MY HERO ACADEMIA
The true meaning of everyday heroics
Both Marvel and DC have had a slew of superhero movies in the last decade, so is there room for more? Yes. Especially if it combines entertaining Japanese school life with Western-influenced superhero action like in My Hero Academia.
The anime is set in a world where a majority of humans possess special abilities called Quirks. Izuku Midoriyama, or Deku for short, is one of the Quirkless few—but that doesn’t stop him from chasing his dream of becoming a full-fledged hero. He eventually inherits a Quirk from another hero and attends U.A. High School where he hopes to prove himself a worthy recipient of his newfound power.
The characters in MHA deal with their abilities in different ways, encompassing the whole spectrum of moral alignments in the superhero universe. You’ve got the Mark Millarand Alan Moore-type of anti-hero in Endeavor; the Golden Age beacon of light in All Might; and more. Not everyone has flashy powers like elemental attacks or super strength; most of the time, the characters have to make do with their mundane abilities such as having frog-like skills, or having earphone plugs as earlobes. But with enough resourcefulness, the people are able to use their Quirks in ingenious ways. While the similarly themed One
Punch Man is an affectionate parody of the superhero genre, MHA is more of a love letter to the Western superhero comic book. MHA is a very self-aware series—superheroics is considered just another paying job in its universe, with professional agencies drafting the best students from the academy, and much attention is put in choosing the right costume, hero name, and how they’re perceived in the media.
Deku is the nerdy hero archetype much like Spider-man (creator Kohei Horikoshi’s favorite superhero), reflecting the earnest and optimistic view of superheroism that’s sorely lacking when darker and edgier storylines are the norm. Just like the typical shounen hero, Deku works hard, values teamwork, and cares for others. His idol, All Might, looks like he just walked out of an American comic book and the contrast is jarring. He’s drawn in the distinctly buffed up Western style, has flashy moves, and spouts motivational phrases. Both characters don’t just show off their prowess but inspire others to do good deeds and make citizens feel safe just by their presence alone.
MHA makes good on the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” adage. The anime shows us what true determination means as they get thoroughly beaten up but keep moving forward in fighting their opponent. It’s not always a solid victory for the protagonist (just like real life).
More than the over-the-top battle sequences in the anime, it strikes to the core of what it means to be a true superhero. It’s about overcoming obstacles, no matter how dire and hopeless the situation. And if you don’t get immediately inspired by All Might’s booming voice and motivational speeches to suddenly save a cat from a tree, we don’t know what will.