Posted by Lenlo on 5 July 2019 with categories: Anime Reviews, Finished Series: Action, One Punch Man S2, Reviews by Lenlo

Often at the start of one of these reviews, I will wax philosophical about a series. Attempting to slowly draw you, the reader, in to whatever topic or anime I am discussing in that review. This time, none of that. This time, I have to come out and say from the beginning, that One Punch Man Season 2 is terrible. Though there are a few occasional gems throughout the series, thanks to one Kenichiro Aoki, most of the series is a mess. On every level. This review won’t even be comparing One Punch Man Season 2 to the original, as that is just unfair. Even if you didn’t like it, in terms of pure production, the first season was on the upper end. Sadly though, this 2nd Season can’t even stand up to the average show in it’s own season.

So all that said, lets get right into it.

(Disclaimer: I am working to make 50 the new “average”. 70 is not an average score people. 70 is above average. Carry on.)

Animation/Art

Let’s start with the worst, as it can only get better from here. Animation wise, One Punch Man Season 2 is a series of decent highs and abyssmal lows. With almost every single high being done by the same man, Kenichiro Aoki. I don’t know what was happening behind the scenes, or how he got stuck on this project. But this man single handedly kept my interest in the series with his cuts. However no matter how talented, a single individual cannot save a show. One Punch Man was a mess all throughout. With fights lacking impact, and in general limping around like wet noodles. Even when it was acceptably animated however, the fights were often blurred by this terrible flash-fade like effect. Ruining what, underneath, actually appeared to be enjoyable stuff. None of this is even mentioning that the models/art being animated looked terrible in the first place.

Oh goodness the actual art of this series was incredibly painful with how inconsistent it was. Everything from the models to the color palette was painful. This isn’t to say everything has to stay on model the entire time. It’s the nature of animation that the model is fluid, stretching and compressing to convey the motion. No, this is only in still shots, where everything should be fine. None of this is even mentioning the atrocious filter/gradient JC Staff has placed over everything in lieu of actual lighting. Making Saitama’s forehead stand out like a beacon. Or Genos’s limbs and Darkshines body look like CGI objects in place of actual 2D characters. I can only assume this was their attempt to naturally emulate the detailed shading of Murata’s work. But it failed miserably, leaving every scene painful to gaze upon.

Sound Design

You would hope then that One Punch Man would at least be acceptable to listen to. After all, it’s just Shounen fight sounds and an OST that already exists. This should be a basic, easy win scenario for a series. Instead, One Punch Man manages to give me flashbacks to the iron CLANG of Berserk 2016/17. Mismatching sounds to actions, flat dialogue delivery, and in some cases seemingly lifting the sounds of a machine gun from CS:GO for punches. Of course, that probably didn’t happen, illegal and all that. However the sounds are so similar, and mismatched for the actions, that people being able to draw this comparison at all is concerning. I can understand why JC Staff made the decisions they made. They wanted to stand out from the first season, put their own mark on it with limited time. But it simply doesn’t work.

One need look no further than the OST for proof of that. Where a large number of the tracks are lifted straight from the first season. For the most part, this was a good idea. The first seasons OST is loved for a reason and some new tracks like Garou’s fit in well. However, this season of One Punch Man seemingly had no idea how to use it. Placing serious tracks in jokey moments, or the reverse. Using the same track repeatedly, for multiple scenes of differing tone, because it’s the “sad” song. There was seemingly very little thought put into how these songs would actually affect the scene they were laid over. Considering an OST’s job is to enhance the series, that One Punch Man’s actively detracts from it can be considered a cardinal sin. At least the music itself is alright.

Direction

Next up, let’s talk Direction. This is normally a rather nebulous section, what is “good direction”? It’s one of those things that you know it when you see it, and requires a degree to explain well. Lucky for me though that One Punch Man’s is so blatantly terrible, even a layman like me can dig into it. From framing to pacing, the series is a mess. Often cutting off the top of people’s bodies, or hiding heads/mouths to cut animation costs. Sometimes attempting to be ambitious, using shadows to convey body movement instead of the characters themselves. Whatever the reason, One Punch Man often doesn’t even look good in still dialogue scenes. Of course, saying there is nothing good would be false, it takes a true effort to make everything terrible. But the bad far outweighs the good.

For instance, previously I mentioned pacing. From scenes, to fights, to dialogue One Punch Man’s pacing is all over the place. Sometime’s feeling to fast, as the characters barely stop to breathe or pause while talking. Making everything feel flat and lifeless, as if they are talking into a microphone (Which they are). Other times One Punch Man slows content to a crawl, to force the ending at a pre-set point. Part of this has to do with the nature of the arc being adapted, it being a setup for a much larger arc. And I will get into specifics on that later. Suffice to say though, for all the passion clearly put into it, JC Staff bit off a bit more than they could chew here. Whether it be forced on them by some Board or not, I don’t know. But judging by the final product, it doesn’t work.

Story/World

Now we can finally get into the actual content of the series. Simply put, Garou was the best part of the series. I will get into his actual character later, but his story was far more interesting than anyone else’s. Take for instance the Martial Arts tournament that centered around Saitama. As a character, Saitama isn’t that interesting, he is a vehicle for gags. A wall on which other characters bash themselves, reacting and growing because of it. He wasn’t the interesting part of the arc, yet he is the one focused on. With Seiryu, the actually interesting character, done dirty by this production. Garou meanwhile is actively pursuing a goal, coming into conflict with other characters, and expanding the world through his conflicts. Giving us a different look into the hero society.

Sadly however, the arc One Punch Man is adapting isn’t really an arc. This entire season is but a prologue for a much larger, and much better, arc that we are shown the first hints of. Throughout the season we are introduced to various other S-Class heroes, all of whom are plays on traditional Shounen stereotypes. Yet none appear for more than a moment. This leads to an ending with a dozen unresolved plot threads, multiple characters left hanging and a promise for more mediocre production. Really, this was an arc that needed a 2nd cour. Yet it’s understandable why they didn’t give it one, as Murata is still drawing this arc right now. Sadly, I can only surmise that this was not the best time for a 2nd Season. That it was pushed out for profits, and not for love of the property.

Conclusion

So, all in all, how was One Punch Man Season 2? A terrible, terrible disappointment. No one was expecting the same level of animation as the first season. Anyone that was is being both unreasonable and ridiculous. The first was a perfect storm of internal personal connections and Madhouse magic. However, I was expecting a baseline standard that at least matches your average moe-blob series. Mouths that are synced to the dialogue, animation that isn’t faded into blobs of grey, some new songs. Nothing unreasonable I feel. Yet JC Staff couldn’t even give me that. Instead relying on the talents of Kenichiro Aoki, and no doubt a few other unnamed animators, to carry the series. Because of this, I don’t consider One Punch Man a black mark on their records, they did their best with what they had. No, this lands squarely on JC Staff, near the bottom with Berserk.

3 Responses

  1. AidanAK47 AidanAK47 says:

    JC Staff is at fault for accepting the job with a no win scenario but really I would say the fault is on the executives that decided that we needed a new season as soon as possible regardless of the quality. Nobody would have complained about waiting longer if it meant getting the main team back and even better, two cours.

    Sadly anime ain’t about making art, it’s about making money and what executive is gonna care about anime quality when the objective is to boost manga sales?

    • Avatar Allen says:

      Hear, hear!

      We would’ve all continued watching other shows had they done the right thing and waited until they had the resources and the requisite talent for a proper second season. Phantom Menance-level garbage like this just leaves everybody resentful and skeptical about the entire property they once loved.

      That said, I’m excited for the all stick figure, clip art, Microsoft assistant-voiced season 3 coming out this fall. I mean, at least I don’t have to wait! Gimme my stories!!!

  2. Avatar evafan says:

    “70 is not an average score”

    It is and it isnt. If you were to rate delicious cookies, I doubt many would be rated as bad, but half would still be below average, even if all were to be incredibly good. See the paradox?

    If you take all anime ever made and calculate average given score, it’s ok if it is way above/below 50. It is not an ‘not using full range’ error, merely characteristics of the ‘average’ quality in the medium.

    I.e., this is rating based on ‘how I enjoyed it’ (which is the only correct way) as ‘objective’ rating is merely normalization applied on the result.*

    There is
    – average score value, which is 50.
    – average show’s score value. 70-75 might be about it.

    The ratings people will give will follow normal distribution, with peak at the average show’s value, not average value.

    An argument could be made that this should be 50, otherwise the value range loses granularity (shows falling mostly within 5-10) and symmetry, but that is simply normalizing the value. Normalized value would be, here, a value representing not how good the show is, but how good it is compared to other shows.

    Normalized value will always peek in 50. We should not rate in normalized values! They are relative and do not reflect ‘how good a show is’.**

    Noone cares how many shows are ‘better’, we care how delicious they are. If they are all incredible, it is fine to give them all 100. We can normalize afterwards if we wish, but the rating inputs must be absolute values.

    There is couple more effects at work in rating:
    – people are less likely to watch (in their opinion) bad shows so they lists are skewed towards high values
    – experience/refined taste of the person kinda cancels the above (inexperienced person may rate bad show as a good, but experienced one will not watch them anymore, so they both produce same rating distribution – skewed to high values)
    – growing experience makes old ratings obsolete and seemingly too high so they should be updated (lowered). Because experienced person was inexperienced once, he watched what he now considers bad shows, thus his rating distribution will be somewhat lower than inexperienced one (but if the both started from blank slate, the above would hold)
    – taste may have dramatic effects, but is irrelevant – it is merely a specific inexperience bias of an individual or demographics

    * We always rate based on ‘kinda how we enjoyed it’, even if we adjust it for ‘objectivity’. The reason is simple: The only way to rate objectively is to have seen all shows. Then the ratings would actually be shifted down by experience, enough to peak at average value.
    However this wont happen. Not only will person never see all shows, he will always sample more of those that are good or those that he likes.
    Most importantly, his lower shift adjustment (based on experience) ALWAYS considers only what he has seen, which is always valued more than it should be (due to his inexperience).

    In other words, no-one can rate objectively, because objective rating is pron to the bias by design.

    ** It is slightly more complicated as ‘characteristic of an average quality in a medium’ and normalization are not the same. So:
    – person’s rating (subjective, but in fact objective)
    – true show rating, no experience. bias, rating of one who has seen everything, Anime God’s rating, average affected by medium bias
    – relative rating, normalized, average always middle

    TLDR: Objective vs subjective rating makes no sense, because everyone already rates objectively, because objective rating is inherently subjective (in a systematic and deterministic way) and any rating difference between people comes down to experience. Yes, the elites will rate closer to ‘true’ value, due to bigger sample and less bias, however their ‘objectivity’ is exactly the same as anyone else’s.

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