My Hero Academia review

David Eckstein-Schoemann, Reporter

Season Five is around the corner. So let’s talk about one of the most popular anime series out there, “My Hero Academia.” This shonen series has captivated fans and casual viewers with its complex characters, creative world-building, and dramatic turns. There’s a lot to uncover, so let’s take a look.

Photo courtesy of Funimation

The series takes place in Japan in a world where 80% of the human population has manifested special powers, or “quirks” as they call them. The protagonist Izuku Midoriya is a teenager who dreams to be a hero like his idol, All Might, the world’s symbol of peace. However, he’s one of the minorities born without a quirk. He is often ridiculed for following his dreams, particularly by his violent classmate, Katsuki Bakugo, who gives him the derogatory name “Deku.” After a series of well-placed events where Deku saves Bakugo from a villain, All Might sees his heroic actions and decides to train him to be a hero. It’s revealed that, unlike anyone else’s quirk, All Might’s quirk “One for All” can be passed down from user to user. All Might decides to give his quirk to Deku so that he can succeed him as the world’s symbol of peace. The catch is that Deku has to train his body to handle this incredible power as it breaks the bones in his body every time he uses even a fraction of it. Deku is forced to find ways to properly use his quirk and work his way up so that he can fully master it. He and Bakugo join Class 1A at U.A. High where they make friends with characters such as Ochaco Uraraka, Shoto Todoroki, Tenya Iida, etc. Little do they know that All Might’s nemesis, the villain named All for One, is conditioning his own apprentice, Tomura Shigaraki, to lead a League of Villains to destroy all heroes and tear down their current society. 

If you haven’t seen “My Hero” and are wondering what it’s about, visualize the setting and characters of “Sky High” and set them in the Marvel comics universe. As a huge fan of comics and superheroes, this anime was practically tailor-made for people like me. It has tons of character development, a creative and unique world, and a story that keeps raising the stakes as it goes along. At a first glance, it seems like your typical superhero story where a timid youth is given power and has to learn to master it as he rises up to be a legend. That’s fine and good, but what makes it stand out is the world this series creates and the directions it takes these characters. You get behind Deku because he’s thrust into a world of people, who are experienced with their quirks, all while he’s learning and taking small steps as he goes along. We’ve seen other characters’ journeys like this, such as “Luke Skywalker” and “Aang,” but what makes it different here is that even though Deku is working his way to his full potential, he utilizes everything he has from all the knowledge he’s accumulated over the years. As you’d imagine, without a quirk he’s had to use his brain and strategize as he’s observed others and how they’ve used their quirks. This allows him to think of innovative ways to use his quirk without damaging himself. Even though he has this ultimate power at the end of the day, his wits set him apart. This series takes the slow-burn route in showing Deku’s character growth and progression. But it works here because, not only do they make it emotional and have you rooting for Deku with each small step, but you also have a ton of heroes and students with their own arcs. I’m especially impressed with the variety of powers this show creates. They’re all creative, well thought out, and tie directly into their personalities. 

I also love how many of these characters are so well developed. You feel like this is a show where their backstories and growth are given as much focus as the main character. I love it when series do this, where when you follow these people long enough you start to see them as main characters alongside the protagonist. You’re basically watching multiple storylines unfold but in the best way. Even characters like Bakugo are surprisingly well done. Even though he’s presented as an unpleasant jerk, they progress him in a way that makes you want to follow this character. From a writer’s standpoint, this is pretty tough to do as a character like this can come off as really one-dimensional, or really unlikable. This is truly interesting. I always see people wavering back and forth with characters like this, which I think is something the writer is aiming for.

Even the villains are given a lot of depth. Unlike most shows and films, where you either have great heroes/lame villains or average heroes/deep villains, the villains here match the main characters in terms of character and intrigue. A lot of these characters are some of the most well-developed antagonists I’ve seen in any anime. I think about many of them as much as I do about the heroes: From Tomura Shigaraki, to Himiko Toga, to Hero Killer: Stain, to Dabi, and the list goes on. A lot of that stems from the characters and their motivations. While some of them are naturally bad, there are people who by chance of circumstance are forced onto these dark paths. Even though they are doing horrible things and you oppose their choices, you do understand where they’re coming from based on how this society treats them. A lot of the social commentary in this show comes naturally. We see how the world these characters live in isn’t perfect with how it treats certain people, particularly those who see heroes as the cause of their troubles with how they can’t save everyone or do their job solely for glory and attention. Those are viewpoints you don’t see too often, particularly in shows based on superheroes. Even though it’s easy to see this conflict as black and white, you start to see the grey areas come into view when you see their backstories and motivations. No matter which side is focused on, each character has an identity that everyone can understand.

Photo courtesy of Funimation

The animation and action, as you’d expect from a superhero anime, is fantastic. A lot of it is very strategy-based in that even though it is fast-paced they take time to show how a character thinks of a way to get out of a situation or get the upper hand on their opponent. It sounds like these two ideas would contradict one another, but it works because they continue to find clever and creative ways to up the ante as the action progresses. Just when you think the action has reached its climax, you’re surprised that it’s only getting started with how much they throw at you. A lot of the fights even take up an entire episode, but they still keep the energy high so that you don’t get bored. I feel this is something that can only be done in anime, as it’s able to make choices like this but still be satisfying to watch.

I like how this series is able to change its pace in between story arcs and seasons. You have your big villain battles and character-centered episodes, but this show also knows when to take time and wind down with these people, particularly the students of Class 1A. There are episodes where you see them have a dorm room contest or prepare for a school festival. I find myself enjoying these, as they allow you to spend time with these characters. We can take them seriously in other storylines, but we can watch them having fun every once in a while. It’s like the side issues you’d read in titles like “X-Men” or “Justice League,” where you see your favorite heroes relax and have some downtime. Even though nothing monumental is happening, you’re still invested because you get to know them on a more personal level. They seem like real people, which allows us to enjoy them more when the big stuff happens later.

I’m shocked by how much this story has grown in the past few years. I started reading ahead of the anime with the manga a couple of years back, and it builds more and more with each story arc. There are a lot of plot details that I don’t want to give away but let me just say this series has some BIG moments in the future from both the heroes’ and villains’ standpoints. It’s one of the few series I’ve read where I get goosebumps every time I click on the latest issue. I wanted to know what happens to these characters, what big reveal they were going to show, and what direction they were taking this series going forward.

With that said, I think “My Hero Academia” is an excellent series that every anime fan should check out. Is it as deep as something like “Fruits Basket”? No. Is it overhyped? Probably. However, it still stands out due to its complex characters and endearing story. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s more than anyone can ask for. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 Sails


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