This week I continue my next batch of posts for the East Meets West series, dedicated to comparing/contrasting anime and Western media of similar premises, and, based on a specific set of criteria, decide which of the two is, in my fallible opinion, the superior version. When one thinks of the comic book superhero, often we associate stories of strong-willed, power-laden individuals serving as protectors against would-be evildoers and thwarting their message of chaos and disorder; think Marvel’s Avengers trilogy. The one word that never typically comes across is “satire”; most stories are dealt with a serious tone, and little room for light-heartedness, such as the Batman franchise during the 1980s. That’s why today’s post will focus on two such kinds of stories which completely flipped the script and made the comic book superhero zanier than usual – Japan’s One Punch Man and Canada’s League Of Super Evil. Yes, there exists such a thing as a Canadian animation market – the US isn’t the only place where all the good toons are made.
EASTERN COMPETITOR #7: ONE PUNCH MAN
One Punch Man focuses on the story of Saitama, a bald-headed superhero in a fictional Japanese metropolis. Through years of training with a “100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, and 100-mile run” regime, he possesses the powerful ability to obliterate his opponents into submission with a single punch. Although he is blessed with such abilities, he is left unfulfilled at the thought of being so good that his enemies don’t want to put up a good fight against him. Things change when he meets Genos, a cyborg who becomes his self-appointed student, and loyally serves him in his heroic endeavors. Encouraged to push himself beyond his capabilities, Saitama joins the Hero Association, and embarks on his newfound quest to rise the ranks within the organization, and become the ultimate hero. Along the way they fight against formidable enemies such as the Deep Sea King, an alien named Boros, the Monster Association, and most recently, Garou, who prove threatening until Saitama comes to incapacitate them with one punch.
Since its conception in 2012 as a Shonen Jump manga, and its revitalization in 2015 as an anime series, the show’s popularity has been acclaimed for its comedy, action, and the delivery of what’s otherwise a pretty boring idea. As of 2021, a third season is purportedly on the way, although it remains to be seen whether or not something will come out of it.
WESTERN COMPETITOR #7: LEAGUE OF SUPER EVIL
League Of Super Evil, a 3D animated series by producer Asaph Fipke, was created by Nerd Corps Entertainment from Vancouver, British Columbia, whose other shows include Dragon Booster, Storm Hawks, and Rated A For Awesome, all of which aired on the YTV network in the late 2000s. It focuses on the eponymous quartet of four “super-villians” (abbreviated as L.O.S.E hereafter): Voltar, the hotheaded leader of the gang; Dr. Frogg, a mad scientist who provides the team with various inventions; Red Menace, a kind-natured support type of guy, and Doomaggeddon, the pet who’s capable of warping worlds. Their misadventures are unlike what you’d expect; rather, they focus on them doing measly pranks on their neighborhood or going about on the typical day-to-day suburban lifestyle. Despite the mundaneness of their exploits, occasionally they’ll run into heroes such as the Force Fighters V or Glory Guy (parodies of the Power Rangers and Superman respectively), and even squabble with villains like Skullossus, Commander Chaos, Rock Gothlington and the Line Master who compete with them for various titles or relaticely minor grievances, such as winning small contests or getting rare items from the store.
This was one of my favorite non-anime childhood shows, and one which I still fondly remember to this day – the distinctive animation style, the cheap transitions, voice acting, the colorful cast of heroes and villains, and the humorous scenarios that L.O.S.E put themselves in. Sadly, though the season aired for three seasons, my interest in it only lasted while I was in the eighth grade; subsequent seasons would happen while I was in high school, and didn’t have much interest in YTV anymore.
Both superhero comedies will be ranked based on the following five groups:
- Best Opening Theme
- Best Animation
- Best Comedy
- Best “Favorite Episode“
- Best “Super” Team
For fairness purposes, I will also be talking about both shows in the context of their first seasons, given how I only have seen the first season (2009-2010) of League Of Super Evil and that the second season of One Punch Man was sorely lacking in comedy, such that it isn’t worth mentioning in this post.
CATEGORY #1: BEST OPENING THEME
I’ll start things off with a pretty easy category – which show has the best opening theme. To begin with, One Punch Man‘s opening song has plenty of things going for it, and one of them is “hype” and “energy”. Just listen to the first few seconds of the song, The Hero – Set Fire To The Furious Fist by JAM Project – already with its first words, of someone yelling out “ONE PUUUUUUUNCH” with such range, it’s an indicator of how heroic the show is going to be. Beyond that, the rest of the song actually is pretty good to rock with, and the chorus, combined with the easy-to-sing lyrics and the electric guitar chords, make it easily one of the most notable pieces of anime music in recent history.
One good thing about the League Of Super Evil‘s opening – while nowhere near the level of the former, is that it’s simple and has a catchy melody. Even now, 12 years after the show aired, I can still envision the sequence of Voltar rising above the Earth – only to reveal that the whole thing was set up in their garage, the Earth is just a dollar-store model, and everything falls apart; only then, the song begins, introducing the four main members of the League to the audience, followed by short clips from the show which show each character’s personality and role. It’s a fun theme and one which I parodied by replacing the opening lyric with “League Of Super Dummies!”.
However, it’s apparent that first blood goes to One Punch Man with the far better opening, and a more accomplished-sounding theme to bring Saitama into the fray.
ONE PUNCH MAN 1, LEAGUE OF SUPER EVIL 0
CATEGORY #2: BEST ANIMATION
Both shows have animation styles that are vastly different from each other; League Of Super Evil is rendered in 3D, with character models that resemble modern video game graphics, while One Punch Man is drawn in the style of your typical anime. Let’s talk first about the visuals behind League Of Super Evil. It’s unique in the sense that Nerd Corps Entertainment has its own artistic style and texture applied to the show, and makes great effort to keep things consistent throughout each episode – which is quite typical of most North American shows from different studios. Another is that the objects gave off a comfy sort of style to them; everything is smoothened out and gives a childlike feel to the show; no matter if it’s a building, a piece of clothing, or a special attack. One Punch Man, which was directed by Madhouse and later, J.C. Staff, excels at displaying character features, color contrasting, texturing, and making the visuals lifelike; they give the show a mature feel to it.
Another thing to look at when it comes to animation is the detail of their settings: that of Saitama’s town, which are prefaced by letter names, such as his block, Z-City, which resembles your typical big Japanese city like Tokyo, with its numerous high-rise buildings and packed city streets; and L.O.S.E’s Canadian town of Metrotown, divided into his suburban area and the ensuing downtown, complete with a theatre, museum, and shopping district. In this case, I found the Metrotown area more intriguing as it feels not only more like home, but is both distinguishable and more diverse compared to Saitama’s, which apart from the towering Hero Association building, can easily be mistaken for a visual from Hunter X Hunter or Boku No Hero Academia unless context is given.
Despite that, I have to go with One Punch Man for the better animation, not only for obvious reasons, but because they did such an excellent job at visualizing the fights, super abilities, and making them more exciting to admire, whereas League Of Super Evil feels, well, sort of amateur. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not insulting the folks behind it, but putting them side-by-side you can tell there’s a visible, yet huge difference in quality.
ONE PUNCH MAN 2, LEAGUE OF SUPER EVIL 0
CATEGORY #3: BEST “FAVORITE EPISODE”
In One Punch Man, my favorite episode is the third one, where Saitama and his buddy Genos infiltrate the lab where Dr. Genus, a disgraced scientist specializing in creating mutant animals, is hiding out in. He engages in a furious battle with Carnage Kabuto, Dr. Genus’ ultimate killing machine, and although the first half draws a neck-and-neck scuffle, things begin to descend into insanity after the former backs off due to Saitama’s perceived strong abilities. The episode then goes to describe Saitama’s training regimen, the disbelief from everyone when they find out how simple it is, and ends with Kabuto’s defeat at the hands of Saitama – followed by the scientist giving up on life and undergoing an existential crisis.
For League Of Super Evil my favorite episode from the first season is titled “League Of Super Hockey”. Voltar, irritated by a group of kids playing street hockey and thus, interrupting his obstacle course extravaganza, challenges them to a game for control of the block. After his team gets obliterated badly, he seeks revenge, and enlists four other villains in the area to help him in his quest. Despite hiring his minion Red Menace to act as referee, instead of bribing him to help him win, he does the opposite – and having taken him out of commission, the game attracts the attention of the local superheroes, who then turn the game into a sudden-death, winner-takes-all environment. Voltar scores the game-winning goal by accident, but his obstacle course dream doesn’t last longer than 5 miles per hour.
I’ve said it plenty of times before, that I’m an anime guy – but deep within I’m a hockey guy first and foremost, so that’s why for this section “League Of Super Hockey” will be my favorite of the favorites. Although it doesn’t have the same kind of intense hero .vs. villain action that is found in Saitama and Genos’ bout with Carnage Kabuto, I found it cozy to see a good old hockey game between folks who typically should be out doing more heroic things than this.
LEAGUE OF SUPER EVIL 1, ONE PUNCH MAN 2
CATEGORY #4: BEST “SUPER” TEAM
In this section we’re going to look at which group will prevail as the best “super” team; namely, Saitama/Genos and L.O.S.E, and who’s the group that I’d probably enjoy company with most. With L.O.S.E, even though their living quarters are dinghy, unsanitary, and unpleasant compared to the surroundings, they seem to be living rather comfortably with plenty of technology at their disposal, a carefree lifestyle, and plenty of opportunities to embark on inter-city trips. They’re pretty much akin to your crazy group of friends living together, and with L.O.S.E every day’s an adventure of sizeable proportions, and the type of work you’ll be doing will be less likely to involve death-defying incidents… if you can tolerate their living quarters.
In the case of Saitama/Genos, it seems that the only benefit that you’ll be getting is having a powerful bodyguard, a loyal protector, and a clean studio apartment complex. You won’t ever have to worry about doing your groceries or weaseling your way out of tough spots as long as if you’ve got these guys around. The only problem is that Saitama and Genos’ personalities are incredibly boring; I’m sorry, but I have to put it out there as a fact. Except with brief spurts of anger and determination, Saitama is incredibly lifeless, and shows complete disinterest in anything around him, while Genos will require a lot of maintenance after battles. However, what they make up for in that regard is their personalities. Let’s face it – Voltar is insufferable, Red Menace is a dork, Dr. Frogg has no limits to risks, and Doomaggeddon’s temper is unpredictable. Saitama and Genos are calm, reliable, well-mannered, and give out good advice for all your needs.
It’s often said that we should pick our decisions based on reason rather than emotion. Truth be told, I would love to have friends that are diverse and energetic like L.O.S.E is. But the fact of the matter is, I think anyone would pick Saitama and Genos any day, and it would be foolish to pass them over as the better “super” squad.
ONE PUNCH MAN 3, LEAGUE OF SUPER EVIL 1
CATEGORY #5: BEST COMEDY
With both shows relying on comedy as a significant factor in the storyline, it’s important to rank this and see how well this component was executed. One way is to analyze what style of comedy both shows go for. In a way, both of them rely on a mix of irony and slapstick to drive the comedy. In League Of Super Evil, Voltar’s grandiose tendencies to over-exaggerate his “take over the world” schemes play into this, and as a result each episode typically consist of nothing more than overcomplicating simple household tasks or taking care of miniscule issues that regular folks face on an everyday basis. He’ll get Dr. Frogg to deliver an invention, Red Menace to act tough, Doomaggeddon to unleash his fury, and only cringe in frustration as these plans backfire at him in the most absurd of ways possible. In other words, Voltar plays the villain just for fun. The show exemplifies this through several scenarios, such as:
- Becoming security guards to rob the bank, cash in their earnings, all to get a free toaster, in “The Bank Job”
- Turning an ordinary movie theater visit into the equivalent of an Indiana Jones-style adventure to ruin the movie for everyone via spoilers, in “At The Movies”
- Putting Doomaggeddon in a measly pet show contest, facing off against a rabbit who ends up being an eldritch abomination that puts him to shame, in “Evilest In Show”
When it comes to Saitama’s exploits, the main meat of the comedy lies in the fact that Saitama is just too strong, no villain one wants to go up against him. This is immediately evident in the first episode when an entire group of aliens surrender on first sight after he obliterates their leader with his powers, and when he takes down his hero instructor for belittling him. Whenever they choose to, they’re not spared from defeat at his hands, with absurd selfish reasons thrown into the mix. We read in the Bible that King David chucked Goliath with a slingshot to save his nation from the invading Phillistines; Saitama, on the other hand:
- obliterates Dr. Genus’ lab, motivated because he missed out on a supermarket sale
- takes down an entire gang of bald Communists to prevent people from associating him with them
- gets irritated when he can’t take down a single mosquito using bug spray, and goes on a semi-destructive rampage
Saitama plays off his responsibilities as a joke and doesn’t glory too much in his current abilities, nor does he want to be feared. In his words, “I’m just a hero for fun” – a complete inversion of the regular superhero, who takes their job seriously and cares about the consequences and not the reward. On the other hand, L.O.S.E is at best is just an ordinary prankster – much to the chagrin of serious villains like Dr. Frogg , and at worst a complete klutz who just wants to play the role of villain for egotistical purposes. Consequently, I find that the comedy works more in One Punch Man because of how flipped the script is compared to what the audience is used to, and thus the effect is better managed there. There’s a reason why the show is so well-renowned across all anime fans to this day, and it’s due fo the laughs it generates.
Points for One Punch Man again, and they will take the winning side for the East this week.
FINAL SCORE: ONE PUNCH MAN 4, LEAGUE OF SUPER EVIL 1
Over the years, there have been many attempts to try and revitalize superheroes towards a more light-hearted direction, as opposed to the more obvious choice. One Punch Man and League Of Super Evil are examples of this, and while the latter does have its bright spots at times, and will always be a good memory to relive watching, there are plenty of ways in which its episodic plot could have been improved. That’s not to say that One Punch Man is perfect – there are certain flaws that could have been better ironed out, such as the slow pace of the story, Puri-Puri Man, and the predictable battles. However, give credit where it’s due, and this show slaps with executing its own spin on the “overpowered hero” trope. Whenever I think of this show I’ll always think about that time when Saitama knocks “rival” Speed-Of-Sound Sonic out cold with a punch to the groin, preceded by the dramatic words “Checkmate”.