So, I’m about to open up pandora’s box with this discussion. I strongly believe that Saitama from One Punch Man can’t be categorized as a mere gag character, not with the level of complexity he has shown in the anime thus far.
So why do I believe that Saitama’s not a gag character? Well, it all boils down to what we consider a gag character to be. From my understanding and the unanimously agreed definition, a gag character is usually a character that is rarely used, and shows no personality except for the joke in comic strips and TV shows. These types of characters don’t progress, have no true goals or ambition, mostly likely won’t get any character development and are never really dealing with anything that will inspire the reader/watcher to begin thinking about the actions of these characters.
Now when you take my statement above and try to fit it in with Saitama’s character, you’ll soon begin to see that, Saitama in fact doesn’t match the description. The only reason why everyone is so adamant to classify Saitama as a gag character is simply because his powers is stupidly OP and how he got it makes no sense to us, yet! His explanation in the anime for how he got his powers was so bizarre that we just automatically chucked it out to it been a gag. I know that many also don’t won’t Saitama to be a gag, so they can put him on death battles and power scale him, but that’s not my focus here.
Which is fair, since we as humans like when things makes some sense and/or compare two things. We like correlation and since we all see Saitama as a human being, doing 100 Push-Ups, 100 Sit-Ups, 100 Squats & 10KM Running (that’s 6.2 miles) on repeat for 7 days a week to get that strong was absurd. Yet, we never questioned anything else in One Punch Man. We seem to “accept” a Lobsterman like who’s love for Lobster turned him into one pretty fine for the most part. In a world where everyone’s obsession seems to be the core reason for their powers, is it really too far of a reach to say that Saitama obsession to wanting to be strong, somehow turned him into a living super human?
Anyways, despite Saitama’s goofy demeanor, there’s a level of sophistication with the character. We all know that he wants to feel the thrill of a good fight once again, but what isn’t talked about as often is his crippling depression which we find comical at times. Saitama is basically dead on the inside, and despite his emotional outburst in certain situation, is still deeply depressed. Shit, you can correlate this to the real world. You never know who’s really depressed out here until you hear on the news that the once happy go lucky neighbor you had tried to kill himself due to depression. It’s a hidden mental sickness that won’t show itself until it’s too late.
Season 2 of One Punch Man really put this into perspective. Everyone time Saitama gives his out of character speeches, we get a glimpse inside his mind and how he feels. A gag character normally doesn’t do that. As the season progressed, we see more of how being the strongest is actually taking a toll on his life.
Saitama suffers from depression because his battles lack any sort of excitement and so we see him try to solve it. He has a motive which most, if any, gag characters tend to have. We can’t help but share the same desire to see Saitama fight somehow on equal footing. It’s a journey that will meet its end at some point. If ONE and Murata intended to write a “gag” character, they either failed in their endeavor or they never intended One Punch Man to be a gag anime in the first place. So yeah, that’s my take on it.
If you don’t agree or have your own take on Saitama’s character, let me know in the comments below.