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Colored by u/R_color
I’m afraid I’m breaking the 20 words or less guideline.
Before I begin, there are several tangential points I need to address:
- The writing quality of One Punch Man is my principal concern. Under no circumstances do I want it to be diminished, even if the ship that I prefer becomes canon as a result. My wish is that it becomes canon AND the writing quality is excellent, if not improved by the addition. If I can only have one, I will always choose good writing. I have witnessed too many of my favorite franchises fall apart because of abysmal writing. Forced romance in particular has been a major factor in this regard, as it usually results in OOC decisions.
- I also acknowledge that the most likely outcome is that there will be no romance for major characters whatsoever; after all, it has barely had a presence in the series so far. I am more than content with this outcome, as all ships would still be on the table, thereby allowing all of us to hypothesize about the future of the characters in canon as we please.
- I will not discredit or discount any other ships in this analysis. However, should someone request it of me in the comments, I will explain my stance on why certain other ships possess less narrative merit or cannot exist in canon due to incongruent factors.
- Saitama HAS emotions. They are significantly dulled, but they are still there. We see him get angry, get impatient, get serious, and sometimes even become happy. Many of us speculate that Saitama’s arc will be completed when he regains these emotions fully, which I will touch on later. In addition, the argument has been presented that Saitama has not thought about women, but this is countered and addressed by the season 2 audiobook “Saitama and the Mysterious Heroine.” Note that the audiobooks are written and supervised by ONE, and that this audiobook does NOT take place in an alternate universe like some of the others do, thereby ensuring its credibility. I will return to this audiobook later.
- Saitama does not see Tatsumaki as a child. He has not addressed her as such since their very first interaction which was utilized for comedic purposes. Placing his hand on her head does not suggest that he still views her as a child either; ruffling someone's hair extends beyond parent-child relationships into relationships between partners.
- Why does this conversation have to be about a romantic relationship instead of a platonic one? It is simply because romantic relationships (for mature adults) tend to be stronger than friendships; typically more time is spent between the two and they come to understand each other better than anyone (or almost anyone) else.
With those elements out of the way, I will begin my analysis.
Interactions: As we all know, Saitama and Tatsumaki did not get along when they met each other. Tats assumed that he was weak due to his ranking and told him to leave. Saitama ignored her, which of course annoyed her. He ignored her again when she asked what he was doing in the alien ship, which resulted in her screaming at him and Genos. He got annoyed and tried to get Genos to address the problem, only for him to become modern art. The point here is that this was not one-sided annoyance, but from both of their perspectives.
Then there is the beginning of their fight. Saitama by this point was well aware that she is Fubuki’s sister and was frustrated with her because he believed she was responsible for the destruction of his house. Tatsumaki disapproved of him or anyone else being around Fubuki because they were worthless and/or would endanger her.
The fight itself highlights their strength, as well as an unmistakable sense of enjoyment for both of them.
Colored by u/vantud
- And of course, we have the conclusion, which has A LOT (I will address these points in different contexts later).
- Omniscient narration confirming that Tatsumaki is genuinely having fun.
- Omniscient narration explaining how Saitama, with the exception of Blast, is the only person she can spar with.
- A deep reliance on Blast.
- Tatsumaki’s intention to make people scared of her.
- Saitama expresses concern for her, both physically and with regards to Fubuki and her group.
- Saitama is very impressed by her psychic powers and compliments her.
- Saitama believes that Tatsumaki would be a great hero if she could simply control her rampages.
- Tatsumaki allows him to pat her on the head.
- Saitama reveals personal information about his past, specifically how he was weak.
- Not only does Tatsumaki listen to him and respect his opinion—which is confirmed to be unheard of by Fubuki—but she follows his lead with regards to the treatment of her sister: the most personal and important matter to her (remember how she said outsiders need to stop involving themselves in their family matter?)
- Tatsumaki expresses a desire to “test” Saitama some more in the future.
Simply put: Despite everything that had just transpired starting with Saitama grabbing her hand, they are on better terms, but how their relationship will improve is anyone’s guess, including their own (which we can see by Tatsumaki struggling with her words a bit when she tells Saitama that she will test him again).
Before continuing, I want to point out that most of the annoyance and frustration between the two evolved from misunderstanding and misconceptions. Saitama is not a weakling, Tatsumaki is not a child, Saitama was not trying to follow Fubuki around, Tatsumaki destroyed Saitama’s house to defeat a powerful monster, etc. On account of this, the initial animosity can be mended with clarity and time, which we have already see in chapter 182 and which I will touch on in the next section.
- People who cite their current “toxic” relationship as a reason why they would not be a good couple are almost certainly employing intentional ignorance. Surely most, if not all, of us are in agreement that their relationship will greatly improve in some way by the end of the series. I find it extremely unlikely that the aforementioned animosity will be present when Saitama has to confront God to save the human race. Moreover, chapter 182 all but confirms an improved relationship.
- On a similar note, Saitama is bound to have a strong effect on her life—likely through some connection with Blast or Saitama’s overwhelming strength.
- Tatsumaki has already “forgiven” Genos despite him directly insulting her earlier, so she can clearly do it again.
- I will return to the “bickering” component between them near the end when discussing a particular motif.
So, if we now share an understanding that Saitama and Tatsumaki will very likely be close by the end of the series, let us look at the components of their relationship. First, let us examine characters of significance regarding the duo’s dynamic:
The most important individuals to Saitama and Tatsumaki respectively:
- Genos: even if he will not admit it yet, Saitama cares about him deeply, as evidenced by Saitama’s reaction when he failed to save him from Garou. They also spend the most time with each other. Like her early interactions with Saitama, Tatsumaki initially disliked Genos due to him ignoring her and telling her off. However, she has come to respect his strength as a hero and his perseverance in the face of certain death. Genos likewise respects her power and has extended his reckless protectiveness to her when she was in danger (said recklessness is most visible in the form of him throwing himself in front of a girl to take Deep Sea King’s acid).
- Fubuki: the most important person to Tatsumaki. She will do anything to protect her. Like his early interactions with Tatsu, Saitama initially was frustrated with Fubuki because:
- She attempted to maim him after he refused to join her group.
- She continuously pestered him about joining despite him never seeking her out.
- She frequently treated him as her underling despite his refusal to join her group.
- However, we are beginning to see Fubuki reevaluate her goal and how she should accomplish it. Saitama calling himself an acquaintance revealed the harsh reality of Fubuki’s methods to get him on her side, which will no doubt result in her attempting to establish a stronger connection with Saitama through different means. Additionally, Saitama has attempted to help in altering her negative behaviors and sought to keep her safe from Tatsumaki.
- Genos and Fubuki have also supported each other, which was best illustrated during the Monster Association arc in which Fubuki saved Genos from exploding and Genos provided comfort physically and emotionally for Fubuki when she expressed concern for her sister.
- Thus, there are positive desires and actions present all throughout the relationships between these four. I will return to Saitama and Tatsumaki’s roles in this synergy in a later section.
Other important characters:
- King: the person closest to Saitama (alongside Genos). They both respect and appreciate each other for a number of reasons, as we all know. King is also one of the only people Tatsumaki respects and will likely continue to respect until or unless his secret is revealed.
- Blast: the person closest to Tatsumaki (alongside Fubuki). Tatsu’s entire creed originated from him after he saved her and we know he still cares about her as evidenced by him teleporting to her to check on her. Saitama and Blast do not know each other well yet, but Saitama has now met him twice and remembers him well enough. Considering that he witnessed his power in the first timeline, Blast will surely see Saitama’s power again and come to both respect him and rely on him. That interaction will likely involve Blue, Blast’s son, who is aware of Saitama’s power and wants him to help unify hero society. Also worthy of note is that Saitama and Blast are quite similar (which is especially emphasized through their hero-work being a hobby, as well as chapter 182).
It is clear that Genos, Fubuki, King, and Blast are important or at least significant to Saitama and Tats, deepening the aforementioned synergy of relationships that are connected. However, the most important feature to address is the two in question. There are some key characteristics that I want to discuss:
- Saitama: returning to an earlier point I made, Saitama regaining his emotions and finding happiness through his relationships with other characters is what many of us speculate to be his arc. Fighting a worthy opponent would bring about temporary pleasure, whereas acknowledging and appreciating the people around him would bring about lasting joy. We are seeing some of the early stages of this change through characters like Genos, King, and even Mumen Rider. But he does not realize it. His conversation with King in chapter 77 is absolutely critical here.
Saitama states that nothing makes him feel joy or anger, and that he feels that he lives alone in a different world from everyone else. However, this all stems from his earlier statements about being too strong and not finding worthy opponents. He does not talk about any other aspects of life. This is further highlighted when King suggests dance class or a vacation, and Saitama is genuinely surprised and confused about a very reasonable suggestion. King then points out that Saitama does not even try to suppress his boredom without thinking about hero-duties: he will not try new things or step out of his comfort zone. King then concludes by telling Saitama he is the strongest, but not the best, and the fact that he thinks he is means he still has to mature quite a bit. He is only 25 after all. Until he fully matures, everything will continue to feel empty and meaningless to him.
- Tatsumaki: as we know, her confrontational attitude with everyone weaker than her stems from her past trauma and Blast’s words. To her, people need to become stronger rather than rely on heroes—and her specifically. Until that point, she must continue to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders; we see this clearly both when she tells people to leave fights so she can handle them and in her devotion to the job. She never backs down and she spends her entire free time looking for monsters, as evidenced by the extra chapter in which she becomes bored very quickly after she gets called off. Her past trauma also resulted in her trusting people less to protect Fubuki, which further isolated her from everyone else. All of this pressure stresses her out, which contributes to her attitude. However, some of her negative traits can be attributed to her goal of making people scared of her. She DOESN’T want everyone to be afraid of her, which means that—when the time finally comes where the weight of the world is lifted from her shoulders—she can dial the anger and aggression down, as it is within her control to some degree.
So why would they work as a couple? An examination of key aspects of any strong relationship provides a lot of support (I am borrowing some of these points about romance in general):
https://preview.redd.it/rmacms27rvpa1.png?width=1420&format=png&auto=webp&s=f52455fad5fcb878f4697aded24fba69ea4cebbc 144: Like usual, Tatsumaki plans to recklessly endanger herself to save others. Tatsumaki states that she needs to set a good example, despite acknowledging Fubuki’s growth. However, the two most important lines come from Fubuki. Firstly, she says she will gather strong allies that even Tats can trust in. Secondly, she says Blast left a curse on Tatsu’s heart; she will always try to do everything on her own because Blast told her not to wait for anyone to save her. Which brings us to Saitama: Fubuki was thinking about him specifically when mentioning strong allies (a panel indicates this), and Saitama is the ONLY ONE who can remove that curse on Tatsu’s heart. No one else is strong enough. Even after requiring help from other heroes, her mindset has not changed because she needs someone who will overcome threats so completely that her mindset will shatter entirely.
- Being aware of your partner’s dreams / what they want out of life and doing everything you can to support them in that.
- Saitama knows that Fubuki is of paramount importance to Tatsumaki. Despite the acquaintance proclamation, Saitama would never knowingly allow harm to come to her. He can of course accomplish this since he is the strongest, which Tatsumaki is beginning to and will likely fully recognize.
- Saitama can remove the burden that Tatsumaki deals with. He can defeat any threats she can, as well as those that she cannot. Other heroes can help her or save her, as we have seen, but her self-imposed duty will never go away until she is absolutely certain that there is someone who is both capable of and devoted to protecting society just as well as her, or better. Chapters 144 and 182 are critical here.
182: Tatsumaki is intentionally making people scared of her to protect everyone. Not only will this cease with Saitama around because of the above point about removing her burden, but because he also simply isn’t scared of her, no matter what she does. I will also point out how this chapter confirms that, despite what Tatsu says, she knows deep down that she needs help, and she only admits that to someone stronger than her.
- Tatsumaki can provide what Saitama desperately needs: a connection. He feels alone and that something is wrong with him (a part of him is "broken") vis-à-vis not having anyone or anything to protect (per “Saitama and the Mysterious Heroine”). Having a partner nullifies that solitude and gives him something to protect, which ties back to his discussion with King regarding the ideal hero. Some may be asking why Tatsumaki would be best for this role, and not some other character. This is where I shall present their similarities as well as their harmonious differences, which also brings me back to components of a good relationship:
- Shared interests / experiences.
- Their main hobby is heroism. They both actively seek out monsters to fight in their freetime, and are often bored when this is not the case. If they engaged in this activity together frequently, some of their loneliness would diminish.
- A detail worthy of note is Saitama being the strongest man and Tatsumaki (currently) being the strongest woman. The parallel is just a bonus; the importance lies in the fact that they can both move and fight at a similar level. Yes, there is a colossal gap between them, but Tatsu can relatively keep up with him when they are moving around performing hero duties. Also, Saitama is the only hero who can completely resist Tatsu’s psychic power, so—if the need arises—Tatsumaki can unleash her full strength without having to worry about Saitama.
- They are heroes because of altruism, as opposed to income or fame, which they likely respect about each other (Saitama ascertained this about Tatsumaki in the webcomic version of the fight). Admittedly, Saitama has demonstrated a desire for these aspects, but at the end of the day, he is content with enough money to get by (as in, he does not plan to gain enough wealth to live out his days in luxury, thereby giving up heroism) and he is willing to sacrifice his popularity for the good of other heroes. On top of that, he performed hero duties for three years just because he wanted to before finally expressing disappointment when Sonic said he did not recognize him. Tatsumaki cares even less about income and fame, so in the unlikely event that Saitama starts caring too much, she can temper those impulses.
- Related to this is that they both are not particularly “close” with the Hero Association. Saitama is not properly recognized for a lot of his feats and he also does not particularly care for the Association’s executive staff’s agendas. His indifference becomes anger when his frustration with his hero name is enhanced via joining the Hero Name Victims Association. Tatsumaki is resented by the Association because she is hard to control and goes overboard with her power (which Saitama can help with).
- In connection to the previous point, a contribution to their isolation and resulting hardships is their overwhelming power. Neither of them built these walls around themselves intentionally. Saitama’s walls were conjured through his training and subsequent dulling of emotions, whereas the walls around Tats—while intentionally strengthened by her to protect Fubuki and those weaker than her—were built through her esper powers that were responsible for her getting sold off and experimented on. Ultimately, they can relate to each other in this respect and thus help tear each other’s walls down.
- They each have a “disciple” that they want to help but are struggling with.
- Genos: Saitama, on many occasions, comes up with “teachings” spontaneously. His training—which Genos dismisses—is all Saitama is familiar with, and Genos’ status as a cyborg makes it even more difficult for Saitama to properly guide him. While he has had successes in motivating Genos, he still feels he is inadequate.
- Fubuki: Tatsumaki believes that what she is doing is the correct course of action. However, as we can see, Fubuki has to confront different problems due to Tatsumaki’s overbearing and overprotective nature. In addition, the two spend most of their time apart, implying that Tats does not provide much direct teaching in psychic control and understanding (at least not anymore).
- As evidenced by my earlier analysis of the synergy of relationships between the four, the union of Saitama and Tatsumaki would result in better treatment, teaching, and understanding of their “disciples,” which would in turn help the older two grow and mature.
- They both possess strong wills.
- Saitama, through sheer willpower and effort, broke his limiter. Tatsumaki’s strong will is clearly demonstrated through her anger, determination, and perseverance (with a specific example being her ability to maintain her barrier despite losing consciousness).
- Excluding her sister, Tatsu determines character and gives respect based on strength, which gives the impression that she would never enter into a relationship with someone who lacks it. Fortunately for her, Saitama is the pinnacle of both physical and mental strength.
- Saitama, on multiple occasions, exhibited respect for heroes who put everything on the line and gave it their all, even in the face of impossible odds and humiliation (Mumen Rider, Sweet Mask, etc.) Tatsumaki is without question someone who would replicate these behaviors and choices that Saitama admires. The next relationship component will further this point.
- Sacrifice needs to be chosen, not forced.
- Saitama and Tatsumaki are both more than willing to sacrifice. As I mentioned earlier, Saitama willingly destroyed his reputation for the sake of other heroes while Tatsumaki tries to save weaker heroes by telling them to leave (and she will continue to do so, even if she is on the brink of death as evidenced by the Monster Association arc). This behavior will almost certainly extend to their relationship, should it be forged. Such sacrifice would extend beyond the life-and-death situations into the day-to-day (sacrificing something they enjoy for the other’s benefit).
- Accepting influence.
- The conclusion of the fight between the two indicates this. Note that Tatsumaki is not acting in an excessively tsundere manner. She is not changing for Saitama. She is not changing to impress him or win him over. She is changing because she is influenced by him. Should they spend a lot of time with each other (which couples naturally do more than other relationships), Saitama will continue to bring out a lot of things in her that no one ever has. This is absolutely something that can work both ways in the context of their characteristics. For example, Tatsumaki would soften while Saitama would toughen up.
As a final remark on the nature of relationships, I will now address an aspect that is connected to both the previous section and a section that I said I would return to: the bickering.
- While she is not explicitly a tsundere, Tats exhibits the mannerisms of one. The reason I bring this up is because many people strongly dislike the trope. I have no issue with that opinion, but there are some who claim that it is an unrealistic behavior that Japan employs to a disproportionate magnitude. I counter such a claim by reminding everyone of the extremely popular “Enemies to Lovers” trope.
- Now, why are Enemies to Lovers stories so popular? There are multiple factors, but one key component of the genre is important for Saitama x Tatsumaki.
- In screenwriting, romance and romantic comedies thrive on what is called a “Merry War,” in which the two characters will spar verbally. The two “combatants” create comedy by doing this but also bring out wit in each other.
- A more recognizable name for this style of writing is the “old married couple,” in which two characters display extreme comfort with one another because they constantly argue, “as only people who are so closely bonded can have such open communication between them.” In other words, insults can contain affection.
To conclude this portion, the arguing does not strictly suggest a negative relationship. It is contextual, is often employed in professional screenwriting, and is common enough to occur in different tropes and genres. It can highlight the comfort between two partners in a relationship and almost always brings about comedy. Saitama and Tatsumaki can and likely will excel in this domain, romantic or platonic, and I imagine we will see some of this in the final chapters. In their hypothetical relationship, the best case scenario will involve perfect banter between the two while the worst case scenario will likely involve Tatsumaki going overboard and using her powers in a fit of rage—which Saitama is the only person capable of handling (any other character is getting torn to shreds, which again reaffirms why he is the best choice).
We now reach the penultimate section of the analysis. For those of you who like “parallels,” I shall list some that pertain to their appearance and illustrations (since I already explained their characteristics above):
They both have physical “imperfections:” Saitama is bald and often has a “simple\" face while Tatsumaki is short and has a small breast. All four of these physical traits have been directly acknowledged in the verse, which is the reasoning for me labelling them as “imperfections.”
They are the two characters most frequently drawn in a cartoony fashion by a sizable margin.
The two both have an illustration in which their faces are shaded while they walk away dramatically.
The panels in chapter 181 in which they stare at each other (which for the record were not present in the webcomic) (Colored by u/matteme23).
They each possess multiple panels in which they are drawn in an intimidating silhouette form.
Finally, let’s talk about tropes. I have no desire to do so, as it is almost entirely subjective, but people will utilize this domain to counter shipping in OPM so I will provide my defense. The key argument here is that “One Punch Man defies tropes.” Which I of course agree with. This leads people to stating that OPM will not have any romance, as romance in “shonen” is a trope.
- Remember, I already stated that romance happening at all is unlikely (it might show up at the very end), so I somewhat agree with this point.
- However, saying that romance should not even be acknowledged because of this is not valid, should I use the same “defying trope” argument.
- A main character completely uninterested in romance finding himself in a romantic relationship is defying a trope, is it not?
- A main character stated by the author to be unattractive finding himself in a romantic relationship at all is defying a trope, is it not?
- A main character finding himself in a relationship with the “less” attractive “love interest” is defying a trope, is it not?
- What constitutes a trope is subjective, therefore what defies a trope is also subjective. It should not be used as the backbone of argumentation vis-à-vis in-text narrative interactions and development.
- Citing Mob Psycho 100, the other major work by ONE, is not valid if it is taken out of context. SPOILERS FOR MOB PSYCHO 100:
- Yes, the protagonist did not end up with his love interest. However, this must be contextualized.
- It was made clear from the very beginning that Mob was in love with Tsubomi.
- Tsubomi was given very little screen-time and did not have much presence or growth as a character; instead, she functioned primarily as a narrative goal for the protagonist to reach.
- The two in question are middle-schoolers.
- Tsubomi was identified as the most desirable girl in the school, as evidenced by the “assembly line” gag in which every boy asked her out (which foreshadowed Mob getting rejected).
- The circumstances and setup here are entirely different from One Punch Man, which is why the exact same type of payoff in Mob Psycho 100 cannot happen in OPM. What the payoff will be is anyone’s guess, but one should not automatically assume that it will be the same as Mob Psycho simply because both works were created by the same author.
Most of the above content is objective or makes inferences based on objective information. There are many subjective reasons why people ship the two, both utilizing points that I brought up (their banter and interactions are funny, the strongest man and strongest woman should be together, etc.) and elements that I did not mention (they look cute together (as seen by the hug), their fights as a duo would be aesthetically pleasing, etc.). However, I tried to mostly examine in-text material to make a narrative argument vis-à-vis Saitama and Tatsumaki. The existence of additional support for a romantic relationship between the two is very likely, so I strongly encourage posting comments containing this information or comments correcting any objective mistakes I made to help improve my craft and support the argument.
I reiterate my opening statements: the quality of OPM’s writing is paramount, and I am also more than content with no romance between main characters in the series. However, should ONE decide to incorporate it, Saitama x Tatsumaki works best from a narrative and character perspective, and perhaps the story's objective quality may even be raised by its inclusion—if written properly.
Thank you all very much for reading.