Even if you’re not a regular anime-watcher, you have probably at least heard of the classic superhero anime, One Punch Man. This Japanese franchise is an absolutely delightful superhero story that was originally created by the artist ONE in manga (comic book) format.
Published in the Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, it immediately became extremely popular with the teenage demographic and was soon greenlit for an anime adaptation produced by the legendary anime studio Madhouse. Season 1 of the anime aired in the Fall of 2015, and season 2 aired in the Spring of 2019 from the studio J.C. Staff.
The OVA titled “Saitama One Punch Man: Road to Hero” is one of our favorites, and we’ve compiled a detailed guide of the episode’s contents, as well as why you should watch it.
One Punch Man in a Nutshell
You’ll have a hard time time finding an anime with as much positive reception as One Punch Man. It’s up there with iconic titles like Death Note and Attack on Titan. This anime caused a boom in the Superhero Archetype and brought it back to life by making it more comedic.
One Punch Man focuses on a hero with overwhelming strength, Saitama, who fights powerful monsters and villains that wreak havoc on the earth. The selling point of the series is that Saitama is a hero so strong that he can destroy any and all of his enemies with just One Punch, which is what the title refers to.
This causes a lot of hilarious incidents and fun adventures (and misadventures) that our main hero, accompanied by a side hero named Genos, goes through as he meets more villains and finds more friends.
The Original Video Animation (OVA) episode, Saitama One Punch Man: Road to Hero OVA, is a side episode available on DVD that looks at the background of Saitama before the main story starts. It’s an extremely fun watch for when you’re feeling down and want a nice kick of comedy with a touch of wholesomeness.
We also like that this side episode digs deep into what makes Saitama such a great character. It definitely makes you appreciate and love the story of One Punch Man even more!
Keep reading along to find out why we recommend this as one of the best context-based background story episodes of anime to date.
Why Do We Love the Original One Punch Man?
Many of us know and love One Punch Man for many, many reasons. Some like it because of its gorgeously done animation courtesy of the classic anime studio Madhouse, which has been gigantic in the industry for consistently making visually-stunning anime like Death Note.
Others love One Punch Man because of its exciting action sequences and incredibly fast-paced battles. There are also the emblematic, hyped-up finishing moves that the characters perform that will leave you with your jaw on the floor. One such move is the all-important finishing move that our main character Saitama utilizes, and that’s the titular One Punch he uses to destroy all his enemies in one fell swoop.
Along with that, there are intense and unique character designs for the heroes and villains that keep you invested in the story. The series is also especially great at being hilarious and in-your-face when it comes to the constant jokes that both satirize as well as elevate the Shounen genre, which consists of manga and anime that are aimed at a young male audience.
Many boys have grown up watching a particular brand of conventional and traditional Shounen anime — be it Dragon Ball Z, Hunter x Hunter, or Naruto. But what One Punch Man does with the typical tropes of this genre is to take everything to the extreme, which makes it absolutely hilarious.
Maintaining the perfect balance between serious moments and humorous moments is difficult, but One Punch Man does it brilliantly. Plus, it takes a lot of skill to portray the main character as someone who the audience can identify with, especially if he is said to be the world’s strongest superhero.
After all, most of the hilarity comes from the idea that Saitama is so bored from how strong he has become and how easily he can beat anyone that gets in his way.
The show subverts expectations perfectly by showing Saitama carrying out mundane tasks like grocery shopping and doing his laundry, and it’s moments like these that make every episode a fun watch.
Why One Punch Man: Road to Hero Is the Perfect Origin Story
The things that make One Punch Man: Road to Hero OVA a memorable watch are not exactly the same things that make the original anime special. The OVA gives much-needed context and background to the characters that we have all grown to know and love after watching the first season, especially our bald-headed hero Saitama.
The OVA episode highlights a particularly touching part of Saitama’s past, when he was working as a novice, or C-Class, hero and living a somewhat aimless life with a cheap apartment.
Saitama has always justified his actions of fighting villains and protecting his home, Z-City, by saying he is just a “hero for fun,” but it soon becomes clear that that is just a farce he is putting on. He actually cares quite deeply for the people around him.
The episode follows some day-to-day activities in Saitama’s life in a series of small events that lead to a climax with an intimidating lizard villain. Saitama, who is just being a hero and acting the part “for fun and enjoyment,” cannot pay 3 months of rent to his landlady, who threatens to kick him out if he doesn’t come up with the money immediately.
Motivated by money and the prospect of getting rewards for beating up and handing over bad guys to the police, Saitama sets out on an adventure to find some criminals and hopefully pay his rent along the way.
However, it is obvious that Saitama, stubborn and nonchalant as he may look, is not simply in it for the money. The best example of this is the sweet tailor and dressmaker who Saitama constantly goes to whenever he suffers damage to his clothing during his fights with his enemies;
A loan company threatens to buy out the shop, and as much as he tries to defend the idea that he simply does not want the tailor’s shop to close down because it would be inconvenient for him, it is obvious that Saitama cares deeply and has compassion for the people that serve him and care for him.
Ultimately, Saitama defeats the loan shark company owner who is threatening to shut down the tailor. It’s difficult, though, because a tricky lizard villain causes damage to Saitama’s clothing and makes it difficult for him to fight back.
However, the fight is enjoyable and features a humorous verbal back-and-forth courtesy of our main hero calling out the main villain for being creepy. To top it all off, the villain’s rebuttal is that he has a huge bounty on his capture, which makes the exchange even more amusing.
Saitama finally beats him once and for all, effectively ending his tyrannical reign as an influential money lender who extorts and exploits people and their businesses. Unfortunately, it all turns out to be for nothing.
When our favorite hero comes back to his apartment to pay his rent by handing over all the criminals that he captured to the police, he finds out that the same criminals were living in his own apartment complex and giving his landlady income.
This comedic anime then takes a very wholesome and sweet turn when the old shop owner and local tailor reveals he had planned to close his shop anyway in order to retire and pursue a relaxed life on his own terms.
In an absolutely heartwarming moment and gesture, he gives our hero his iconic yellow and red superhero outfit with the white cape that we all know and love. It turns out that Saitama has always treasured this gesture, as well as all the little contributions from the people who have made his life and superhero “hobby” worth it.
The episode ends as it is revealed that Saitama has been narrating this origin story to his own protégé, the robotic hybrid Genos (voiced by talented voice actor Kaito Ishikawa), while having lunch together in the present day.
Genos adds a clueless but cute and funny concluding note to the story by offering to make Saitama a new suit, since the old one is now many years old. But Saitama refuses, and the soft spot that our main hero has is evident in the way that he refuses to exchange his precious suit for anything.
How One Punch Man Warms the Heart and Subverts Expectations
This original video animation episode is nothing that new or different, but we can confidently say that it is at least true to the real essence of the series. It has a well-balanced, wholesome storyline and paints a nice picture of our main character’s origin story.
It’s fun to watch Saitama transition from living his life as a normal citizen and being a hero “for fun” to becoming a proper hero who is fighting for the sake of the world. We also get to see the inner depths and complexities of the world the anime portrays.
It’s important to note how much every character that has interacted with Saitama has had an impact on his life. It’s these little contributions that have allowed him to become the S-Class hero (the strongest and most prestigious class of heroes) that we know and love.
We are reminded that even though Saitama goes on worldwide adventures and fights huge villains in the present day, he came from humble beginnings.
Saitama’s Hidden Depths
The best part about One Punch Man: Road to Hero OVA is the way that it perfectly sets up the storyline for the rest of the show. Subversions take place through a lens of parody and hilarity, and One Punch Man will always be there to mess up all the preconceptions that we are used to when it comes to traditional “safe” superhero molds.
Something even more interesting is how there is little-to-no actual fighting shown in this episode, which is a stark contrast to the rest of the series. The episode shows that while Saitama’s strength has always been above-average, he’s made progress in his mental, physical, and emotional training that defines him later on in the show.
In any regular episode, an enemy comes along and, in the next shot, Saitama has already defeated them. This shows that the villains are truly no match for how powerful of a hero our main character has become, and because we are aware of his humble beginnings, we are proud to see his growth.
Final Thoughts and Why We Recommend
All-in-all, the Saitama One Punch Man: Road to Hero OVA is a wonderful viewing experience of an origin story that makes you appreciate the overall narrative complexity of the main anime. It’s funny, celebrates as well as tramples over its genre’s conventions, and simply enjoys telling a superhero tale through the lens of a slice-of-life comedy.
So, if you think you have lost your passion for the classic Shounen anime genre, go ahead and watch this episode. It’s a fun, carefree hero backstory that we highly recommend.