The excellent animation of Season 1 by Madhouse certainly contributed to One-Punch Man’s popularity. It then came as a big surprise, even a shock, that they would not be doing the second season.
We will be going quite in-depth in this article. The short answer, however, is this. The success of the first season of the One-Punch Man anime was largely the work of producer Shingo Natsume, rather than the work of Madhouse as a whole. As Shingo Natsume was not available, Madhouse very likely didn’t want to take on the project.
Shingo Natsume’s contributions to One-Punch Man
While the first season of the One-Punch Man anime was released under the flagship of Madhouse, director Shingo Natsume’s contributions really showed.
When accepting the job, he studied the whole storyline meticulously. He grew to love the project and felt he could do “great things” with it. When working on the first season’s 12 episodes, he made sure each cut had “a lot of meaning to it”. Be it suspense building or energy release, the most important thing was “not to cut corners”. And it showed.
With his vision and general quality as a director, Shingo Natsume attracted a lot of talented individuals to the project. That means that One-Punch Man had a lot of freelancers working on it that were not a permanent part of Madhouse.
Season 1 of One-Punch Man was at least as much Shingo Natsume’s as it was Madhouse.
J.C. Staff, animation studio for Season 2 of One-Punch Man
When it was time for the second season of One-Punch Man to be created, Shingo Natsume was not available. Reading the above, it would then kind of make sense for Madhouse not to take on the project.
It was then announced J.C. Staff would take over for season 2. This met with mixed reactions and some fears. These fears would turn out to not be entirely unjustified. Season 2, while having its strong points and not being entirely bad, definitely did not compare to season 1. The “feel” was off and it felt a bit rushed.
Still, it’s a bit too easy to just say “Madhouse good, J.C. Staff bad.”. The events are part of a bigger, industry-wide issue.
Extreme workload also affects Madhouse and other anime studios
J.C. Staff has existed for 33 years. To have that long of a track record, surely they must be doing something right. Their catalog has a lot of decent titles in it, such as “Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon”. I really enjoyed the first season of that show (and have not yet seen the second).
Similarly, Madhouse doesn’t automatically receive laurels for whatever they do. The most recent season of Overlord received some harsh criticism for mediocre or even bad animation quality.
The issue is that in recent years, more and more people have come out to complain about stressful circumstances, overtime and poor payments in animation studios. It seems that more and more often, projects are expected to be completed in a rushed fashion, with a poor budget.
In this day and age, where the work-life balance is more and more important, this is not acceptable. Pressuring artists surely takes away their passion and this too really shows. People’s voices are being heard, however, so improvements are sure to follow as they already have for other industries.
Despite not being acclaimed the way the first season was, the second season received decent ratings. Complaints mainly came from the more hardcore fans deeply familiar with the first manga material.
The manga keeps doing well both in Japan and abroad. Quite a bit of new material is already available as well, so it is very likely that we will get a third season in a few years time. Hopefully, we can then look forward to another passionate project with the budget it deserves.