One Punch Man Season 3: Is It Ever Going To Happen?

Once upon a time, there was an artist named ONE who made a silly webcomic about a powerful hero who could defeat any foe with just one punch. That comic was redrawn by talented artist Yusuke Murata as something more like an epic widescreen flipbook than something you'd read in a magazine. Published by Japanese comics colossus Shounen Jump, it was picked up for adaptation by the famous studio Madhouse. Add killer theme music by infamous anime song supergroup JAM Project, and you have the first season of the "One Punch Man" anime, a runaway success that impressed both anime fans and folks new to the medium.

Since its release in 2015, the "One Punch Man" comic has reached 24 volumes. We've even seen season 2 of the anime courtesy of another studio, JC Staff. With 2022 ringing in the heights of anime's global popularity, could season 3 of "One Punch Man" be in the cards?

You're Asking the Wrong Question

We live in an era of systemic anime overproduction. At this moment, anime studios are buried in so much work that producers are turning to studios with no anime production experience out of desperation. If anime can be made, it will be made, so there's no reason to think season 3 of "One Punch Man" is impossible. The question you should be asking is: would Season 3 of One Punch Man be good?

The greatness of "One Punch Man" didn't come from Madhouse, though the studio's history speaks for itself. The show's director Shingo Natsume made his name on the outrageous animation extravaganza "Space Dandy," produced alongside "Cowboy Bebop" director Shinichiro Watanabe. To do Murata's hyper-detailed art justice, Natsume recruited an incredible team of freelancers: Bahi JD, Yoshimichi Kameda and Gosei Oda among many others. Each episode gave another excuse for them to show off, leading to a spectacular relay race in which each rising star of the industry fought to outdo their peers. The result was a smash hit that literally punched above its weight. The chief animation director had to take to Twitter to stress that the show's budget was no higher than its competition, despite its astounding fight scenes.

It's Called One Punch Man for a Reason

If we see a season 3 of "One Punch Man" any time soon, it is unlikely that Shingo Natsume will be directing it. He's already directing "Yojohan Time Machine Blues," a sequel to the excellent 2010 anime "The Tatami Galaxy." To make "One Punch Man" without Natsume means forsaking his rolodex of freelancers as well. This didn't stop the folks who owned the rights to "One Punch Man" from trying! 

A second season of the series was produced in 2019, this time at JC Staff rather than Madhouse. Despite the team's best efforts, plus strong work from new talent like the Chinese animator LAN, there was simply no way season 2 could live up to the lightning-in-a-bottle sensation of that first season. But Natsume's absence isn't even the greatest challenge facing a hypothetical season 3 of "One Punch Man." 

The anime industry is currently trapped in a double bind. Despite facing higher demand from overseas than ever before, animators themselves are overworked and underpaid. Studios that try to meet this demand by producing as many series as possible inevitably create rushed and mediocre work. Even season 1's backgrounds, character animation, and art direction notably suffer compared to the fights, speaking to the concessions made by the team to ensure the show was ready to air each week. For a new season of "One Punch Man" to replicate season 1's success would mean pulling off the same feat in even tougher conditions.

Three, Two, One, Kill Shot

These might sound like harsh words for "One Punch Man" fans, but if you're willing to be creative, you folks have plenty of options. For instance, if you have yet to see "Mob Psycho 100" — an adaptation of another ONE comic that is not only better balanced from an animation perspective but might even beat out "One Punch Man" in the action department — do it right now. 

But what about our friend Shingo Natsume? As it happens, last year saw the release of Natsume's magnum opus, a little show called "Sonny Boy." It's completely different from both "One Punch Man" and "Space Dandy," an avant-garde tale of adolescence that spans time and space and features weird music acts like Mid-Air Thief. If you watched "One Punch Man" hoping each week to be surprised by something you'd never seen before, "Sonny Boy" has that unique magic in spades.

It's totally understandable to feel attached to characters you already know. But if what you loved about "One Punch Man" wasn't just the adventures of Saitama and Genos, but the scale, the outrageous action, and maybe that scene where Mumen Rider goes up against impossible odds because he knows that's what heroes are supposed to do — I promise you that there is great work seeded across anime's past and present with that same punch and then some. Instead of waiting around for lightning to go back into the bottle, I'm looking for a new bottle. You should too.