The ‘bad’ art of One-Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100 is actually a genius
One-Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100 creator ONE is famous for his crisp handwriting and raw illustrations, but that raw art is part of the charm.
Nowhere is the subjectivity of art clearer than with successful anime and manga series Man with a fist and Mob Psycho 100. Coming from the same creator, ONE, most fans will recognize both from their big budget anime adaptations. Despite the production values of their respective anime, the two series began their life as webcomics. While some may consider webcomics to be rough prototypes due to their streamlined art style, ONE’s artwork is perfectly suited to the themes of both series.
Although Man with a fist and Mob Psycho 100 are very different in many ways, there are more than a few things in common. Both are about ultra-powerful people who are fundamentally invincible. Despite this, none of the protagonists are truly fulfilled in life. One-Punch Man’s Saitama comes to feel his unbeatable status, finding superhero battles boring, because all he’s looking for is someone who can truly challenge him. On the flip side, Mob’s immense psychic powers caused him to shut himself off from those around him, leaving Mob isolated from his peers. The clear dividing line between the two is that being the best at something doesn’t make a person inherently special or happy. Ultimately, both characters thrive, not in their skills, but in the bonds they make.
Contrary to the obvious power possessed by its protagonists, ONE’s skills as an artist at first seem limited. Its simplistic and often crude art looks more like a college sketchbook than a professional comic book. The initial appearances are misleading, however, as this simplified art style fits in perfectly with the themes of Man with a fist and Mob Psycho 100. Instead of focusing on technically intensive designs, ONE’s focus is squarely on building a bond between the reader and their characters. Moreover, in the context, ONE is able to use his work to good effect. There is a certain dose of comedy that comes from its characters and their empty expressions. Simple art can also provide fantastic contrast when ONE is trying harder.
None of this implies that the artistic style used by the two anime adaptations and the manga reissue of A man are bad. The current artist of the A punch Man manga, Yusuke Murata, did a fantastic job translating ONE’s original art into something more professional. It is telling, however, that all of these attempts to rework ONE’s artwork still incorporate his streamlined character designs for tremendous comedic effect. One of the most iconic images of Man with a fist will always be Saitama’s flat, expressionless face.
More than just a hilarious, thematic statement, ONE’s art challenges traditional notions of what good and bad art looks like. The two ONE series were both popular even in the days of web comics, which shows how well the artwork works. Ultimately, art is inherently subjective, and although some may consider Man with a fist and Mob Psycho 100 also bad, can they really be considered bad art when so many people have connected with them? Many might prefer the up-to-date art styles found in various adaptations, but these two masterpieces have spoken to people for a reason.
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