One-Punch Man season 2 has attracted criticism for its art and animation, but the story represents an improvement from season 1. Based on the manga series by ONE and Yusuke Murata, the debut season of One-Punch Man was a phenomenal hit upon release in 2015, not only with established anime fans, but also with a more mainstream, international audience. Centered around Saitama, the titular hero who has become bored with his own awesome strength, One-Punch Man's first season followed the amateur hero as he took on a raft of absurd, genre-aping monsters and encountered other, similarly unique, characters such as Genos, Sonic and Tatsumaki.
A major attraction of One-Punch Man's first season was the high-quality of art and animation. Despite being a comedic parody of fighting anime, One-Punch Man's battle scenes proved to be some of the most beautiful, ridiculous and imaginative animated clashes in recent memory. While this can mostly be attributed to ONE and Murata's source material, season 1 director, Shingo Natsume, played a vital role in making the show a visual spectacle.
Season 2 has not worked out in quite the same way. Fan reaction to One-Punch Man's sophomore run has been muted compared to the overwhelming plaudits afforded to season 1 and the biggest point of contention is the visuals. One-Punch Man was previously crisp, detailed and fluid, but many fans claim that the latest season has felt static, bland and uninspiring. This is almost certainly down to a change in director. With Natsume unavailable, One-Punch Man season 2 was forced to switch personnel and, perhaps more significantly, Natsume's departure led to widespread changes in One-Punch Man's animation staff, many of whom had joined the project specifically to work with the director.
While the season 2 animation still can't be considered poor, One-Punch Man has gone from the pinnacle of TV anime visuals to looking like just another weekly series, and the hectic schedule animators have to contend with no doubt contributes to this.
This deterioration is especially disappointing, as One-Punch Man season 2 arguably improves in terms of story, character and world-building. Saitama's first season was largely a "monster of the week" affair, with arcs contained to no more than a few episodes. This worked brilliantly at the time, but was never going to succeed as a long-term structure. Accordingly, season 2 takes on a more traditional format, introducing an arch villain and storylines that develop over the entire run.
Characterization is also much improved in One-Punch Man season 2. Many fans have been disappointed by a distinct lack of One-Punch Man himself in the latest season, but this has provided an opportunity to enhance the series' supporting figures into genuinely interesting characters. The likes of Bang, Metal Bat, and Fubuki have all transformed from one-dimensional background entities to main players in Saitama's world and newcomers King and Garou have proved vital additions, giving One-Punch Man a far bigger sandbox to explore. This development has helped to expand upon the mythos of the One-Punch Man world, giving further insight into the Heroes Association and the wider culture of monsters, ninjas and martial arts.
Of course, this is primarily due to the work of franchise creator, ONE, whose manga series is still enjoying immense worldwide popularity. To their credit, however, the current animators have ensured that all of One-Punch Man's visual gags remain hilarious and season 2's major character moments feel appropriately dramatic, with the Garou character a prime example. Walking the line between villainy and heroism, Garou is a difficult character to present correctly, but One-Punch Man season 2 has handled the balance between his brutality and empathy with ease.
As demonstrated by the recent announcement that Attack On Titan is ending with season 4, high quality animation doesn't necessarily lead to a long and prosperous series, especially if fans have to wait several years between seasons. Certainly, One-Punch Man season 2 has been a less attractive batch of episodes, but the strength of its story has perhaps served to ensure the future of the series.