One-Punch Man, Vol. 01
by ONE (story) & Yusuke Murata (art)
Reader Appeal: Ages 12 and up
Genre: Manga / Sci-Fi
It's kind of fun when you find a new superhero that's actually a new superhero—not just a reworking of some previous person's imagination. One-Punch Man delivers that kind of character. Created by pseudonymous writer ONE and illustrator Yusuke Murata, this Japanese Manga graphic novel is filled with humor, surprises, and yes, a few big punches.
One-Punch Man began as a Japanese webcomic that went viral (over 10 million hits) and was soon snapped up for print publication. Volume 01 tells our hero's origin story and earliest adventures and sets the table for all the excitement to follow in future books. Here's the quick overview of Vol. 01:
Saitama is a powerful young superhero working hard to fight evil in a part of Japan where all the cities are named after letters of the alphabet ("City A" "City D" "City Z" and so on). It's a good thing he's there, because these alphabet cities seem to attract all kinds of monsters and villains (Vaccine Man, Crablante, or Armored Gorilla anyone?) who randomly appear and cause mass destruction. As a kid, Saitama was bullied and taunted in school, partly because of his small stature and appearance, and partly because that's just what happens to kids in school. So he studied for years on how to become super-strong, studying so hard that he actually went bald (which causes more taunting, but whatever). Now, even though he's generally the smallest guy around, he's also the absolute strongest guy, and a dominating hero who rescues the alphabet cities when danger arises.
Problem is, Saitama is bored with his super-life. He says he's a "hero for fun," but he doesn't seem to be having fun at hero-ing anymore. Why? He's just too good at what he does. He's so strong, no villains are any match for him. In fact, all it takes is one punch and bam! Saitama wins again. So the young hero is constantly searching for that one nemesis, that one monster/viilain/anti-superhero who can actually make a fight interesting and renew is life's purpose.
Meanwhile, off he goes, fighting bad guys and monsters, inspiring some, angering others, and mostly trying to find his place in his world. The result is a rollicking, often humorous, action-packed adventure that most kids ages 12 and up will really enjoy. Parents should be aware that One-Punch Man is full of cartoonish violence (think along the lines of Pokemon explosions, earth-shattering blows, and occasional overzealous blood spurts), Godzilla-style creatures that wreak havoc all around the alphabet cities, cartoon-zombie-mummy-monster images, and a few rare, mild profanities (i.e. "damn" and "bastard").
The interior artwork for One-Punch Man is all black and white, but don't let that deter you. Yusuke Murata is a master at creating clean, expressive, power-packed scenes from panel to panel. The imagery here is detailed, fast-moving, and a real treat to view. In fact, I was so impressed by Murata's work I actually skimmed through Vol. 01 just to look at the illustrations before I even read the story. Don't be surprised if your kids do the same.
Perhaps the biggest attraction your kids will have to Saitama's story, though, is how much it reflects their own middle-school experience. No there are no monsters or superheroes in your neighborhood, but boys and girls both will relate to Saitama's struggle to fit in, to understand and wisely use his gifts, and to find happiness and purpose in his life. These are struggles your middle-schoolers are also facing right now, which makes One-Punch Man Vol. 01 a fantastic starting point for you and your kids to talk about them as you help your children along their way.
Enjoy One-Punch Man Vol. 01 along with your middle school children, and then take a little time to talk about it afterward. You'll be glad you did.
Let’s Talk About It
If your family members are interested in this book, then encourage discussion about it afterward. You can use these questions to get started:
• If Saitama went to your school, do you think you two would be friends? Why or why not?
• Why do you think it was so important to for One-Punch Man to find a villain who wasn't so easy to defeat?
• Saitama seems to struggle with finding happiness and purpose in his life. What advice would you give him?
• What makes you feel happy, or makes you feel like you have purpose in life? Explain.
Note: All product-related graphics in this article are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.