans all over the world.