While it has only had two seasons up to this point in time, One Punch Man has become one of the most popular anime series of the 2010s due to the fact that it features a character that plenty of fans love. Saitama is the titular One Punch Man hero because he is strong enough that he could defeat any character with a single punch. The way the series portrays him is the best part because only a few characters know just how powerful he is. However, is Saitama a gag character?
Saitama could be a gag character because, even though he is the main character, the real reason why he is in the One Punch Man storyline is to provide comic relief. The manga artist called One also aimed to be a gag manga artist since his childhood days. As such, he created Saitama as a reflection of his dream.
Of course, there is a dictionary definition of a gag character that people often use to explain whether or not a character was always a gag character. That said, while some fans don’t believe that Saitama fits into that definition, his very existence in the manga and anime itself is proof of him being a gag character. As such, let’s get into this discussion in greater detail.
Is Saitama A Gag Character?
Throughout the history of manga and anime, there have always been beloved characters that fans learned to love due to the fact that they were able to bring their own brand of comedy, enjoyment, entertainment, and action. Some of these characters include the likes of Goku, Naruto, and Luffy. Of course, there are also some characters that may be similar to those popular shonen characters but aren’t exactly quite as serious in terms of their design.
One such character that fans have learned to love is Saitama, who is the main character of the One Punch Man manga and anime. There are a lot of reasons why fans love Saitama, but the fact of the matter is that he is simply a character that is so strong that it only takes him one punch to defeat any opponent. And the funniest part is that there was never an explanation why he is so strong as he was always just a simple human being that trained hard enough to become that strong.
Nevertheless, while Saitama’s strength made it seem impossible to make One Punch Man entertaining, it still is one of the most entertaining manga and anime storylines of the 2010s due to the fact that One, the author of the series, was able to find creative ways to make the storyline compelling while introducing plenty of character development on the part of the other characters in One Punch Man.
In fact, the things that make One Punch Man so compelling aren’t limited to Saitama basically punching his way through wins every single time. Instead, a lot of fans stay tuned to One Punch Man’s storyline because of the other characters like Genos and Garou, who are more like the classic shonen protagonists and antagonists in the sense that they worked their way up to become strong and are constantly faced with tough obstacles that they need to overcome to become more powerful.
On the other hand, Saitama hardly ever went through character development because he just simply punched his way through his wins and is now stuck in a position where he has to find a way to entertain himself because nobody has ever come close to challenging his might after he trained for one year. In fact, in most of the scenes that involved Saitama, he was almost always meant to make people laugh, except for the parts where he fought some of the strongest opponents available in the storyline. So, does that make Saitama a gag character?
First things first, it is important for us to define what a gag character is. Conventional definitions would define a gag character as someone who was only made for one single purpose for a movie, show, cartoon, or anime. And that purpose is for comic relief.
As such, a gag character doesn’t contribute a lot to the overall storyline except for providing comic relief to it. In most cases, gag characters are only used once or rarely because they were never part of the overall storyline at all. One good example of a gag character in anime is Monaka, who was introduced in Dragon Ball Super as “the strongest fighter in Universe 7” so that Beerus and Whis could motivate Goku and Vegeta to work harder. But, in reality, he was actually incredibly weak.
Going back to Saitama, we do know for a fact that he is the titular character of One Punch Man and is the main protagonist of the series. That rules him out as a side character that was only made for laughs. Still, there are a lot of reasons that make him a gag character, and we go back to the statements of One, who was interviewed long before One Punch Man became an anime.
When asked why he wanted to become a manga artist, One answered:
“I had decided I wanted to be a gag manga artist from the time I was in grade school. I was a fan of Crayon Shin-chan, and at the time, I wanted to draw that sort of manga. For me, it wasn’t a case of simply trying to be a manga artist and testing the waters to see if it was worth a shot. Rather, my thought process was to decide right off the bat that I was going to be one, so the rest was just a matter of effort. I guess that’s how I decided my whole future while still just a kid.”
Of course, the fact that the manga artist himself admitted that he was a gag manga artist suggests that he truly created Saitama to become a gag character. But there are other reasons why Saitama is a gag character, even though One never admitted that he was one.
What Makes Saitama A Gag Character?
So, aside from the fact that One himself is a gag manga artist, there are also other things that will lead to the conclusion that Saitama, despite being the main character, is still a gag character in One Punch Man.
The first is that One Punch Man is actually a rather serious anime if we took Saitama out of the picture. A lot of the events in the storyline are quite serious because the villains and the heroes who are up against them have specific goals. For example, Garou wants to be the strongest, and that’s why he constantly tries to beat up other heroes that are quite strong. Genos, meanwhile, also wants to become a true hero, and that’s why he wants to learn from Saitama.
If we take Saitama away from the storyline, One Punch Man has the makings of a true shonen anime that has a lot of action. We see heroic characters that have their own powers and abilities taking on villains that are more than strong enough to force them to break their own limits. And we also see a lot of characters developing as the storyline of One Punch Man proceeds.
However, the addition of Saitama adds the gag factor to the overall storyline of One Punch Man. While Saitama was never a funny character that wanted to crack jokes and make people laugh, his existence itself is the gag because it breaks all of the rules of what a shonen anime should be. Instead of having the main character working his tail off from scratch so that he could become gradually stronger, Saitama’s ascent to the top was rather quick and easy to the point that he hardly has any character development at all.
In that regard, Saitama’s existence is a gag to the other powerful shonen characters like Goku and Naruto, who might have become so strong in their respective manga and anime storylines but had to become strong gradually.
There’s also the fact that One himself admitted that Saitama was always meant to be invincible. When asked whether or not he had trouble creating a storyline out of Saitama being unbeatable, he had this to say:
“To be honest, I never actually thought this was hard… It was when someone else pointed this out to me when I realized for the first time, “Is this setting too hard for me to continue with?” But in the end, even to this day, I hadn’t thought that writing the plot was hard. Thinking of a plot that involved a lot of thinking and cleverness for the main character to get over any obstacle requires a lot of experience and knowledge, so I think it’s a bit too hard for me. In Saitama’s case, all I have to do is have him show up to punch the problem away so I don’t have to think too much about it.”
The fact that One made it clear that he just had to find a way to make Saitama punch his way to a win means that this character was never meant to be serious. As such, he is one of the rare instances wherein the main character of a serious storyline is actually the gag character that adds comic relief to the overall product.