A man, a monster, or a hero. One Punch Man

In my last post, I’ve been talking about bullet hell stories, and as it is often the case I wasn’t able to say if the setup in itself is good or bad. And it is to be expected, plot devices have their upsides and downsides. But, every once in a while I want to be able to say something more definitive, you know? So, I decided to write one or two posts about story elements that I think are genuinely good, examples of what I believe to be a good writing.

My first pick is One Punch Man series. Considering the fact that it had a very popular anime adaptation recently, I’ll assume that you have seen it or know the general idea. Actually, you will probably be fine just knowing that this is a story about heroes, and the protagonist is a completely overpowered dude, named Saitama. I will be spoiling some of the anime and manga plot twists though, so be warned. Let’s go.

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When discussing One Punch Man it is important to realize that while it is firmly set in the “hero genre”, it intentionally sways from the genre’s tropes. The very premise of the show, namely Saitama being completely invincible, takes away almost half of the standard plot progression devices that you can expect from a hero show. You can’t make your protagonist climb a power ladder, you can’t make a “dangerous opponent” for him. In fact, all the character dynamics for Saitama has to with his psyche, since his physique already has no room for improvement. And as Arkada explains in his review for the tv series, the mental challenges Saitama faces, such as unfairness, luck of recognition, stupidity or hostility of fellow heroes and so on, these become the driving force for the show. The audience can easily relate to these problems too, since it is something most people experience to some degree.

In case you haven’t seen or read One Punch Man, I must clarify this point a little bit. The mental struggles do not make Saitama doubt his convictions or hesitate in his actions. In fact, he is almost a lighthouse, as far as the morality and ethics are concerned, in a sense that he continuously becomes an aspiration for other people.

This post isn’t about Saitama though. It is about monsters. Or maybe just one monster, we’ll see. So, what are they, the monsters in the OPM universe? First of all, they are sentient creatures, most with intelligence level of an average human. Some of them have huge life spans, some are being creates just recently, some used to be humans, some are aliens from outer space, some are extremely violent and some are just potentially dangerous or disgusting. The one thing they have in common is, they seem to have serious trouble peacefully co-existing with humans. They are also hunted down and exterminated by the heroes.

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That is what typically awaits a monster, casual extermination

Sound a bit dramatic, right? Maybe a bit too dramatic for a show like One Punch man. The monsters here are supposed to be an enemy, same as in any other story, no? Well, that would be a popular trope too. Just for this discussion, I would divide stories into two categories. The first is the one where the “good guys” are in fact immoral to a certain degree and killing sentient “monsters” is just another showcase of their immorality (think of Hellsing, Blood: The Last Vampire, Dorohedoro). And the second is where the “good guys” are genuinely role models and nice people, and all the killing is sort of brushed aside (think of Slayers, Bleach, Dungeon ni Deai, etc). OPM definitely belongs to this second category. Not surprisingly, most video games where you fight monsters would fall under this category too.

So, doesn’t it sound a bit off to you? A story that focuses so much on the metal states of its characters, discusses morality and whatnot, but then chooses to camp with much more naïve shows and video games, ignoring this huge moral question, isn’t that a bit… weak? Especially since OPM is clearly self-conscious and understands the tropes of its genre.

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Gintama. Shirogane no Tamashii-hen Episode 7

This episode was so full of mosaic images and bleeped out words that I had trouble finding pictures that can be used in the review. First things first, we got to see young Hata in this episode. Hata wasn’t always a bald-headed sadistic idiot.

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Doesn’t Hata look like a nice guy in this picture?

Here is the surprising part. Shijaku and Elizabeth are Hata’s brothers. The guy in Elizabeth costume is Dragonia, the cool looking dude in the featured image. He got into an accident, forgot his past and ended up becoming Elizabeth.

Gintama Season 7 Episode 348 - Watch Gintama Season 7 Episode 348 online in high quality.mp4_001015666

Can someone please kill this creepy looking monster and bring the old Elizabeth back?

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Gintama. Shirogane no Tamashii-hen Episode 6

The first part of this episode was beyond predictable. Tama and Kintoki gave up their lives to save the world. The nanomachines rendered all the liberation army ships useless.

To be honest, I didn’t feel bad for Tama or Kintoki. Not one bit. Gengai is going to repair them anyway. Unlike humans, it is possible to create a backup of their data. The idea of Tama and Kintoki dying is ridiculous.

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What do you suppose these robots are doing?

The only resonable explanation is that these robots were providing processing power for the cannon to work and their motherboards got fried. The explanation actually makes Gengai look like an idiot. Why couldn’t he buy better processors?

On the other hand, I do like this episode title – ‘Machines that pick up useless habits are called people.’ If you think about it, if a machine has its own will and decides to pick up a useless habit just for fun, that machine might very well be called a human.

The second part of the episode was interesting though. Want to try guessing what happened?

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Katsura managed to baord a Noah’s ark. Way to go Katsura!

Katsura was supposed to help Sakamoto’s group escape from the liberation army but he messed up, got caught and was thrown into a cage. How do you think he got caught? Make a wild guess.

Sakamoto gave Katsura a stealth ship to secretly attack the liberation army. Katsura being the nut-job he is, assumed that only the ship became invisible, leaving his team in plain view. This is what he thought they looked like when they used the stealth mode.

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Trust me Katsura, a company making such stealth ships would have gone bankrupt a long time ago

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Gintama. Shirogane no Tamashii-hen Episode 5

Let us start the review with the most important piece of information we have all been wondering about for the past week. How did Yamazaki turn out to be the Rambo-like guy?

In his words, he got rid of the shackles that have been binding him all his life. He described his change as taking off a T-shirt he was born with.

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This is the T-shirt he took off. Does it look familiar?

Only in Gintama can a character call their soul a T-shirt and try to get rid of it. Kondo followed suit and took off his Isao Kondo T-shirt. I am sure you already guessed what he looked like after taking his T-shirt off.

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All hail the gorilla chief!

Gintoki and the rest of the gang forced Kondo to put his T-shirt back on because they felt bad for the T-shirt. I am not sure about Yamazaki though. The last we saw him, Shinpachi was carrying a half-dead Rambo. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gintama staff decided to continue the gag and made Yamazaki turn into a genie-looking T-shirt.

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Who wouldn’t feel sorry for this T-shirt?

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Gintama. Shirogane no Tamashii-hen Episode 4

Guess who is finally back? The Shinsengumi. Apparently they went around finding people who are willing to join the war and fight for Earth. They even managed to get their hands on some good weapons. Gintoki now has an army on his side.

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Kondo looks more like a gangster than a gorilla with his scar

I wonder why they bothered redesigning their uniforms though. The original Shinsengumi uniform is rather good looking. I can imagine these guys sitting with a designer for days on end and explaining how exactly they want their uniforms to look. What in the world were they doing when the Earth is in such danger?

Gintoki was not able to land a single blow on Utsuro. His team was crushed easily. They were forced to retreat and flee.

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I really love this scene

What makes the above scene special is the fact that Gintoki was ready to give up. He is forced to face something bigger and stronger than him and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t see himself winning. It is like he is struggling in vain. Utsuro is stronger than him and is immortal. The chances of Gintoki winning are zero. He also has to fight the Amanto and he already lost to them before. Gintoki’s situation is beyond hopeless and he knows that. When faced with his own incompetence, he understood how powerless he is, enough to want to give up and throw everything away. As he stood there surrounded by those missile-firing robots, I am sure he thought how easier it would be to just die right there and be at peace.

I love how Gintoki can give up, get crushed and get overpowered easily. This tiny detail sets him apart from most of the shounen protagonists out there. Continue reading

Gintama. Shirogane no Tamashii-hen Episode 3

Not a lot of things happened in this episode. There were some random jokes, an announcement about another upcoming live action movie and some plot developments. Before we go into them, let me show you the a really important scene.

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I have almost forgotten that Kagura is an Amanto and is an unwanted existence on Earth. Even though she thinks of Earth as her home and has been doing everything in her power to protect Earth, she is still one of the people Earthlings want to drive out. Kagura is one of the nicest people in the Gintama universe but it hardly makes a difference. The only reason the people around her are not getting violent is because of their fear of Amanto. Now imagine this. Gintoki wins this fight and manages to drive the Amanto out of Earth. Kagura will not be able to stay back. If she is one of the few Amanto left on Earth, people will stop fearing her. We might be watching people hurling stones at her very soon. This is a very serious problem and I am glad Sorachi decided to bring it up. I only wish he had spent some more time discussing this situation.

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You are a great character Tama!

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Gintama. Shirogane no Tamashii-hen Episode 2

Considering how we got a rather plain and boring episode last week, I was expecting another boring episode this week. Little did I know how wrong I was going to be. This episode is one of those Gintama trademark episodes, episodes that remind you why you should never watch a new Gintama episode in public.

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In this episode, we got to see how Nobu Nobu convinced Katsura and Sakamoto to accompany him to the Liberation Army’s spaceship. He admitted that he was just being  a puppet until now and would like to do everything in his power to help his country to atone for his sins. He even risked walking into the Liberation army’s spaceship unarmed.

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Kagura wasn’t happy with helping Nobu Nobu as expected

How do you think he started his negotiations? Make a wild guess.

Can I please use your toilet?

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Gintama. Shirogane no Tamashii-hen Episode 1

The first episode of Gintama season 7 came out today and to be honest, I am a little disappointed. Gintama has stopped being wacky and has been trying to become a normal shounen anime lately.  There is no real need for Gintama to have a last boss. Sorachi can happily end the manga with a random comedy chapter and fans won’t complain.

So what exactly do you think annoyed me about this episode? It was how readily all the Gintama characters took the abuse and humiliation from the Altana Liberation Army without fighting back.

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Does Hasegawa look like the kind of guy who casually brushes off an insult like that?

Let us be honest. There was no reason for all the people in Edo to wait for the Yorozuya to return to Earth before starting a revolt. Gintama has plenty of strong characters. Saigo is a monster. Kyuubei is a monster. Otae is a monster and Tama is a monster. So why did all these monsters who are perfectly capable of turning the tables on the Liberation army and wiping them from the face of the Earth decide to meekly let Edo be destroyed? It isn’t like Gintoki has some super powers and it isn’t like he is the only one capable of fightin the last boss. Give Sougo or Umibozu or Kamui a sword and they will casually drive the Amanto out of Earth.

I know Sorachi wanted the Yorozuya to make a grand entrance but it only spoiled the show for me.

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Then there was this scene

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Hasegawa got to act cool for 10 seconds and Sorachi made him pay for that

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Gintama. Porori-hen Episode 13

Before I start with the actual review, I want to mention that they changed Alchu’s color and made him yellow. Apparently Alchu wearing a bluish-green body suit was an animation mistake. I had no problem with a blue Alchu. Kagura was a poor kid. I just assumed that she couldn’t get any yellow fabric and used whatever cloth was available to make a Pikachu stuffed toy.

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I am sure Pikachu is currently clawing his way out of the Pokemon world to use a thunderbolt on Alchu

We got to see the guardians of most of the Gintama characters in this episode. Want to make a wild guess what kind of spirits they are?

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Otae’s guardian is the spirit of all the eggs she burned while making omelets

Katsura’s and Hijikata’s guardians are cars. It is thanks to his car that Katsura manged to become the Runaway Kotarou.

Sougo’s guardian is a sadist. He is called The Tormenting Sadist and he loves torturing Hijikata.

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Should I say like human like guardian spirit?

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Gintama. Porori-hen Episode 12

This episode is easily my favorite episode in this season. In the first part of the episode, all the Gintama characters gathered around and made fun of Gintama Rumble – the upcoming Gintama game.Gintama 6 EP 12 (10)

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Don’t worry Gintoki. There are a lot of people out there who would love to buy the new game

So Gintoki decided to sneak into Bandai Namco’s office and hack into their servers with Tama’s help. He wanted to make sure the developers did a good job. The Gintama trio made some changes to the game to make it more exciting.

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