Can these do-gooders power their way onto the watchlist?
If mecha is a taste I’ve never quite acquired, then superhero is one that I find myself enjoying more with each year. Give the MCU ample credit for that, as well as new western lady-led comics like Ms. Marvel or The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, for sure, but magical girls and powered rangers have had a place in my heart for a while now, too, and that place grows a little warmer all the time. So it’s no wonder that both of these shows received glowing premiere reviews not too long ago. As for whether or not that glow has worn off… well, that requires a few more paragraphs than this one.
I won’t deny that ConcRevo is kind of a mess. It dashes back and forth between time lines at breakneck speeds, tearing us through cause-and-effect by contrasting present-day characters with their not-too-distant-future selves so quickly that it can be hard to stay oriented or catch all the dialogue flying across the screen. Characters are defined more by how they react to sudden crises rather than by relaxed conversation, and discussions about the nature of justice or what it means to be human occur on the fly, interspersed with plot points about building unrest and an impending war.
Even so, there are enough connecting threads that I feel confident saying there’s a method to all this madness. Director Mizushima seems to be creating a very intentional tension, taking us from a clear-cut, black-and-white present to an increasingly grim and morally gray future. I can see how getting whipped around through time and comic-booky conflicts with a group of brightly colored superhuman watchdogs could get tiring for some, but I find the aesthetic wildly entertaining and the smear-animated fight scenes a blast.
Better still, the series is peppered with enough beats of emotional honesty and existential musing (such as the android detective’s insistence that he’s human, not “superhuman”) that I’m starting to get invested in the characters, and curious to see what dramatic events changed them so significantly from Present to Future. It’s not the most polished show of the season, but right now, I think it just might be my favorite, and the one I most look forward to each week. Lead on, Mizushima. I’ll be running along frantically behind you.
One Punch Man
I’m going to make a seemingly bonkers comparison and say that One Punch Man reminds me a lot of Snow White with the Red Hair. Not because their stories or characters or ideas are in any way similar (they are not), but because both are developed by talented creative teams who had a very specific look and feel they wanted to bring to their adaptations. Both sought to imbue every element of their production with that particular tone, and both by and large succeeded.
OPM is the story of a basically normal guy who becomes the strongest man in the world, and about how empty and boring his life has become because of that. It always looks good and often looks downright stunning, using thick black lines and stretchy animation to great effect, and the music adds to the scenes without overpowering them. The main character is a contradictory combination of apathetic and hopeful who fills the series with deadpan comedy and an ever-present hint of melancholy. In effect, OPM manages to both be a send-up to and a parody of the superhero genre, full of GAR fights and self-aware humor alike.
But, much like Snow White, as well-made as it is, it isn’t going to appeal to everyone. The adherence to the “good guy fights bad guy(s)” formula can make it predictable on a macro level (despite all the great humorous twists at the micro), and the lack of a clear central story line means the series needs to rely on its cast or comedy to convince the audience to come back each week. Which is where the problem arises, because so far, there’s not enough depth to either individuals or relationships to make them people I’m dying to hang out with each week, and I’m struggling to find a compelling reason to keep doing so.
All of which is to say that, well, One Punch Man is a fine series, but it might not be for me. I’ll probably check in for one more to see if the next story arc can give me something to look forward to, but much like Comet Lucifer, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t make the Midseason Review. Ah, well. To each their own, I s’pose.