MHA’s All Might and One-Punch Man’s Saitama are OP in a good way
The super-powered hero is an archetype that has been seen in fiction many times before, whether in anime, live-action film, or any other form of visual media. Two examples of this character type would be my hero academiais All Might and One-punch manit’s Saitama. Normally, this archetype can result in very unbalanced events and boring storylines, but that’s not the case with these two characters. The question is: why?
All Might is basically my hero academiaplays on Superman. He is confident, heroic, supportive and inspired. He’s even drawn differently from other anime characters when he’s in his muscular, shaded form like an American comic book character would be. More importantly, however, like Superman, he is overpowered. Whenever he is on screen and fighting, he always defeats the bad guys and manages to protect the students from the UA.
The main reason his superpowered nature doesn’t negatively impact the narrative is because of what he represents. All Might is Midoriya’s mentor – the one who transmits his power and trains him to use it. At the start of the anime, All Might is still able to use his muscle form, and viewers get a glimpse of what a wielder of the powerful One for All is capable of. It gives the audience a glimpse of the power Midoriya will one day become, and it also gives the protagonist something to aspire to.
This makes it all the more tragic when All Might ends up losing his power. The power gap between him and literally every other character in the anime was so vast that when viewers finally see him lose his power, it does two things. First, it makes his retirement emotionally impactful, as audiences have been allowed to know and love him as a character. Second, and most importantly, it sets a dangerous precedent in anime that the world is significantly more dangerous without the most powerful person in existence. Without All Might being subdued in the first place, that feeling couldn’t have been achieved so effectively. By building it, its fall is more impactful.
Then there’s Saitama, a completely different character with a completely different narrative focus. One-punch man is a media satire of superheroes. Everything about his world is exaggerated and ridiculous. As a character, he is driven by a desire to save people and have a good time doing it. His main focus is the fun of being a superhero. This goal, however, is repeatedly thwarted by his immense power. Because he is able to defeat anyone with a single punch, all of his fights lack tension and stakes.
In any other anime, Saitama wouldn’t function as a character. Nothing he was involved in would elicit engagement from viewers because whether he would be okay would never be in doubt. What makes Saitama work in the context of his own anime is that the lack of a worthy challenge is itself the challenge. The anime becomes less of a superhero action-adventure and more of a satirical exploration of nihilism driven by seemingly cosmic levels of disinterest. It’s an incredibly unique idea and takes on the superpowered character archetype.
A brief look at these absolute titans of raw anime power says a lot about how they’ve used a problematic trope to their advantage. Whether as a doomed mentor or a jaded hero, every take on the superpowered character displayed in All Might and Saitama is truly worth remembering and enjoying.