Why does One-Punch Man have three separate manga series, and which ones are considered canon? Like most Japanese animations, One-Punch Man is based on a manga. Focused on the trials and misfortunes of Saitama, a man who's a hero just for a hobby, One-Punch Man is one part parody of Shonen-style storytelling tropes and stereotypes, and one part thrilling and intense battle manga, pitching a perfect balance between action and comedy. As One-Punch Man has progressed, a colorful group of heroes and villains has emerged, expanding the franchise considerably.
First airing in 2015, the One-Punch Man anime adaptation earned the franchise international success seemingly overnight, and went on to become a crossover hit that appealed to hardcore anime fans and complete newcomers in equal measure. Usually when an anime series blows up and finds a mass audience, enthralled viewers can dive into the original manga and discover what happens next in their new favorite anime or, in some cases, enjoy a more streamlined, filler-free version of the story. With One-Punch Man, however, there are several different variations of the manga to dip into, which can be confusing at first glance.
The first One-Punch Man publication was a 2009 web-comic by the writer known as ONE. But while ONE's talent helped him conceptualize the One-Punch Man story and its characters, his artistic skills left a lot to be desired. Undeterred by this drawback, and without the aid of a publisher or an artist, ONE began releasing his manga for free online, complete with a rudimentary art style, and the series soon built up a cult following.
One-Punch Man found a fan in the renowned mangaka, Yusuke Murata, who offered to team up with ONE and redraw the series from scratch to be released online via Japanese publisher Jump. Murata redesigned many of ONE's characters and rendered the web-comic's story in stunning artistic detail. With a more traditional art style and the weight of a publisher behind it, One-Punch Man gathered even more fans but, after a lengthy hiatus, ONE continued his original badly-drawn story, and the two versions run side-by-side to this day, with the web-comic's narrative some way ahead of the Murata-illustrated releases.
Despite two different variations of the One-Punch Man comics already running simultaneously, there is actually a third version of at least some of the manga. After the chapters written by ONE and drawn by Murata are first published online, they are sent to be printed into physical volumes available in shops. Before the chapters are sent to print, however, Murata often redraws and expands upon certain scenes, with the dialogue also changing in some instances. This means that One-Punch Man chapters can have three distinct versions: the original ONE web manga, the redrawn Murata version, and the final chapter printed into volumes.
Clearly, many fans will only wish to read one iteration of the One-Punch Man manga, so which version is the canon, definitive release? In a sense, all of them. Since the web-comic was published first by the franchise's creator, it is arguably the definitive One-Punch Man story. However, the series drawn by Yusuke Murata follows its predecessor very closely and any changes are made with the involvement of ONE himself, meaning that these chapters are not reinterpretations - it would be more accurate to call them improvements. Consequently, most fans consider the Murata redraw the definitive One-Punch Man comic and certainly, if someone is only going to read one version only, this is the series to pick.
Around the chapter 50 mark, the web manga and Murata remake do begin to deviate more significantly and, at this point, these two versions could be considered separate stories. While ONE is still in charge of storyboarding the latter series, however, it'll likely always be considered the main One-Punch Man manga.