Is there anything that can stand in your way after you’ve achieved ultimate power? This volume of “One-Punch Man” has the answer: Bureaucracy! With his unbeatable power Saitama should be a shoe-in for joining the S-rank of superheroes after he and Genos go to sign up with the Hero Association. Yet for all of his impressive ability, the title character kind of sucks at taking written exams. So now he’s left hustling the streets to take on enough bad guys to remain active and not be dropped by the Association, and the now S-rank Genos is STILL pestering him for advice on how to become a more powerful hero. Meanwhile, Speed O’ Sound Sonic makes a return and there are rumors of some kind of monster organization going on in the abandoned ghost town of City 2.
Saitama may find ultimate power to be boring and without finding the proper challenges that boredom would start to affect the reader as well. So it’s cool to see writer One find a lateral solution to this problem. Having his protagonist wind up as a sub-rank hero and having to worry about holding on to even that meager bit of success makes for some amusing scenes as he tries to find a bad guy to stop… even though the town was peaceful today! I’m also appreciating artist Yusuke Murata’s ability to frame his scenes for maximum impact. “One-Punch Man” is (so far) free of the excessive bloat that infests most shonen manga, but Murata makes his fight scenes feel much larger than they actually are by knowing exactly what to focus on. Like, say, Saitama’s near-demonic form as he prepares to punch Genos in training. Murata also uses his skills to great comedic effect, as in the two-page close-up of Saitama’s head as he freaks out after learning about the Association’s quotas.
I realize that the bi-monthly release schedule for “One-Punch Man” is brisk compared to other manga (at least until it catches up to the current volume in Japan). Yet it’s well-executed volumes like this that make the wait between new volumes feel much longer than it actually is.