I now know that with every episode of One Punch Man I can expect two things to happen. 1) I will break out into giggles every time- no matter what- and 2) I can always expect at least one gloriously crafted fight scene. Even as a larger plot structure is erected around the anime if it keeps on producing those two things it will remain one of my favorite shows.
The good news is that One Punch maintains both of those two things, even in an episode like this one where there was quite a lot of world building. We learn that along with the Hero Registry, there also appears to be a Hero Association (where a band of board members meet) and a ranking system, but before they can become registered heroes Saitama and Genos have to pass the Hero Exam. This shouldn’t be a problem for either as they have proven they can handle any bad guys that come their way.
And honestly, the physical part of the exam isn’t a problem at all. It is the written test that proves difficult for Saitama.
Genos aces every aspect of the test and since blowing up Dr.Genus’ lair he’s grabbed the attention of the Hero Association. When all is said and done he is given an S-Class Rank. Saitama however, is ranked as a mere C (one of the lowest rankings.) While he did great in the physical test he lacked in the written test, which apparently makes up the majority of the score. In a world of Super Powers and Super Humans you would think strength and stamina would rank higher then if they answered 100 questions correctly, but hey, the Hero Association clearly has its priorities in order (and now I know how heroes like Mumen Rider can be called Heroes.)
Saitama takes it all in stride though, he’s just happy they’ve both passed the exam. They do a brief Hero Orientation with an A Ranked hero who goes unnamed but excels at karate. Out of the thousands who applied Saitama and Genos are the only ones who passed the exam. Karate-Fighter (as I will call him) talks down on the two new recruits and doesn’t hide the fact that he doesn’t think much of them, especially Saitama who’s membership was clearly a fluke.
Karate-Fighter is what we call a Rookie Crusher in Shounen Anime, someone who takes out the naive newcomers before they can become a real threat. The world of Heros is apparently very competitive, with the ranking system that means when a new hero arrives it will change the current rankings of all other members. On the way home he tries to take out the new C-ranked hero Saitama, assuming it will be an easy kill, but Saitama barely bats an eye before striking him down. It’s amazing that he that he took down a high ranked Hero so easily, amazing but not surprising. What we should be noting is that he didn’t kill Karate-Fighting, fueling my theory what Saitama has some control over his strength.
Ranking systems are good and all but Genos brings up another interesting part of this Super Hero culture, the nickname. See how I italicized that? If I could I would have added sparkles. Anyway, as a hero climbs in rank and proves their strength they will eventually be granted a nickname. Saitama seems confused about this at first, fearing his name could be something involving the word “Bald.” I think I have an idea of what his superhero name could be…
Whispers: One Puuuuuuuuuunch.
While Saitama’s smack down of Karate-Fighter was fun it’s not the type of battle we’ve come to expect from the show. That comes later when Saitama and Genos have a sparring match. Ah, Sparring matches, one of my favorite staples of Shounen anime. Genos has some new armor he’s hoping will level out the playing field against Saitama and he urges his master to go all out in their match. Oh Boy.
What follows is one of the best animated scenes in the show so far, exactly what you would expect with Genos going all out, but even then Saitama doesn’t seem fazed. Instead, our hero shows more of his speed, dodging abilities and resiliency as he manages to escape Genos’ inferno without burning up. Genos calls shenanigans, claiming that Saitama isn’t going all out and… well, he awakens the beast.
After that, the match is over in a matter of seconds. Saitama throws a punch with all his might but manages to stop before it hits Genos. That’s right, he doesn’t even hit his pupil and the match is over. The aftershock of the blow alone knocked a giant hole in the earth and leaves Genos a little windburned but the results would have been devastating if the punch had landed. Saitama smiles, knowing he’s won and cheerfully exclaims it is time for lunch. Leaving his student to ponder the fact that he will never (emphasis on never) be able to reach the same level as his master.
As the two relax in an udon shop, another A-ranked hero comes to greet them. This one is the number 1 ranked A class Hero Amai Mask, who seems to have his own fandom as the civilians in the shop recognize him. Like the Hero Association, he bypasses Saitama and talks directly to Genos, pulling him aside to give him a very cryptic welcoming. He mentions that they “expect great things from him” and that he will overlook Genos’ hasty “criticism of the association.” All of this is said with a smile and an unsaid threat. Hmmm, I don’t trust this guy or his interest in Genos.
Actually even Saitama looks a little dubious, but it’s not for the same reasons. He has begun to notice that Genos is getting a lot of attention and seems wary of it. Genos is also unsure what to make of his exchange with Amai and as the episode closes the two part ways on a darkened bridge, which I can’t help but think foreshadows trouble for the duo in the future.
This episode did so much as far as world building and setting up for future dilemmas, making it feel more like an actual storyline point than the moments of comedic parody we’ve been watching so far. The big question now is, will One Punch Man follow up on its promises or is it just giving us one giant build up to a punchline. Either way, I can never predict what to expect with this show and that makes it thrilling!
Overall: A-Rank Hero
A Note on Rankings: The S-Rank system is a ranking sytem commonly seen in Japanese games. While you have the normal rankings of A, B, C (with A being the highest and C being the lowest) S-Rank is a level above A. Urban Dictionary describes it as, “Something that is so superlative that it cannot be described by any traditional ranking system. It is A++, 11/10, six stars, and three thumbs up. In rare cases, something can be so exemplary that it becomes SS or even SSS-rank.” One Punch Man doesn’t really tell us if it follows this same guidelines, but I think it is safe to assume that S-Rank is higher then A in this world.