written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
In a world where superpowers are as common places as being born with blue eyes, humanity has stepped up to the next level of human evolution with people inheriting abilities dubbed “Quirks.” Quirks manifest in children at a young age, and in many ways are inherited from the parents; either gaining one or the other’s abilities or a hybrid of both parents. With the majority of the populace exhibiting special abilities, the more talented ones build careers as professionally sanctioned heroes. Like having to go to school to master a trade, these young heroes go to schools that specialize in training them to be the heroes the world needs.
Enter Izuku “Deku” Midoriya, a young boy with an obsessive amount of knowledge when it comes to heroes. He aspires to be a hero himself, after being inspired by legendary hero All Might, he’s determined to stand among the ranks of these fabled heroes as a peer. Only hiccup… Deku’s Quirkless. In a world where most of the population exhibit some form of superhuman ability… he’s just a regular ol, garden variety teenager. Despite all this, he is determined to take the entrance exams for U.A. High School, the most elite High School for heroes-to-be and just so happens to be All Might’s alma mater.
A chance encounter with All Might reveals the greatest secret among the hero community, and one that All Might shares with Deku. Due to a grave injury, All Might can only manifest as a hulking hero for around three hours at a time, requiring considerable recuperation after using his powers. When he isn’t an all powerful badass, All Might’s “Bruce Banner form” is an emaciated scraggly looking guy… resembling a blonde Shaggy from Scooby Doo after an unfortunate dance with a bolt of lightning. All Might sees the potential in Deku and shares his secret, his Quirk is a power that’s passed on from hero to hero. It gains strength the more heroes it’s passed on to. After witnessing Deku’s unwavering resolve, All Might trains the young boy to be his successor… eventually giving him the ability to harness his Quirk.
The 13-Episode first season felt like it flew by in a flash. I couldn’t help myself from watching each episode one after another. The inclusion of a weak-protagonist-who-finds-the-strength-within trope is common among Shonen Manga/Anime, but despite treading familiar waters, My Hero Academia manages to give it a refreshing spin by setting it in an almost typical high school setting. Imagine if the early episodes of Naruto focused more on school than it did precarious happen-chance missions, that’s what I felt this series was like for me.
While on the outside looking in, it didn’t feel like there was much happening; the series managed to fit the perfect amount of content while as a whole feeling satisfying. Like the perfect meal that neither leaves you wanting nor stuffs you to the brim. Deku’s inherited Quirk doesn’t end up working as he hoped, since he didn’t grow up with this power, his body isn’t used to the intense physical strain it exerts on him. If he used the ability to jump tall buildings in a single bound, he’d shatter the bones in his legs… super punch something to oblivion shatters his arm. Using his abilities come with quite a risk if he can’t control it. This plays into the rises and falls of Deku’s battles. He can exhibit great strength, but coming with it the risk of incapacitating him before the fight is over. This trade off makes for a compelling turn for the hero-overcoming-a-great-hurdle aspect rife in Shonen Anime. Each time Deku goes into battle, he’s in an in-over-his-head situation.
The series does a great job putting Deku front and center, his child hood friend and rival Katsuki Bakugo acts as a primary antagonist during the early parts of the series. Before the main villains are even revealed, Katsuki acts as Deku’s primary foil. As a hot-headed and egotistical character type, Katsuki has spent his life being praised for his Quirk. Unable to get past his pride, he views every act of kindness Deku exhibits as an insult… claiming he’s looking down on him. As a villain, Katsuki is incredibly believable as someone who could actually take this rivalry too far. Not as far as Naruto and Sasuke levels, but during the early points I genuinely thought Katsuki would end up a villain and turn his back on the heroes.
As for the rest of the cast, everyone else acts as support for Deku in either direct or indirect ways. His core group of friends, Ochako Uraraka and Tenya Iida, factor more into the core narrative than the rest of his classmates (with the exception of Katsuki). The mentor character role All Might steps in to fits well and never overpowers Deku’s story. While being inspired by All Might started the journey, all eyes are on Deku.
Famed anime studio Bones (Soul Eater, Full Metal Alchemist) handled the adaptation, their persistence for high production value is seen in every second. The animation is top notch and the voice acting is picture perfect for every character represented. Some anime series suffer from lackluster animation with a fantastic narrative… while others are simply pretty pictures with a hollow core. But as far as this first season of My Hero Academia is concerned, the high level of the animation perfectly compliments the fantastic storytelling. An epic soundtrack and hands down the best anime opening song (IMO) since D.Gray-man’s first OP (Innocent Sorrow - abingdon boys school) and Sword Art Online’s first OP (Crossing Field - LISA), I rarely watch through the entire OP but this one had be sticking it out each time (ED NOTE: look up The Day by Porno Graffiti).
The intense action sequences ramp up to 11 and the comedy is some of the best I’ve seen in a Shonen Anime in a very long time. It’s like if One Punch Man had infinitely more depth, My Hero Academia succeeds in being an exciting battle anime, a light hearted comedy, as well as a dramatic slice-of-life take on a High School full of superheroes.
Season one is wrapped, but season two is just around the corner. Deku’s journey is just getting started, but according to the narration it looks like this road will eventually lead to him becoming the greatest hero ever… but of course the end result isn’t important, especially for a hero. What matters is how he gets there.
TL;DR: a must watch for any Anime fan! Make sure to check it out, it’s streaming on Hulu right now!