The Desire for Hierarchy
There always seems to be a tendency towards people lining themselves up by rank. This is especially visible in fiction. Due to the limited interaction available between an anime and the audience, the hierarchy is often kept very simple. As a result, many of them end up being nonsense.
In this article I explore the problems and limitations of the Hero Association as seen in One Punch Man.
The concept of a tiered pyramid of rank is nothing new, and depending on the application can be very effective. The Hero Association ranking system in OPM, however, has several serious flaws.
The most glaring flaw is the sheer disparity in numbers between layers. Taken out of context this pyramid might make sense, the commanders at the top passing orders down the chain to accomplish some goal.
In-universe it’s not effective at all, because that chain of command does not exist, leaving all heroes essentially free agents with only vague guidelines from HQ. HQ is not even made up of heroes, but rather bureaucrats with no ‘on the ground’ experience.
Add to this the fact that ‘Class C’ heroes have quotas for work, and in some cases must compete with each-other for work, and the foundation of this pyramid is obviously full of holes.
Any organisation taking applicants will have a testing procedure designed to collect a clear data-set. The goal is to demonstrate an individual’s potential value and utility to that organisation. Therefore: the Hero Association tests in OPM are flawed and incomplete.
The tests implemented for potential entrants consist of a fitness test with a variety of activities, and a written essay. While such tests would be effective for a paramilitary organisation that is intending to train all accepted applicants in the required skills before sending them out on the job, the Hero Association has no such program. Without that kind of program, these 2 tests are not sufficient. This system can’t effectively weed out potential problem heroes. Worse yet, it is guaranteed to favour certain traits while ignoring the most essential: effectiveness as a Hero.
Just being strong and/or smart does not a Hero make. There is a plethora of potential situations in which testing of this nature does not provide valuable data. The Association should have a third testing phase to determine combat and rescue effectiveness in realistic scenarios. I would weigh these tests somewhat more heavily than the others.
The total score should be determined by three testing phases, weighed as such: Physical 20%, Written 20%, Realistic Simulation 60%.
In any hierarchy, the possibility for advancement in rank should exist for all participants. The criteria for that advancement varies depending on the type of work that organisation actually does, but essentially it should come down to the individual’s capacity to contribute to that work. What it should not do is force the lower echelons to compete against one-another for advancement.
The Hero Association ranking system provides the occupant of the top position of any tier to move up to the bottom of the next tier if they so desire. The more ‘hero work’ you do, the higher your position on the pyramid. The problem with this is that it discounts the actual skill of the individual, and largely puts their position to random chance.
For example, a typical week:
A hero of great skill will happen to spend his time in all the most boring places in town, and get only one job done. That same week, a mediocre hero walks by a bank as it’s being robbed. The Hero Association gives him a huge boost in rank for halting the robbery. Both heroes could have easily been in swapped positions. And the Association would have rewarded the other instead, regardless of their actual skill.
There’s nothing wrong with rewarding hard work. But to do so without concern for potential future work is foolish and will end up wasting talent.
All of the above creates a compound problem at the top levels. It creates the assumption that the top levels are the strongest and always will be. This nonsense creates a barrier for those below. This barrier prevents those of nearly higher level potential from rising further, regardless of their ability or experience. Another symptom of this is the permanent embedding of those assumed to be superior, but who really are not.
The Hero Association assumed King to be the Strongest Man, and assigned him S-Class rank 7. The Manga has revealed that:
King is actually not very strong. He has never been in a real fight. King was too embarrassed to admit the truth and accepted the S-Class position when offered.
I hope you’ve enjoyed a dive into the nonsense that is OPM’s Hero Association Hierarchal System. Keep your eyes open for my next breakdown: ‘Border’ in World Trigger. And if you want to see more about heroes, enjoy a breakdown of the difficulties in character development in Inuyashiki.