Joined: Dec 2018
In a nutshell: The writer created Saitama and Saitama created One Punch Man.
I’m going off the english translation of the Japanese so some things could be different, but Saitama tells the crab monster that he’d always dreamed of being a superhero so powerful he could send anyone flying, and that if he just stood there and watched a crab monster kill a kid right in front of him he’d have nightmares.
What if that’s what happened, and a traumatised Saitama withdrew into his own mind and created the fiction of One Punch Man to cope? We learn later that the Hero association was founded by the father of the kid Saitama saved, but he’d be just as likely to have created it if his son was killed by a monster, if not more so. And remember that we're seeing Crablante from Saitama's telling, and Saitama says he reminds him of a cartoon character, which explains why Crablante looks more cartoony than other monsters. Saitama may only remember the cartoon version because he's afraid to remember the real one.
That’s why Saitama can never lose or really get hurt, and why he feels so empty, because he knows that it’s all a fantasy with no true threat. That can be explained by just plain boredom too, but the boredom itself would be symptomatic of the deeper truth, rather than not being able to find a real challenge.
You could say he refuses to let himself be acknowledged by the masses as a great hero in his fantasy, because he knows he’s not truly worthy. Even signing up with the association could be a way for him to try and justify allowing people to love him, because it’s all so structured and logical and if he makes it to the top he won’t be able to deny his worthiness to himself. Except he probably will (or would that start unravelling the fantasy?).
There could be a lot of hints to this too, too many to list here, but which obviously could just be coincidental. Then there’s the fact that he really ought to have enjoyed his fight with Boros way more than he did. He can’t have ever been knee’d to the moon before (I think he tosses that rock a few times to get a sense of gravity and how hard he should push off, suggesting it’s new to him). But he can’t even really enjoy that because he knows Boros is nothing to him, just as anything more powerful than Boros will still be just as inconsequential.
And yes if you put aside the humour, it could explain why Saitama couldn’t kill a mosquito too. It was never there, it just represents the irritating reality scratching at his mind. Maybe it even inspired the idea of Mosquito Girl, something he COULD hit. Also I think it would mean Genos represents Saitama’s views on many anime characters – they look cool and have flashy, highly destructive abilities, but ultimately contribute little and achieve less. Even the context of parody of the show becomes a matter of how Saitama perceives much of manga and anime, because he's clearly a fan (lots of akira-homage shots and many others which I'm probably not aware of).
At first it felt like the idea invalidated the character of One Punch Man, making him somehow less real. But after giving it some thought I realised how stupid that was. After all, ALL superheroes are fictional creations, so what difference does it make if OPM is the direct creation of the writer, or the creation of a creation of the writer? It’s still a fictional universe, as are all universes in all fictional stories.
Now I think it has the opposite effect, grounding the character in an underlying tragedy and actually making him feel more real than your usual superhero. I kind of hope we never know, though I think some characters will turn up and claim credit for his true power, like a demon granted him his childhood wish, but one punch later that turns out to be a lie.
Or, just maybe, it’s a Buddhist thing. Or both. There’s definitely something Buddhist there. Finding and redeeming the self? Truly awakening and achieving change (people are strong because people can change?)? These are the greatest challenges, therefore OPM is the most powerful hero, tackling the most difficult foe – himself.
Or maybe I’m just flat wrong, but I’m loving OPM so much and there’s definitely a substance to it that belies it’s appearance...
Also, I’m bald and I stand with you Saitama!