We all have to admit, Saitama is funny as ever with all his witty lines and everything about him in One Punch Man to that point that he has a lot of meme-worthy reactions relatable to daily life. However, this raises a debate between those following the journey of Saitama in both the manga and anime series whether or not Saitama is a gag character. Do you think he is one or not?
What is a Gag Character?
To start, a gag character is one who is used in either comic strips or television shows that are not as often used, someone like an extra. The mere presence of the gag character is reliant on his joke, it's all for the laughs, but this character has no personality at all–no character development or progress, no ambition, no goals, or anything inspiring at all except for making people laugh.
The general rule is that it is an additional character inserted for a joke, but there are some exceptions where a character is recurring or the main character with a running joke throughout the show.
In Japanese manga, there is a genre of gag manga that is solely for the main purpose of making readers laugh. It's different from comedy in the sense that comedies target laughter one can feel, healthy laughter, while gags are usually for the mere sake of making one laugh despite being senseless at times.
Is Saitama a Gag Character?
Interestingly enough, One Punch Man is under the genre of action, superhero, and gag comedy. Yes, it is really funny and Saitama usually makes the readers laugh even without words at all. However, that doesn't automatically mean that Saitama is a gag character. Even when One Punch Man is under gag comedy, it has more serious tones, even philosophic at times, making it more than just a gag.
Putting Saitama under such a character description seems to be debatable as it is affirmative that he somehow possesses characteristics of such, but at the same time, he is much more than that as well. Given that he is the main character, if he is a gag character, he falls to the exception. Let's do a checklist on being a gag character: laughter, no personality, no ambition or goals, and no character development.
Saitama has a funny demeanor; this is no question at all, so we tick off the laughter on the list. Does he have a personality? He's indifferent, not even taking his opponents seriously. That in itself is a personality, which means it's a cross on the list. Does Saitama have any ambition or goals? This was shown in One Punch Man Season 2, Saitama has a goal and that is martial arts, therefore, another cross on the list.
Is there a character development with Saitama? From the first season to the second, One Punch Man has shown that Saitama really underwent some character development as we see how he thinks, how he feels, how he is affected with his strength, at one point, he can even be considered as depressed and dead inside. Such a character development lacks on gag characters, another cross on the list.
Weighing all the circumstances, it could be concluded that Saitama is more than just a gag character, he may have a few qualities of one but that doesn't mean that he is one. His story arc unfolds slowly and we see why he is more than just a character for the laughs. Thinking of how his mind works under that shiny bald head of his, it seems like unlocking Pandora's box of who really is Saitama without his facade.
If you try to analyze him beyond his funny lines, there's an underlying weight in his words and actions that could make you feel there is something in him that connects to something inside of you, making you think that he makes sense.