Note: VIZ Media provided us with a complimentary digital copy of One Punch Man volume 15 in exchange for our honest review.
Saitama’s continued search for meaning serves as a great backdrop for this volume. With the growing threat of the Monster Association, as well as entertaining side-plots for Garo and Speed of Sound Sonic, volume 15 helps to set the stage for the next major confrontation with Orochi.
After Saitama finished toppling fearsome threats like the Deep Sea King and Boros, you would think that the world could breathe a bit easier – until the Monster Association shows up.
With its broad ranks and talented members, the Monster Association has effectively wreaked havoc for the better part of the last few volumes – disrupting the martial arts tournament and bringing the concept of “monsterization” into the mainstream.
The volume picks up with Garo briefly recounting his encounter with Watchdog Man. Despite his tremendous martial abilities, he found himself outclassed by Watchdog Man in a serious way. Despite being defeated, he was “stoked” to grow stronger. After watching Garo steamroll numerous heroes over the last handful of chapters, it was refreshing to see Watchdog Man serve him up some humble pie – even in the form of a flashback.
Even better is his encounter with King and Saitama afterwards. He recognizes King as the world’s strongest man and is prepared to jump into battle with him, trying to anticipate every one of his possible counters. Just as he leaps forward to make the attack, Saitama puts a boot to his face and sends him flying through a nearby wall without effort.
The commitment to King’s gag as the “Strongest Man on Earth” being the result of insane luck is impressive, and continuously entertaining. Maybe we’ll discover that was his true power all along…
Saitama and King begin their hang-out session, committed to playing tons of video games and discussing the moral implications of being a hero. Saitama tries to vent to King – unsure what his true motivation is. King, in typical fashion, manages to share a few surprising nuggets of wisdom as the duo battles it out – digitally.
Meanwhile, Speed of Sound Sonic encounters ninjas of a similar ilk – trained in hidden villages and possessing abilities far beyond even his own.
Their secret? Monsterization, of course! Eager to finally defeat Saitama, Speed of Sound Sonic eats a monster cell, hoping it will give him the power he needs. Unfortunately, since he decides to cook it first, he just gets a case of the runs. Womp womp.
We also get to meet a couple more S-Class heroes: Zombieman and Bomb. Zombieman is on the trail of an evil gorilla (because, of course he is), and Bomb is revealed as the elder brother to martial arts master Bang as the two discuss his renegade student – Garo.
Whenever the S-class roster expands, I’m always a bit giddy. While Saitama continues to make encounters boring, it’s the struggles and abilities of the rest of the heroes that really make for some great action sequences. Zombieman feels like a more refined Metal Bat – a little bit of attitude and a lot of power. Bomb may exude stereotypical “Martial Arts Sensei” vibes, but his brief interaction with Bang makes me excited to see what the duo has in store down the road.
In what is probably the turning point of the volume, the Monster Association officially declares war on the Hero Association – possessing one of their delegates and offering a false truce before brutally murdering one of their own.
With the gauntlet thrown down, the Hero Association works frantically to organize their strongest fighters – some of whom decide to write off the endeavor as “disadvantageous”.
The volume concludes with Garo, still recovering from his loss to Watchdog Man and (he assumes) King. He has passed out in a small wooden shack, hidden away in the woods, when he’s discovered by the kid who calls it his own “hideout”. Garo begins offering some words of wisdom, real sage gems such as “Be strong!” and “Don’t be weak!” when a group of A-Class heroes quietly begin to surround the hut.
Garo has certainly earned a fair share of hate over the last few volumes, but it looks like there will be an attempt at some semblance of redemption, as the kid that he’s talking to appears to be in danger of being caught in the crossfire.
Now, you can wait until May for volume 16 to arrive…OR! One Punch Man was recently added to the Shonen Jump lineup via their app – so for $2.99/month you can play catch-up, and read up to the most recent chapter. Your call!