Episodes building up to a climatic fight are difficult to review. As the story sets up the characters and the situation, the things that make the episode great are often left on the side line. On the brighter side we get a closer look at the world’s S-Class heroes. Also, aliens.
The episode starts off with the return of Bang, the elderly S-Class hero who is one of the few who recognizes Saitama’s true strength. Saitama is a little disappointed to find out Bang’s students, supposedly the strongest fighters on the planet, aren’t really up to snuff. This is the perfect opportunity for Bang to drop some foreshadowing about his greatest student Garo, whom he had to banish.
In noooooo way do I expect this to come into play until later episodes. Nope. No way.
The Hero Association interrupts the moment when they arrive at Bang’s residence, alerting him that all S-Class heroes are being called for an important meeting. A meeting of life and death if you will. Of course Genos is expected to go as well and he’s considerate enough to extend the invitation to Saitama, who has nothing better to do so why not.
A meeting for all S-Class heroes is the perfect time to get the audience more acquainted with the star heroes of the world. These guys are nothing like the C-Class or even B-Class level heroes, they are (supposedly) the real team of Earth’s defenders. We get a quick rundown of introductions, but if the episode had to put focus on any one of them I’d say it was the mysterious Tornado, who we’ve only seen brief instances of. She’s the butt of a lot of small jokes, but she’s ranked number 2 out of the S-Class warriors.
Now that the heroes have been called in it is time to discuss the new threat. The Seer who predicted disasters around the earth has recently died but her last prediction warned that the Earth would be in trouble in the next six months. It’s frankly, not a lot to go off of but the Heroes Association analyzes the heck out of that vague prediction. By breaking down the warning they assume the threat will happen in six months, but it is Saitama who points out that could mean today or tomorrow….
… and what do you know. Apparently today is Independence Day. An alien invasion appears to be underway and has already successfully attacked City A. Add another item to the list of Shounen Tropes: Aliens.
Granted, this isn’t a must have for any action story, but a good chunk of Japanese action shows definitely have origins in tying themselves to alien invasions. Remember the original Power Rangers?
The more I watch One Punch Man, the more I admire the stylistic choices the artists use for storytelling. The heroes are objects of humor, with simple or comedic designs yet the villains are hyper realistic in the carnage they bring. Torando being drawn much smaller than everyone else and Saitama’s design is proof enough of this concept. On the flip side, the aliens are grotesque monsters straight out of our nightmares. I can’t help but think of the Crab monster in episode one, yes he was also goofy, but then there was the quick shot to the victims his claws tore apart and the murderous glint in his eye, terrifying. This design pattern continues in this episode with an Alien Army of Nope.
While the S-Class heroes try to decide what to do, Saitama is already infiltrating the alien ship without them. It’s likely this means no one will see him heroically save the day, which is a bummer. But honestly Genos’ faith in his master is almost enough to satisfy the show’s entire cast.
Some could call this episode a bit of an info dump; with the high speed introduction of the S-Class heroes, the quick rundown of the situation at hand, and finally the “villains” showing up. Being fast paced isn’t anything new for One Punch Man, but it means the episode doesn’t have much of a focus. It is just setting up the pieces for the next big battle.
This commonly happens at some point in every action anime, and as far as set up goes it is still enjoyable to watch. The S-Class heroes are definitely a strange cast of characters who have captured my interest and the monsters continue to grow into one terrifying threat after another. The important thing about a set up episode like this is the payoff; will this threat prove different than the rest? Can I expect the next episode to be nothing but none stop explosions and action? I sure hope so.