One-Punch Man: Saitama Deconstructs the World of Martial Arts

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for "The S-Class Heroes," the seventh episode of One-Punch Man Season 2, available now on Hulu.

Martial arts, and more specifically, martial arts tournaments, are a major recurring trope across a multitude of anime and manga franchises. Dragon Ball, for example, has long revolved around martial arts competitions, with the original series centered on three major tournaments during its run, while the final storyline of Dragon Ball Super has an epic martial arts tournament across the Dragon Ball Multiverse powering its action-packed plot. My Hero Academia and One Piece similarly feature martial arts contests in a major way. With that in mind, just as One-Punch Man has good-naturedly skewered the superhero trope since its inception, the anime series' second season has done the same for the world of martial arts and its well-worn narrative elements.

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For much of the first half of Season 2, Saitama has nursed a sudden, obsessive interest in martial arts after learning that the human hero-hunter Garou relies on it to defeat all of his targets. Rather than seek out Garou himself, Saitama decides to learn more about martial arts in the hopes of finally finding a worthy opponent, having been constantly disappointed by the scores of monsters he's been able to dispatch with a single blow. Posing as the martial artist Charanko, who had been gravely injured while fighting Garou alone, Saitama enters a local martial arts tournament, known as SuperFight, to truly experience martial arts for himself.

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As Saitama progresses through the tournament, he is continually discouraged by his opponents, dispatching all of them with a single punch, several entirely on accident. Witnessing this, Saitama's protege Genos realizes his master will likely not find the worthy opponent he seeks, a prediction which proves true in the SuperFight's final round.

Saitama is matched against Suiryu, a superstar martial artist and returning champion who similarly defeated all of his opponents in a single blow with visible ease. Suiryu had quietly observed Saitama's matches from the sidelines and had grown excited himself; he, too, has been hoping to find a fighter worthy of his time. Thus, when Saitama is completely unfazed by Suiryu's opening attacks, the veteran fighter encourages his opponent, saying martial arts is just about having fun. After pondering this, Saitama claims that martial arts is really just about performing cool-looking moves.

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Having his life's work summarily dismissed by an apparent novice student while his own efforts to defeat Saitama fail, Suiryu finally loses his cool and becomes completely incensed. Despite Saitama being disqualified from the tournament after the falsification of his identity is exposed, Suiryu attacks the unassuming superhero with his full power. True to form, Saitama is completely nonplussed by the show of force, even though the attack is so powerful it completely cracks the stage on which they're fighting in half. While trying to do a cool move himself, Saitama spins around, accidentally hip-checking Suiryu out of the ring and defeating him, while his own pants fall down revealing his underwear in an embarrassing moment.

One of the things that makes One-Punch Man so popular worldwide is its gentle subversion of common anime tropes through its overwhelmingly powerful protagonist. While monsters and their transformations into even more powerful forms are the main focus throughout both seasons, the anime series has extended its reach to include the martial arts tournaments in the medium, right down to the design of its arena. In the first half of Season 2, One-Punch Man has skewered another widespread trope, and with Suiryu now defeated by Saitama, it remains to be seen if the protagonist has inspired another figure, or created a newly sworn enemy.

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Produced by J.C. Staff, new episodes of One-Punch Man debut every Tuesday on Hulu.

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