Question: What makes these episodes stand out?
Well, the comedy is excellent, the animation is insane, and the music is pretty amazing too. But if you read the tagline for this post than you already know what I’m getting at:
The Power of Humanity and Heroism
As human beings, we all have a few things in common:
– We’re all getting older
– We all pay taxes (right?)
– Our humanity
What do I mean by “humanity”?
Well, the interesting thing about innate humane behavior is that it can be kept or abandoned. If someone commits a murder, that’s usually regarded as an inhuman act. People that let themselves commit terrible acts of evil are regarded as inhuman, and rightly so.
As human beings (even in a morally grey world) we have a basic understanding of good and evil. With all of the terrible things we see happening around us or hear on the news, sometimes we just want to be reminded of the better side of humanity.
Have you ever decided to watch YouTube videos about everyday heroes? Or people rescuing puppies? Videos like these remind us of the incredible heroism that we’re all capable of if given the chance.
So what’s my long-winded point?
Sometimes An Example of “Good Vs Evil” Can Move Us The Most
When we see something bad happen, we want something or someone to fix it. Because as human beings, we hate seeing evil win. So if you show a powerful evil force facing a heroic good, we get drawn in.
But this has to be done correctly in order to work effectively… and often isn’t.
If badly handled, it just becomes another bland good guy vs bad guy fighting episode. In that situation, I think most of us would rather watch the bad guy win because it would just be more interesting.
But One Punch Man is one of the examples of where this works brilliantly, while also highlighting what the good side of humanity can contribute in such a hopeless fight.
Despite the vast morally grey areas that we have in the real world, such vivid expressions of “good” and “evil” can get us all on the same page, cheering or booing at the same time. These moments can move us to the core.
We all enjoy the morally complex villains and heroes, but isn’t it sometimes more satisfying to see a hero face an irredeemable villain?
Let’s talk about the Deep Sea King.
Seriously, what’s this guy’s deal? He wants to rule over both land and sea. Okay, so it’s the take over the world kinda deal? Yep, it doesn’t get any more basic than that but by the end of episode 8, we freaking HATE this guy!
That’s not easy to do with the cliched “Imma gonna rule the world! Muhahaha!”
In any other context, this villain would simply be an annoyance, an expected cliche from a superhero show. But the villain’s goal isn’t what makes this representation of evil work, it’s the sheer loathing that we have for him. There is no debating the evil we see in the Deep Sea King. We watch him tear apart our heroes in great numbers with his brutal attacks, and to make matters worse, he’s getting stronger as he moves forward!
This hurts because we care about the heroes who failed to stop him, even if we’ve never seen them before this episode. Even though we didn’t know them, we were rooting for them to win because we want to see good stop evil. Even Speed of Sound Sonic decided to jump in and help! Seeing all of them get so brutally defeated and Deep Sea King getting ever closer to the helpless citizens makes us hope and pray that Saitama can get to him in time.
It becomes glaringly obvious that only a high caliber hero could take this beast out.
The False Hope
The cruelest thing you can do to your audience is give them a false hope in a moment of great desperation… but if you’re a writer, that’s precisely what you want to do! This will add more weight to what happens after the ‘false hope’ character fails.
This emotion manipulating tool in storytelling reminds us that we still have hope, and then suddenly crushes that hope in front of our eyes.
We see the Deep Sea King enter the… bunker? Is that what it’s called? Anyway… We know that if this guy isn’t stopped those people don’t stand a chance. To make matters worse, we see another couple of heroes get destroyed. They knew it was pointless and we know their powers wouldn’t be strong enough, but it came down to;
If we don’t do something now, these people are going to die.
A very powerful mentality to have in a scary situation. This hits us because we know how scared these small-time heroes are. One of them has an inner monologue about how afraid he is. All of this adds to the tension and to the crushing reality that we know:
These guys can’t stop him.
Then suddenly, BOOM! In comes Genos to save the day!
Film language tells us that when a strong hero from the main cast arrives, that everything’s going to be okay. So what do we do when he shows up?
We cheer! We get excited! This fish guy is going to get his comeuppance, yeah!
But we were wrong… Despite his heroic efforts, he still fails to take out the villain. In fact, it’s because of his heroism that he gets wrecked in the fight.
Genos sacrifices his robotic body to shield a little girl from Deep Sea King’s acid spit. He knew it would make him worthless, but he couldn’t bear to let the girl die when he could’ve stopped it.
Needless to say, after all of this we were all ready to see this guy get his butt decimated by Saitama. We know he has to get there. Everyone will die if he doesn’t! So naturally, we expect him to arrive, saving Genos and the people just in time.
But who shows up?
Their Last Defense: Mumen Rider
It’s at this point we hear:
And as the bike slams into the back of the Deep Sea King, our hearts sink. Saitama still hasn’t come, so the only thing left standing between the villain and his potential victims is one man.
– No powers
– No weapons
– No backup
We all knew what this would mean. If you’re like me, inside you were saying:
“Mumen Rider, please don’t die!”
Of all the heroes to come at a time like this, it wasn’t an A class hero, it wasn’t anyone with god-like powers, but a C class hero. A hero we’ve seen get wrecked by low-level thugs in a previous episode.
A man with nothing but a good heart determined to save lives.
Most of us held our breath. What can he do? We’ve learned to really like this character with limited screen-time, and don’t want to see him get hurt or killed. We’ve seen the damage Deep Sea King inflicted on stronger heroes, so imagining Mumen Rider taking a similar hit was terrifying.
At this point in the episode, the music cuts out and we’re left with nothing but the rain and the overwhelming feeling of dread.
Someone in the crowd says in disbelief;
“He came for us.”
Because just like the audience, they were expecting a stronger hero to save the day, and for reasons beyond our understanding, he was the only one out of so many that came.
We watch as the Sea King toys with Mumen Rider, throwing him around, bashing him against the ground. When it tries to finish off Genos, Mumen Rider stops him using a “Justice tackle.” A pointless attack but the best he can do.
He’s thrown to the side with minimal effort, and it’s apparent how much damage he’s taking. He struggles to get back on his feet, blood running down his face. This scene gets harder to watch when we realize just how much Mumen Rider knows how weak he is. He’s nothing but a man standing up to a monster. He admits that he’s not strong enough to take the villain down.
“No one has to tell me I have no chance of beating you. I already know that! And yet, I must try. It’s not about winning or losing! It’s about me taking you on right here, right now!”
And that’s the kicker.
We know he can’t be much help, but in this dire situation, his heroism and humanity shine through. Because at the end of the day, all he can do is stand between this great evil and the innocent lives behind him.
For once in the show, we’re not watching a villain get blown away by Saitama, but a single person doing what they can, powerless and alone for the sake of others. The crowd sees this and are deeply moved. Suddenly, a small child calls out to Mumen Rider cheering him on and the most emotional soundtrack of the show starts to play.
All of the adults start doing the same, and suddenly the whole crowd is standing up for Mumen Rider. The music swells, enhancing the emotions of the scene and a powerful display of pure human heroism. Everyone knows how hopeless this all is, but they still choose to believe in him. This moment is absolutely heartbreaking.
Mumen Rider runs towards Deep Sea King and throws the biggest punch he can. The music cuts off when the huge fist of the beastly villain slams into him and he’s thrown back a great distance. But suddenly, we know everything’s going to be alright.
Saitama catches Mumen Rider before he could hit the ground, and a sigh of relief could be heard from around the world. One Punch Man fans couldn’t have been more relieved.
Mumen Rider’s best efforts (on top of the other heroes’) were what saved the day. He was able to buy enough time for Saitama to come in and throw the punch we needed.
In my opinion, it’s the display of humanity from all of these characters and a deep understanding of true heroism in this moment that makes this episode so powerful. An impactful scene of good vs evil reminding us that heroism is far deeper than one’s power or physical abilities.
Thank you so much for reading!
I hope you all enjoyed this post. If you couldn’t tell, this is one of my all-time favorite anime moments, and I had a lot of fun writing this post X)
Please let me know what your take on this was. Do you agree with this post? What part of these episodes hit you the hardest? Leave your opinions in the comments below!
[Originally posted for a client on “Anime and Manga Life”]
I’m a freelancer 😉