Anyone who knows me knows that I love the X-Men, so when Patti described My Hero Academia as an anime with a premise similar to the X-Men, I was only mildly intrigued. I already love the X-Men, have written about them, and Patti and I do a podcast about them twice a month, so why would I need to view something similar to the X-Men? However, when she told me that there was a character in My Hero Academia comparable to my favorite mutant, Pyro, I knew I would have to watch. Beware of spoilers going forward, anime-niacs.
My Hero Academia takes place in a world where superhuman powers are prevalent and celebrated; the vast majority of humans are born with a “quirk,” the MHA equivalent of a mutant ability. Although very few powers are useful, some humans possess super speed, can control gravity, and create fire (and let’s not forget the disgusting navel lasers). The primary protagonist, Izuku Midoriya, has dreamed of becoming a hero for his entire life because he has always idolized the nation’s most powerful superhero, All Might. Unfortunately, Midoriya is quirk-less. Through dangerous circumstances, however, the teenaged boy meets the muscular hero and gains a small amount of All Might’s power. Then, it’s off to superhero school.
U.A. High School is where the quirk-powered kids of My Hero Academia train to become heroes, because fighting villainy is a profession. Although All Might has a strong presence in the school, there are many quirk-powered teachers, such as Present Mic, Cementoss, and Eraserhead, who teach the kids to use their abilities in combat (but picking good code names is an ability that everyone lacks). Although Midoriya, who takes the codename, Deku, is the star of the show, his classmates, Bakugo, Todoroki, Iida, Uraraka, and a few others are regularly featured. These kids need to become the next generation of heroes, because obviously, there are plenty of criminals with quirks.
There is an entire League of Villains whose purpose is to kill All Might and damage public sentiment of heroes. The majority of the villainous team are background characters, but many have interesting designs. However, Shigaraki, the field-leader of the team, adorns disembodied hands as part of his motif, and can destroy anything that he touches (maybe he’s a very touchy guy, but I can’t quite put my finger on it). He speaks in a very sinister tone and looks extremely creepy. Although the villain’s motivation may not sound too compelling, the sinister delivery of this character and his cohorts are certainly effective, and welcome a dark contrast to the predominantly light-hearted tone of the show.
Without spoiling too much, season one introduces most of the characters, the world in which they exist, and the relationships and conflicts between them. The second season shows the kids working together as well as against each other in a sports festival competition. Season three is currently airing and shows the students on summer vacation together, until they are discovered by a faction of the League of Villains. Although My Hero Academia had fun and enjoyable moments during the first two seasons, there have been glaring issues that I’ve had with the show that have made it sometimes difficult to sit through.
The characters practically narrate the story and motivations of other characters during battles (I had no idea Chris Claremont wrote for this show). Not only is this corny and silly, it severely diminishes potential enjoyment. As a result of the constant narration and other unnecessary dialogue, the show moves at a terribly slow pace. During character-narrated battles, MHA tries to convince the viewer that the stakes are higher than they actually are in order to induce a sense of dramatic tension. This is apparent when the students face each other in one-on-one combat, because the melodramatic interactions feel completely forced. Furthermore, while there are some interesting heroes and villains, it seems as if the writers wanted to fill the show with characters who have cool powers and designs rather than giving many of them any substance.
As a fan of the X-Men, I have experienced firsthand an overabundance of characters who suffer from very little use. Similarly, U.A. High School has many more classes than just the one to which the star students belong. However, many characters make no more than cameos, and when those students appear again during later episodes, it is easy to completely forget who they are. Even many students in the main class are recognizable only by appearance, but not by name, quirk, nor are viewers given much reason to care about them except for a sense of obligation (actually, I don’t care – I friggin hate teenagers). I understand the fallible nature of my own complaint – like the X-Men, it’s necessary to fill a school with students in order to give the story a sense of credibility. Both Xavier’s School and the Jean Grey School have been filled with students who haven’t contributed much more than cameos at times, and such a practice makes sense in MHA since the population of people with quirks is supposed to be even higher than the population with an active X-gene. However, there is one character in the show who I’ve noticed many fans don’t like, and I not only love the guy, but believe that he is necessary.
Midoriya and Bakugo have known each other nearly their entire lives, and Bakugo has always bullied Midoriya. As a teenager, Bakugo is an angry individual who is determined to be the best hero – not because he wants to help people, but he needs to be better than everyone else. He constantly lashes out at other students and always has to prove he is better than everyone around him. As interesting and fun as My Hero Academia can be, Bakugo is necessary because this show seems to be overly lighthearted and friendly; an angry student such as Bakugo is refreshing compared to the innocence and naivety of other students. These are teenagers – they are not all going to be friendly with each other all of the time, but that’s practically how the creators write these kids (but sometimes you just gotta make a child cry). Bakugo, although a completely irrational jackass to the point of hilarity at times, is one of the most realistic and believable characters in My Hero Academia, and reminds me of the X-Men villain, Pyro, on steroids. Although I’ve had plenty to complain about, this show is actually pretty darn good, and has gotten much better during the current season.
My Hero Academia has unique characters, and their bravery in the face of dangerous circumstances warrants appreciation and cheers from me as a viewer. Even Deku, who I hated with a passion for most of the series, has naturally grown into a somewhat likeable character (he’s become pretty De-kewl). Even though they are students, these kids are sometimes unfortunately forced to fight powerful villains. Not only is this compelling, but watching these characters build relationships with each other and fight evil while learning to use their powers reminds me of reading New Mutants when I was a child. The show has entered some darker territory during the current season and it’s absolutely wonderful. This is a welcome new direction, and the battles are awesome to watch. I am regularly finding myself excited to see what happens next.
I’m certain that, considering the hype surrounding this show and the momentum that it is building, My Hero Academia will last for quite some time. Patti believes that this show will parallel something like Naruto in both popularity and duration. While it is certainly not a groundbreaking anime that introduces much new to the superhero genre, it is still a lot of fun, has interesting characters, plenty of action, and a good story. I’d recommend anyone who’s even remotely a fan of the superhero genre to give My Hero Academia a try.