Warning! Spoilers Below!
The latest volume of One Punch Man has got a lot going on. To start, we’re introduced to a new villain who’s intent on becoming a monster. Going by the name “Garo”, his backstory (such as it is) is that he didn’t understand why villains were always foiled by heroes.
As a means of addressing this sad state of affairs, Garo has taken it upon himself to defeat any and all heroes he comes across. He believes that the more heroes he defeats, the closer he gets to becoming an unbeatable monster…if he’s not a monster already. After announcing his intentions at a gathering of heroes, they all turn against him – including a number of A-ranked heroes. Garo, however, defeats them all with apparent ease and makes a promise to return to challenge the mighty S-class hero, King.
I’ll speak more on Garo near the end of the review, but I will say that while the backstory is a bit lackluster, his introduction certainly strikes a certain level of fear and concern into the reader. Garo’s combat prowess is formidable and definitely poses a serious concern for the hero association.
While Garo is wreaking havoc, Speed o’ sound Sonic is on the hunt for Saitama in an attempt to reclaim his honor after being defeated twice by the bald crusader. Genos senses his approach and goes to meet him instead.
This begins a wild battle between the two that makes its way out into the streets. I have to say that the fights in this volume were wildly entertaining and stunningly well-drawn. A few examples from this specific encounter:
Being a huge fan of the anime, I found it hard to imagine the same level of intensity or speed could be conveyed so effectively in the still-art medium. Certainly there have been some awesome fights in the manga up to this point, but for some reason the battles in volume 9 seem to leap off the page. The quality is top-notch as the movement and tension of the battles makes for a thrilling page turner.
Genos and Sonic battle it out in a blaze of after-images and near-misses. While Genos seems to have the upper hand for most of the fight, Speed o’ Sound Sonic eventually turns it around and nearly puts Genos down for the count.
kWhile Genos and Sonic are busy sparring, Saitama has a run in with a notable hero. Since he continues to make his way up the ranks of B-class heroes at an alarming rate, his notoriety earns him the attention of the #1 ranked B-class hero, Hellish Blizzard. The younger sister of the telekinetic S-class hero, Tornado, Hellish Blizzard languishes in the shadow of her sister, and as a means of trying to make a reputation for herself, she utilizes her strength to keep the B-rank heroes in check.
Hellish Blizzard attempts to negotiate with Saitama to get him to ally himself with her, but unsurprisingly Saitama wants nothing to do with her or her little mafia games. It’s humorous when her goons think that they’ll get the better of him and he quickly disposes of them. When he turns his attention to Hellish Blizzard they have a hilarious bit of banter that throws back to his previous encounter with a telekinetic on board Boros’ ship:
Despite her best attempts, her encounter with Saitama is ultimately foiled by Genos and Sonic’s brawl, which nearly takes her out. She’s stunned when she learns that Genos, an S-class hero, is Saitama’s pupil. Furthermore, she watches with amazement as Saitama unveils a rare “Serious Series” move – sideways steps, to defeat Sonic easily.
Hellish Blizzard’s character isn’t my favorite so far – her motivations are shallow and much of her interactions revolve around her being shocked that Saitama is buddy-buddy with S-class heroes. Saitama’s speech about not dissing heroes and how her bullying cheapens what it means to be a hero is also an interesting, if brief, glimpse into his ideals.
Back at the hero association HQ, the brass are busy assigning names to their newest heroes, bringing Saitama’s previous prediction regarding his hero name to inevitable and hilarious fruition:
While dishing out superficial hero names, the official who was present at Garo’s earlier massacre implores the team to take the threat seriously. Of course, as high-level decision making bodies are apt to do, they ignore these pleas just as more information comes to light that makes Garo even more threatening. S-class hero and martial arts master Silverfang divulges that Garo is the student who went rogue from his studio, and even he isn’t sure just how strong he’s become.
The final chapter of the volume gives us a brief taste of just what Garo is capable of. After encountering a group of heroes that he had previously beaten to a pulp, he’s challenged by none other than S-class hero Tank-Top master!
While his appearance and performance in the previous Boros arc was short lived, readers are familiar with just how powerful Tank-Top master is; so when Garo turns the tables on him and defeats him, it’s all the more intimidating.
In the end, Garo has the last word as he leaves readers wondering which heroes he’ll be targeting next!
Overall, volume 9 of One Punch Man has a few opportunities when it comes to the quality of its characters and their development, but makes up for it and then some with amazing fight scenes. In the end, isn’t that what we all signed up for?
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