EDITOR’S NOTE: What Are You Watching? is a feature series that dives deep into why we love the anime we love. You told us what you were watching, and now we’ll dig into why.
By Sean Aitchison
It’s no secret that superhero entertainment has dominated global conversation. Around the world, superheroes from Captain America to Batman control the cape conversation.
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But what happens when you combine superhero entertainment with the power of shounen manga from Japan? The answer is Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia, a tour de force franchise with the appeal of Western superhero tropes and the fine art of Japanese storytelling.
It’s one of the best of the best, and it’s one of my favorites.
You can be a hero
My Hero Academia follows Izuku “Deku” Midoriya, a hero-obsessed teen who wants to become a great hero himself. Unfortunately, in a world where 80% of the population has a superpower known as a Quirk, Deku was born Quirkless–shattering his dreams of becoming a hero.
That is, until the #1 Hero, All Might, offers to pass down his power and train him to be the next great Symbol of Peace.
Now with a Quirk of his own, Deku is able to attend U.A. High School, where some of the world’s greatest heroes were made. U.A. is but one piece at the core of the story of My Hero Academia, though, as Deku faces the trials of a budding hero, clashes with his rival Katsuki Bakugo and butts heads with some truly deadly villains.
But as the series rolls on, it’s this unique blend of shounen and superhero storytelling with a TON of heart that allows My Hero Academia to shine brighter and brighter.
One For All
When I was asked if I’d like to write a love letter to My Hero Academia, I already knew there weren’t enough words to really showcase every little thing that makes this series great. But I’ll try.
Pro heroes. U.A. students. Rival schools. The League of Villains. This world is lush and layered, with almost every character offering something to relate to. Even the story arcs don’t lean on tropes to excel, with key moments happening during “lighter” moments. (Looking at you, School Festival arc.)
There’s a subtle flipping of genre to My Hero Academia that makes the meaning of things like “filler” meaningless, before every piece of this story matters. We care about Iida’s brother. We care of All Might’s former sidekick. We care about Fatgum, who we just recently met! (But how could we not?)
But this is because Horikoshi is a master of balancing action with storytelling. The fights of My Hero Academia are impactful because they’re given breathing room. We learn about these characters, we spend time with them, and then we watch them take a hit. That’s power.
But My Hero Academia’s strongest trait is that it’s relatable. Any dream or aspiration can be applied to Deku’s goal of becoming a hero and the struggles he faces along the way. The doubts his classmates have and the trauma they all face serve to amplify the show’s ensemble cast, and, despite being about bombastic superpowers, there’s always a sense of commonality.
There’s a phrase at the center of My Hero Academia‘s narrative that truly powers its characters and the push to be better than you think you can be: “Go beyond, PLUS ULTRA!”
And not every series can live up to a motto, but this one does. Every couple of years, a series comes along that changes everything and defines a generation of new anime fans, going beyond the call. That show is My Hero Academia.
I’ve grown up with Deku, quelled our frustration as Bakugo, felt unbreakable with Kirishima, flipped gravity as Ochaco and stood tall as All Might.
It’s this true sense of place, power and the feeling of “going beyond” that keeps me watching My Hero Academia. How about you?
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