One-Punch Man: Saitama Enters the World of Martial Arts

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for “The Martial Arts Tournament,” the fifth episode of One-Punch Man Season 2, available now on Hulu.

While One-Punch Man‘s Hero Association has been scrambling throughout Season 2 to prepare for a prophesied monster apocalypse and deal with the lethal hero hunter Garou, its most powerful member, Saitama, has spent most of the season developing a newfound interest in martial arts. Intrigued by the potential to find worthy opponents among humans after years of disappointment fighting monsters, Saitama begins to investigate the world of fighting.

After learning of an upcoming martial arts tournament in the city dubbed SuperFight from the amateur fighter Charanko, Saitama decides to try his own hand at the competition. With Charanko unable to enter the tournament himself due to injuries suffered confronting Garou, Saitama puts together an elaborate disguise to pose as Charanko and enter in his place.

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As the city descends into chaos due to a sudden onslaught of monsters overwhelming many members of the Hero Association in a coordinated assault, Saitama, none the wiser as always, enters the tournament. And, of course, he’s underestimated, even in his disguise as Charanko, and thus is seeded at the bottom of the rankings. Saitama constantly being dismissed by his apparent superiors has long been a recurring gag within the anime series, from starting out at a low rank in the Hero Association and receiving a questionable superhero name, to being regarded as a weakling despite his attacking monsters with bloody results. This trope continues here, with Saitama incognito and the martial arts competitors none the wiser.

As his protege Genos watches from the stands, Saitama faces his first opponent, a low-ranking fighter with long, blonde hair named Zakkos. The flamboyant martial artist originally taunted Charanko and Sour Face’s martial arts school and its master Bang, who was slated to be a judge at the tournament. Committed to tracking down his former star pupil Garou, feeling responsible for his bloody hunt of superheroes, Bang and his older brother Bomb had to drop out from judging duties, prompting Zakkos’ disrespect. As he’s not actually interested in anything but martial arts itself, Saitama completely disregards Zakkos’ insults, hoping that he is the worthy opponent he has longed for, but observing he doesn’t appear that powerful despite all his bluster.

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Saitama’s observations prove to be true; he dispatches Zakkos with a single slap as soon the fight begins in the post-credits scene. Genos is concerned but unsurprised by how easily his master wins the match, fearing Saitama will not find the worthy opponent or martial arts knowledge he seeks. Saitama is similarly annoyed, having taken gone to the trouble of sneaking in the tournament only to win so easily. However, unbeknownst to both, star martial artist Suriyu quietly watches from the sidelines, realizing that he will likely face the disguised Saitama in the final round of the tournament and looking forward to the challenge himself.

Saitama’s underlying goal throughout all of One-Punch Man, in addition to officially becoming a superhero, has been to find just one opponent that can withstand more than a single punch before their defeat. After hearing from Charanko, Mumen Rider, and Tank-Top Master how powerful the martial artist Garou is, the hero had hoped to find in the world of martial arts what he couldn’t find fighting monsters. Judging by the first fight, Saitama will likely face one disappointment after another though perhaps Suriyu will finally present the challenge that the unassuming superhero has been searching for for years.

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Produced by J.C. Staff, new episodes of One-Punch Man debut every Tuesday on Hulu.

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