The following includes spoilers for One-Punch Man up to Chapter 182, "Scout," by One, Yusuke Murata, John Werry and James Gaubatz, available in English through MangaMonster.
Manga like One-Punch Man often maintains its humor situational and closely tied to its setting and cast of characters. This is why it comes as such a shock when a manga writer like ONE devotes a significant amount of their most recent chapter to humor pertaining to one of the most hotly debated subjects in the world: artificial intelligence.
The fact that a reference to A.I made its way into a manga like One-Punch Man demonstrates the impact that the growth of Chat-GPT and deepfakes has had on popular culture. ONE, however, binds One-Punch Man's A.I discussion to its environment and characters, even making the topic the primary core of many of this chapter's gags and character interactions, despite the unusual use of current humor. How does One-Punch Man bring up A.I, and how is this real-world topic integrated within the manga's usual comedic style?
Terrible Tornado Becomes the Latest Victim of A.I Technology
Another sign of Terrible Tornado's diminished character as a result of her conflict with Saitama is her agreement to take part in a Hero Association recruitment commercial. To the horror of the advertisements' directors, Tornado's generosity and acceptance of the need for new heroes only go so far, and she uses her own efforts to promote recruitment to show her usual violent might in front of the camera. The advertising campaign that results is an A.I.-generated cutesy, flirting Tornado who playfully begs the public to apply before she "twists" them. Unfortunately, or thankfully, depending on your point of view, Tornado's shot footage is doctored in post.
While a few characters are taken aback by the out-of-character behavior of the person they believe to be Tornado, the public appears to be quite supportive of the campaign, as evidenced by the Hero Association's approval ratings sharply increasing. Naturally, when Tornado herself realizes that she has been digitally transformed into a normal moe commercial model, she responds as one would anticipate and blows up her flat.
One-Punch Man's AI Reference Is Current and Practical
This joke about A.I and deepfakes comes as a surprise for One-Punch Man, a manga that rarely draws on outside events and culture for its humor. However, despite the rare current events reference, ONE's usage of topical humor is both woven into the manga's typical style of comedy and fills a purpose that couldn't be filled otherwise. Even though the manga references A.I, ONE doesn't just go for the low-brow joke and make the reference itself what's supposed to be funny. Instead, the different reactions of characters like Tornado's sister Hellish Blizzard, Saitama and Tornado herself to the artificially-generated ad is what creates the humor. One-Punch Man is a manga that derives its comedy from absurd situations and how its characters respond to them, and even when going for a more topical joke, ONE doesn't stray from this usual style.
The A.I. reference in One-Punch Man is also extremely deliberate, and it's employed to create an absurd situation that wouldn't exist otherwise. Tornado's A.I image advances the plot by increasing the Hero Association's approval rating while also creating a new circumstance for the audience to chuckle at. The allusion does not exist solely to allow the writer to point out that they are referencing a current event; rather, it serves a purpose and allows for some unique humour. Above all, One-Punch Man's use of A.I. demonstrates ONE's prowess as a comedy writer and their ability to create humor out of nearly anything.