When the first season of One Punch Man was released it was met with nearly universal praise from anime and cartoon fans alike. It took the western world by storm, coupling its simple, parody-like story with its clearly identifiable merchandise to become a gateway series for a lot of people. That hype was reignited with the announcement of a second season, but there were whisperings of potential disappointment as time went on. For example, the season was announced way before its release, the animation studio was switching from Madhouse to J.C. Staff, and the director (Shingo Natsume) was not returning. Well, here we are with a season 2 trailer showcasing the series
in action and here we are with many people’s fears being fulfilled: Season 2 is a cut below season 1 when it comes to visual fidelity. Is that an issue, though? Let’s talk about that.
One Punch Man is funny, clever, and a great parody series. What really set it apart from a lot of other things in the field, though, was its animation. Madhouse (of Death Note, Hajime no Ippo, and 2011 Hunter x Hunter fame) did an excellent job with the series in all aspects: characters were crisp in both action and dialogue while fight scenes were blisteringly fast yet comprehensible and gorgeous. This animation is probably what a lot of people remember about the series, too. Don’t get me wrong, the story is good, but the presentation of the show as a whole was what caused me to stick around. Watching J.C. Staff’s crack at adapting the next arc of the series, then, understandably hurt me. Genos looked…rough…in comparison to Madhouse’s interpretation, the strong “sakuga” moments shown didn’t really catch my eye, and the movement in general felt choppy and almost flash based. I’m not alone in this thought either, as I’ve seen comments all over the internet about it looking like a flash animation at times, characters not looking like themselves, and the action and pacing looking slow and boring. A lot of series have had major switches before resulting in different looks for the main cast (see “My Teen Romantic Comedy Snafu) but for a series so focused on animation over deep storytelling this issue is a lot more in the spotlight. Perhaps even more frustrating, though, is that there hasn’t really been given a reason for the switch. After all, One Punch Man was quite popular in the west and sells well in the eastern market. The primary thought is that the director, Shingo Natsume, left the project to pursue other things,
bringing along all of the freelance animators that joined the Madhouse project just to work with him. With a lack of the original team and a want to focus on other projects, Madhouse then let the series go. Sounds plausible to me, but I guess we’ll never truly know.
That brings us back to the question that I asked earlier: Is this dip in visuals even an issue? The answer to that is really dependent on what you want to get out of the series. Personally, I watched One Punch Man because of the gorgeous fights and effects. The story, to me, took a backseat to the mindless and goofy action and, as a result, this does personally mean a lot. The world of One Punch Man was not one that I was heavily invested in so lower animation quality means a lower interest. However, if you really like One Punch Man for more than its looks, I suggest that you don’t let this trailer get you out of it. I read the manga semi-regularly and there are some seriously awesome moments coming up. It’s not like J.C. Staff is a bad animation company, either, so you can probably count on such moments receiving extra treatment. After all, it’s probably unfair to judge a series based on one trailer if you’re really hyped for it. Ultimately, the point here is simple: One Punch Man season 2 definitely has a noticeable drop in animation quality BUT if you’re in it for the story it shouldn’t matter. People enjoy anime series for different reasons so you shouldn’t let other people’s reasons deter you from following your own path.