Have you ever wanted to be a hero? In a world where around 80% of the population have some sort of special power or Quirk, Quirkless Midoriya Izuku longs to be a hero so he can help others.
Izuku one day runs into his most admired hero, All Might, and owing to a sequence of events, All Might offers to bestow powers on him. This gives Izuku a chance to join the prestigious school, UA, where the best heroes are trained.
My Hero Academia is a show which I think effectively combines the Western superhero story with the Japanese shounen underdog story. It is just what it presents itself as; a tale of someone initially without powers becoming stronger, overcoming adversity, and achieving their goals, but it tells the story with a consistent and appealing style.
As it’s only 13 episodes and taken from an ongoing and considerably longer manga series, it does feel like it takes a while to gain speed, but I think that it sets the groundwork for its world quite well. We get a simple understanding of a world with people with Quirks (there’s no real explanation in-world as to why people with Quirks are born, it’s just stated that it started happening), how Quirks impact people’s day-to-day lives, and how it feels to be without one. There’s actually quite a bit of time spent in the early episodes involving flashbacks into Izuku’s past, and how it felt for him to be Quirkless in a world full of people with Quirks. While I don’t think that the show covers it on a deep level, you do get some kind of feeling for how it feels to be an outcast, or the feeling of trying to work out what to do with an impossible goal. If there’s one thing the shounen genre embodies, it’s don’t give up! I think that My Hero Academia handles this quite well, and even when Izuku has powers, we still see him struggling to control them, so he doesn’t become super powerful overnight, but he stays determined.
Aside from that, we get to see a blend of dynamic action sequences and some regular school hijinks. We also have the introduction of a main villain, because what sort of superhero story would be complete without a villain to strive to overcome? I found Shigaraki Tomuya really creepy to look at, with his disconnected hands covering his face and body, and his mannerisms of swaying and constantly picking at his neck. While not the sort of villain that I loved to hate, I did find him to be disturbing and disconcerting.
We are introduced to the standard huge cast of characters (Izuku’s classmates) when he enters school, and owing to the short run time not a lot of these are really fleshed out. In a class where everyone has special powers and is unique, it did feel a little overwhelming trying to keep track of all the names and faces. Aside from Izuku, and All Might (a hero who works hard as the ‘symbol of justice’), we get to know a bit more about Bakugo Katsuki, Izuku’s childhood friend/idol/rival, who is used to being outstanding compared to everyone else and has trouble adjusting to Izuku and others in UA being of a comparable level of ability. It’s worth noting that Izuku’s classmates mostly have names which are some kind of joke related to, or give some kind of clue about their powers (in Japanese). I don’t think this is touched on in the anime, but after figuring it out, it made it a bit easier to keep tabs on who is who. Bakugo has explosive powers, Kaminari Denki has electric powers and so on. I would consider the massive cast more of a flaw if it wasn’t for the fact that we have a second season confirmed where we’ll hopefully get to see a bit more of each character (and let’s face it, popular shounen series with ongoing manga will usually have anime continuations, so we may see even more My Hero Academia at some point in the future).
Visually, the designs have been modelled after Western comics. There’s written sound-effects during some moments of action (mainly in English instead of katakana like most anime or manga), there’s half tone effects on the splash screens, and the character of All Might feels very much like he could have stepped out of a comic book, with his broad shoulders, muscular frame, and shining grin. The action itself still feels like it has anime sensibilities with the way that the characters move and react.
I found the sound design in this show stood out to me, because it felt as though the sound effects were all quite ‘weighty’. While the advent of synthesisers made the actual sounds different, in a sense it reminded me of the 40s and 50s radio dramas I’ve heard in that there was a lot of space made for the different effects. The OST was similar to those in superhero films, with plenty of dramatic tones to complement the action sequences.
Overall, while the show isn’t what I’d call original, it performs well in every aspect and is fun to watch! I don’t feel that things have to be ground-breaking to be interesting and enjoyable, and this is a fine example of a show which combines existing elements effectively, and does it with style. It was a fun watch and I’m looking forward to the second season. I’d definitely recommend it to fans of the shounen genre and those who like action or superheroes, and maybe also as a first anime for people who enjoy action-oriented shows.