…Well, holy crap.
Why in the world did I not watch this sooner? It’s comprised of two of my favorite things; Superheroes, and Anime. What force prevented me from–
Chris. You’re incredibly lazy.
…Shut up. But I won’t lie. My Hero Academia, was a friggin’ delight. And I’m still kind of processing it, really. What I can definitely say is that most anime that go for the superhero angle tend to just miss the mark for me. And it may come with the translation. Or, rather, the differences in sensibilities between Eastern and Western cultures. The only other superhero anime I really like (at least the only one that’s expressly emulating superhero culture as it was defined in the west, rather than doing its own thing) is One-Punch Man… and that’s a parody, so it barely counts. My Hero Academia, while a typical Shounen Action/Comedy in many ways, does something a little different. It doesn’t just use the superhero angle as a gimmick. It actually uses that premise to delve deeper into what it even means to be a hero. It also uses a lot of the tropes, but analyzes and deconstructs them in a number of ways that keep them from feeling like the same old thing we’ve seen before, and would probably work better with their originators.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The basic premise is that a boy named Midoriya, or “Deku,” as he’s come to be known, inherits the powers of his idol, “All-Might.” All-Might, for all intents and purposes, is essentially a less exaggerated One-Punch Man. All the strength in the world, but his powers are (at least as we’ve presently seen) limited to physical feats. He can’t actually fly, he just jumps really high and far. He’s super fast, super strong, etc. All-Might gives him this power because he’s looking for a successor, due to his own declining health. With this power (and his winning personality), Deku is able to get into the most prestigious superhero academy in the world. Which is located in Japan… okay.
Quick Note: Can I just say how amusing it is as a superhero fan when they describe a scenario or event as “so American.” I can’t even tell if they’re just acknowledging the tropes, or throwing shade. It’s just funny to me, either way.
Deku is your standard Shounen “lovable loser.” He’s picked on for being “Quirkless” (someone without powers) at the beginning of the series. But the that’s pretty quickly a hurtle he overcomes and people start respecting him. How? He freaking earns it. Not because of his powers, mind you, despite them. You see, Deku’s newfound power comes with a crippling limit… literally. He can’t control this strength, so his body can’t take the impact of using it. So whenever he does use this power, he essentially breaks whatever part of himself he was augmenting. Which is an awesome limit, starting out, for a character who’d otherwise easily fall into the “god complex” category, like Superman. Speaking of which, Superman would be proud of this kid. Because despite those powers, Deku knows what’s important. He wants to be a hero because he wants to help and inspire people. He’s not in it for the action, or recognition. He doesn’t do it for vengeance, and isn’t driven by guilt or a desire to prove himself to others. He’s just that good a kid. So good, in fact, that when someone’s in danger, or needs help, his body basically treats it like a Spidey-Sense, and moves before he has time to think about it. And it’s not like he just recklessly charges into action (usually). I mean… he totally does, but once he’s committed, he’s not exactly flailing around. He uses his head. A smart hero with a lot of power? Yes please! Oh, and geek note: Can I just also say that I really appreciate that he actually applies his geek knowledge from studying other heroes to maximize his effectiveness? This just… it makes me all happy and stuff. Anyway, even after he gets his powers, it isn’t purely that body-breaking limit of his that deters him from using them. He just knows that, were he to use them on others, lacking the control that he does, he could seriously hurt, even kill them. It’s a really admirable quality in a character, thinking of others before themselves… and speaking of others…
Let’s talk about Bakugo… AKA the kid whose ego would make Vegeta look humble. I… this kid is just. Are we supposed to hate him? That’s the reaction we’re intended to have? Because I’m not entirely sure what to think. Le’me explain something. Anime is highly visual. More so than Western comics and animation. Probably because Japanese culture has this big thing about presentation, which I may have brought up before. Point is, anime has an extremely visual language that I’ve still not mastered the art of deciphering. But whenever Bakugo’s reactions are shown, I legitimately feel kind of bad. And I don’t think that’s the reaction I’m supposed to have, there. I’m sure he’s not exactly a bad kid, but when they get into his backstory around the midway point of the series… he’s Vegeta. He was always told he was the best, he’s always been the best, and now that that perception is being challenged, he’s confused and more pissed off than ever. He is freaking Vegeta. And Deku is Goku, just… a jumpier, smarter version of Goku. Seeing the more vulnerable expressions does humanize him, but when you look into his background, there isn’t exactly anything (yet) that says we should pity him. So… I can’t figure out how he’s supposed to make us feel. I’m looking forward to seeing how this progresses. Whether he snaps and becomes a villain, or just pushes himself to get better, based on the examples of those around him. And yes, I do mean those. It becomes very clear to him, relatively early on, that Deku isn’t the only person he’s competing against, at this point. Which is something that causes him to stop and really reflect on himself. So, having not read the Manga, I’m leaning towards the idea that he’s probably going to go the Vegeta path, and just be an eternal rival. And on the subject of the other guys…
So the supporting cast… supports. They get some pretty awesome moments in terms of action (especially towards the end), and some pretty funny moments as well. Uraraka has one of the funnier moments in the early episodes, during training… and can we just talk, for a second, about the fact that she pukes rainbows? Seriously. I had to rewind twice just to be sure what I was seeing. And it makes a shimmery sound effect! What in the world does that have to do with gravity powers?! I mean… she’s supposed to be unfathomably cute, but that’s some My Little Pony level nigh-obnoxious cuteness. And I can’t help but adore it. Sigh. Then there’s Iida, who’s probably my favorite, just because he’s so friggin’ earnest and serious. And because of that, the reactions others have to him are just priceless. Like when he suggests they hold a vote to- eh. That’s a somewhat relevant spoiler. You watch for yourself to see what I mean. The other characters? In season 1 there’s pretty much nothing to any of ’em. They’re just there to be funny and act as bodies to fill space and provide action and conflict in the final few episodes (a big battle, in case that wasn’t obvious). But based on my understanding of things that happen in the manga, don’t write them all off, quite yet. Indeed a few of them have arcs, and they go quite a bit deeper than you might expect, for a silly little superhero anime.
There isn’t much to say of the setting, as it appears to basically be modern-day Japan, just… with superpowered people running around. I do like that in this world they play with the idea of superpowers basically being a completely normalized and integrated part of society. Largely because it’s so common that there’s no way around it. It’s something I was instantly a fan of, because I’d always kind of wanted to see something taking place in a world where just having superpowers wasn’t so much of a big deal. It is, after all, how you use them that matters. With great power… you know the rest. It’s also because of how tired I’ve personally grown with the public’s active hostility towards metahumans in traditional western superhero comics (mostly in Marvel’s case). I get that mutants (and now Inhumans, apparently) are allegories for racism. But while those stories are still awesome in their own right… as stories, there’s been some resistance to update that allegory to better suit the times, as of late. Meanwhile DC’s problem with not being able to really normalize superpowers is two-fold. On the one hand, they don’t have enough superpowered people for it to become so (people born with powers are much more rare in DC, outside of those who inherit them), and on the other hand, the most powerful being in the world is also the most down-to-earth, humble soul alive, which helps to alleviate that fear in many ways. My Hero Academia, perhaps unintentionally, really presented an appealing idea of a world in which having these powers was completely… I hate using this word, but “normal.” And that’s awesome.
And now for the housecleaning stuff. The action… IS AWESOME. But you knew that, already. It’s a Shounen action anime. That was never going to be a question. But oh my god it’s just so friggin’ awesome! Especially that fight between Deku and-! …wait. Spoiler. Sorry. But then there was the one between Aizawa and-! Er… All Might versus-! Gh… people… watch it. Watch it so I can talk about this with someone. Oh my god. So friggin’ good! And, of course, I already brought up how funny the series could be, at times. Especially when lovingly (or bitingly. Can’t tell) poking fun at some of the superhero tropes I so adore. And, of course the one thing I have to point out. The music! Not only does the music really get you pumped up during a fight scene, but when it shifts to something more hopeful or triumphant (specifically the track “You Can Be A Hero”), it really is beautiful.
All in all, I’d say to definitely give it a look and stay tuned for the second seas, due out this year. Something tells me it’s gonna be awesome. Was it my favorite anime of the last year? Eeeh… dunno. Probably not, but it’s up there. With all that said, ladies and gents, thanks for reading.
Keep up the awesome, and take care
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