One-Punch Man Mocks The World’s Most Famous Anime

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

One-Punch Man is one of the funniest anime series ever created, and because of this, fans are usually too busy laughing at the show to notice any kind of cultural criticisms embedded in the narrative. However, the very premise of the show effectively makes fun of the kind of shonen-style power leveling that has become part and parcel of the entire anime genre. That means that for as lighthearted as it is, you can consider One-Punch Man as one drawn-out criticism of Dragon Ball Z in general and Goku in particular.

One-Punch Man Makes Fun Of Goku

one punch man Goku

If you’re looking at the screen the same way that others look at Saitama when he explains how he got so strong, then an explanation is definitely in order. As any anime fan worth their weight in gunpla models can tell you, “shonen” describes anime or manga that has been created primarily to appeal to adolescent boys. There are many shonen animes out there (including Attack On Titan, Demon Slayer, and One Piece), but as the response to the passing of Akira Toriyama proves, none of them have proven as influential as Dragon Ball Z. Where does One-Punch Man come in?

It’s all about power…specifically, main characters getting stronger and stronger over time. For all of the storytelling strengths of Dragon Ball Z, you can always predict how any given story will end: “and then Goku gets even stronger and defeats the bad guys.”

Goku’s Strength Is Boring

This kind of “power leveling” occurs quite a bit in other shonen animes as well, but it’s never more noticeable than in Dragon Ball Z. Because of this, some critics of this hit anime have complained that stories featuring Goku are always boring because the character is more or less unbeatable. Even when the character gets temporarily smacked down by godlike beings like Beerus the Destroyer in Dragon Ball Super, it’s only a matter of time before Goku achieves yet another new exotic power that makes him stronger than ever before.

Saitama Is The Ultimate Paradox

When you look at the show through this lens, One-Punch Man becomes the ultimate criticism of all the crazy power leveling in Dragon Ball Z. The central premise of the show is that our protagonist Saitama can literally defeat any foe with a single punch. Because of this, he has actually grown bored and jaded because he is the ultimate paradox: the world’s strongest fighter who is now utterly incapable of finding a good fight.

Saitama in One-Punch Man is effectively what Goku would be like in a more realistic setting. What does someone who loves to fight do when he can no longer find anyone who can remotely keep up with him? Simple: get really depressed and mope around from one boring battle to the next.

One-Punch Man Criticizes Predictable Battles

As funny as One-Punch Man is to its own fans, make no mistake: the show is also subtly skewering fans of Dragon Ball Z. Fans of Goku’s onscreen adventures will tell you that the fights on the show are completely unforgettable, but even if that’s true, almost every major battle ends with Goku hitting the bad guy as hard as he can. Critics of that show will tell you how boring that makes even the coolest fights, and One-Punch Man makes a constant punchline out of how unexciting anime battles are when you always know the outcome.

Look Out For More Mockery In Season 3

Now that the trailer for the next season of One-Punch Man has dropped, it will be interesting to see how the show continues to dunk on Dragon Ball Z and its fans. As we learn more about Saitama and his ability to overcome his natural limits, is it possible this quirky anime protagonist will experience his own version of going Super Saiyan? If that happens, we’d hate to be the ones to tell Saitama he lost the chance to have cool Super Saiyan hair a long time ago.