What do we do when limits are not an option? When we were young we thought about what it would be like to live forever, run faster than everyone, play an instrument or sing better than the rest, even today we could consider that perspective: being a millionaire, having a lot of money, being successful, flirting every weekend are nothing more than elements of capitalism taken to excess, taken to the point of no return because meritocracy would tell us that, if we had that, the world would be ours, because you earn what you’re worth…
That rant on capitalism aside, this way of thinking is normal (not necessarily healthy), at least in our system, and allows us to order the world and rank what we want and think about who we are. And then characters like Saitama from One Punch Man appear. A character who has broken the limits of strength and abilities through ridiculously basic training, at least for his world, so basic that other heroes think he just doesn’t want to tell them his secret. But the fact is that he is a character that is broken in terms of physical abilities, in terms of strength he does not find an opponent that lasts two hits in serious mode, at least not for much of the first season, and even so, no crisis feels like one in front of the protagonist.
My question when I started watching this series was “if you can beat everyone, where is the interesting part of the story?, why it was made and, most importantly, Why is it so famous?” I thought about the question several times until I found my answer, being so obvious and clear from the beginning.
Saitama’s fight is his inner, subjective fight to recover his humanity: his emotions, positive and negative. Being a character who broke all his limits, then there is nothing that ties him to what is human and from the beginning it is a struggle to recover those spiritual, qualitative elements that allow him to continue having a life. Sure, he leads a quiet life, but he is neither happy nor unhappy.
In the first chapter we see that Saitama is a solitary character, who prefers to go unnoticed because he can’t find anything that makes him relate to others (unlike his memories about the crab man, although he was alone, he helps a child, and even if it is for selfish reasons, he continues to have that human contact). So he saves Genos “because he is a superhero for entertainment” and then he begins to create new bonds, in a subtextual fight to recover and maintain that humanity, with its pros and cons, because in the end, all he is looking for is to recover those sensations of fragility that allow him to feel again.