I’m not going to lie, I was a bit taken back when it hit me that last week’s episode of One-Punch Man was the end of the second season. For as big as the story has become since the first season, in your mind you were definitely prepared for much more than another twelve episode stretch. When I got over this, I was able to take a step back and really reflect on the way that I felt about this season in contrast to the first. There was a lot to like about it, even if some fans couldn’t get past the change in animation. Today, I really wanted to take the time to talk about those things worth recognizing.
Let’s start with the animation. Yes, there is no denying that the quality of the art and animation was a step down switching to J.C. Staff. The same way that it was a bit of a step down when they change up the music. However, was it bad? Not at all. Honestly this is something that anime fans have to soon grown out of. Change doesn’t automatically mean that it sucks. It simply means that you are used to that set bar, and need to be able to adjust when it’s not there. The detail was still excellent, as well as the effects. We may not always get the same oomph in their hits, but there is still impact where it counts. I mean, the scenes with Genos in particular looked great for the heat effect alone that they were able to lay over him. The same could be said for Garou who really tested what a real physical fight could look like in action instead of just getting that one hit and moving on.
The second thing they did great was striking a perfect balance between plot progression and action. Season one was fun because this was simply us getting introduced to a world where being a hero is how you measure popularity, and understanding where that can be silly, and where it can get dangerous. The second season took it a step further by actually giving us a plot to follow. The rise of the Monster Association was the best thing ever for them to give us as the danger. Now we could see what this end of the world prediction was leading up to and why it made sense that the HQ expanded to prepare for it. I mean, we weren’t introduced to just one big bad, there was so many villains popping out of the woodworks and all of them brought their own unique brand of evil. This was much better than seeing heroes fighting with each other over trivial things.
Credit where it is due as well that they took advantage of so many heroes between all the classes. At this point they could have easily just focused on the S-Class heroes and the B-Class heroes who stood in Saitama’s way. That would have been too easy if that was the case. It showed dedication to world-building and character exploration that we could get to know this many heroes in the span of twelve episodes. Each one of them was able to stand out for the bravery that either went into stopping the monster invasion or the hero hunter, Garou.
Above all? Their greatest accomplishment this season was the way that Genos and Garou stole the show as both hero and villain. I don’t think there was a single character from either category who was able to stand out more. Let’s start with Genos. In terms of heroes, there hasn’t been a more memorable string of battles than what we have gotten out of Genos. To say that he has learned from his past mistakes would be an understatement. This season saw so much improvement from the Demon Cyborg who was so overconfident in his abilities that it was almost child’s play to be able to catch him off guard due to his arrogance. I mean there was one episode where he took out how many monsters one after the other and it wasn’t just simply burning them to a crisp. He actually jumped into the battles and found himself challenged. That is more than you can say for some of the others. And let’s not forget his most recent body modifications. These upgrades were slick, and I’m not just talking about the design either. I appreciated that they did not do the predictable thing and break this one completely like they have in the past.
As for Garou, this hero hunter blew just about everyone out of the water. Half of the battles we have experienced in this second season would not have been as lit if it were not for what Garou was able to bring to the table. He knew his targets, he knew how to fight on their level, and nothing stood in his way when he was pumped for that victory. He gave new meaning to the word perseverance! I love Saitama, but he’s not the guy you’re going to turn to if you want a real fight, and with real choreography. That effort went into both Genos and Garou, and they did not waste one scene with them laying down the pain. Garou’s movements were also so fluent. It was one thing to say that he was an expert at martial arts, but it was another thing entirely to see him actually prove that to you. Matching fighting styles, countering them, he put so many to shame who should have been able to take him out with ease if they weren’t so focused on the pageantry in being a hero.
The last thing had to be the pacing and momentum of this second season. Things did admittedly get a bit off track with the martial arts tournament, but outside of that it was consistently a thrill when the Monster Association initiated their assault on all the cities. With so many fights going on at the same time, there was very little room for them to spend an episode joking around or prolonging something that they knew they could easily jump into.
When taking all of these things into account, One-Punch Man season two was a great season even if it wasn’t as visually astonishing as the first. Better direction, more character engagement, and more notable fight scenes gave you a lot more to look forward to each week without feeling as though you weren’t being satisfied with real stakes.