Anime Review: My Hero Academia Season 1

My Hero Academia (Boku no Hīrō Akademia)

The Superhero story written and illustrated by Kōhei Horikoshi was brought onto the “big screen” in 2016 and reached quite the acclaim soon after. My Hero Academia is set in an alternate reality in which the current generation has grown up with “comic hero” like powers called “Quirks”. Around 80% of the world’s population is born with one such Quirk, although the reason for this evolutionary leap is unknown. The changes this brought to society are profound, on the professional level but of course also when it comes to security. Villainous individuals will not hesitate to use their Quirks to cause mischief. This is where the “Hero Guilds” come in, the new form of law enforcement (among other rescue duties).

The story revolves around the young Izuku Midoriya who is unfortunate enough to be among the 20% “Quirkless” (people with no Quirk) population and Izuku’s greatest hero (as in he’s a fanboy of), mankind’s greatest Hero: All Might. His biggest dream is to enroll into the prestigious Hero’s Academy U.A. High. An aspiration obfuscated by the fact that he posseses no Quirk. However he and All Might come to an agreement and Izuku is given an inherited quirk by All Might; giving Izuku the means to fulfill his boyhood dream: becoming like All Might.

Since season 2 is already underway at the time of writing this article I’ve decided to do a blanket review of the entirety of Season 1 of My Hero Academia. So hold to your possessions with all your might as we take off at jet speed.

You can read anything in blue safely, however anything in black may be/is packed with spoilers.


The Story

You’re watching for the comedy and the action but the series can grow on you over time. What else can I say? It’s a Shounen and not an exceptionally original one at that. The setting is…, maybe kind of unique but where it comes to plot it all quickly dulls down to the bare basics of what a Shounen should be. In a nutshell it’s a story about a teenager who discovers powers and the first part of the story is dedicated to gaining control over said powers so he can fight villains. Sound familiar? Familiar as in every other Shounen ever produced? Then you’re correct. My Hero Academia falls perfectly in line with the likes of Dragonball, Naruto and Bleach when it comes to story progression (and Character development). So much so that it’s nothing more than a run of the mill Shounen archetype by design. It cannot compete to any of the really big titles like the ones I just mentioned, and thus falls into the category of “in the shadow of more acclaimed titles”.

Not a single effort is made to counteract this. In fact, the whole setup of “going to a school”, e.g. where you learn, means that the cliches of Shounen are exemplified. Perhaps this is a result of its design, I mean it is a series about an academy for heroes, but there’s that. The plot is terribly predictable, at least to me, as a result. There were a lot of situations where I just sighed and realized I knew pretty certain what was going to happen next and unfortunately was proven correct. Which is sad since its preamble and setting is more promising than you’d suspect.

A lot of time is spent dwelling on the fact that Izuku is powerless, with no Quirk. Obviously he’s going to get a Quirk anyway. That’s just how it works. Since everyone and their dog already knows that the main character is not going to remain powerless the author dwells way too long on the fact that Izuku has no Quirk of his own. My Hero Academia tries to convince you without any success that Izuku will always remain a Quirkless and thus powerless person. It’s too obvious what’s going to happen either way that My Hero Academia might as well condense that part a bit more. I’d have liked it to have happened somewhere in the middle of episode 1 already, or at the end of that episode as a teaser for the rest of the show. That would have gotten the obvious happening over with and we can proceed with the real story instead.

The comedy and parody are the real reasons you’re watching My Hero Academia. The story makes a parody of about anything superhero and comic related. In that regards it falls into the same category as One Punch Man. But whereas One Punch Man is Seinen, My Hero Academia is the Shounen version. It also covers a broader range in some regards. One Punch Man only means to make a caricature of the “protagonist winning anyway so why not give him the power to defeat the antagonist from the beginning?”, My Hero Academia parodies comic book hero characters on a more individual basis. That said the comedy isn’t terribly inventive or genius. Entertaining certainly but in no way stomachache inducing.

The plot progresses quite slowly, which is relatively uncommon for a Shounen series. Usually Shounen series have a long spanning arc but with plenty of sub-plots (even if its just fighting a threat in between) to draw out the plot. My Hero Academia actually traverses its plot chronologically with little to no time skips. This is in part due to the way the story is told; namely through a first person narrator, Izuku himself. This makes the initial stage where the students are still learning actually quite tedious to get through. However that is a personal taste. If anything this might be the one refreshing factor to you.

It’s only in the last quarter of Season 1 that the story starts to pick up, introducing backstories and the first real antagonists. By this time you’ve spent a good 3 hours watching an uneventful Shounen. What happened during these 3 to 4 hours?

  1. Izuku met All Might and got powers.
  2. Izuku got admitted into UA High.
  3. Izuku trying but failing to control his new powers.
  4. There’s an obvious beef between Izuku and Kacchan.

Could have been done in 3 episodes tops.

The final battle, or season finale if you will, starts off promising with a well prepared ambush of an “army of villains” to try and kill All Might. Unfortunately after the introduction of these villains on the battlefield the series becomes overly predictable again. Their plan? Overwhelming numbers and a grand total of 1 trump card so mindbogglingly powerful that it would certainly destroy All Might.

Obviously the villains’ numerous non-characters are easily dealt with by the teachers and even the students. They’re non-characters after all and thus, by sacred Shounen trope, cannot possibly threaten the main characters seriously. This despite the fact that hardened criminals should have no problem dealing with students but who needs pesky little details like that?

The final battle is where Izuku shows the first hints of control over his power “One For All”, though still very under-powered compared to All Might. This is where the anime got it right, by pitting not Izuku but All Might against the villains trump card “Nomu”. Nomu is engineered to counter All Might’s raw impact power so forms a formidable opponent to All Might. The exchange is very brief however with All Might coming out on top. The action itself, through all battles, is pretty nice. However I wished battles lasted longer. They certainly don’t need to be Dragonball length duels but especially a hyped up threat like Nomu would really shine in a 2 episode long epic battle between him/it and All Might.

Characters

My Hero Academia has a LOT of Characters. Main Characters, supporting Characters, side Characters and Villains. All of them appear on the stage in rapid succession so I won’t be listing them all. It can be a bit difficult to remember all the names, but their (unique) appearance design is quite memorable instead.

 Izuku Midoriya My Hero Academia Izuku Midoriya

The main hero of the story. Izuku is a high school student who wants to enroll in the prestigious Hero academy U.A. High. He is unfortunately among the 20% quirckless people until he one day meets All Might. Receiving an inherited Quirk he enrolls in the prestigious U.A High where heroes are trained and so his story starts.

He is of short stature with dark green hair. Looks are deceiving since he gradually becomes more muscled and athletic. Izuku used to be depressed but after gaining the power to become a hero he’s doing everything he can to make it true, even if that means beating others he feels a likeness with (albeit with a heavy heart).

 

 Katsuki Bakugou My Hero Academia Katsuki Bakugō

Childhood friend of Izuku who likes to flaunt the power of his Quirk. He enrolled in U.A. High with the intention to show off his power. He is more typified as an “anti-hero” due to his flexible ethics. Katsuki is called Kacchan by Izuku.

Kacchan likes a fight and will take any opportunity to show that he is superior, due to an apparent inferiority complex. Despite they used to be friends, Kacchan loathes Izuku both for being “quirkless” yet enrolling in the same academy as he did and because Izuku managed to safe Kacchan in the past.

 All Might Hero Form My Hero AcademiaAllMight Real Form My Hero Academia All Might

A mighty Super Hero, known as the most powerful Super Hero in the world. He spends his life being a hero to the people, both in practice as well as for the media. He upholds an image of a “perfect, infallible hero who opposes danger with a smile”. However his real self is quite the opposite. He passes on his power One For All to Izuku.

All Might’s super hero form is reminiscent of Superman, with a distinctly “American” theme going on with it. He is immensely muscular with flamboyant upright hair.

In his true form however, he is very scrawny and sickly looking. This is worsened by him wearing over sized clothes all the time which facilitate him changing into the bulkier hero form.

 Ochako Uraraka My Hero Academia Ochako Uraraka

Cheerful high school student who’s motivation for joining U.A. High is earning money for her family. She seems supportive towards her friends, even if it means trouble for her.

She otherwise doesn’t stand out in appearance and resembles an average school girl. Unless she slips into her hero suit which by mistake is a couple of sizes too small.

 Tenya Iida My Hero Academia Tenya Iida

Very serious student and is always overly formal. He joined U.A. High to become a respected hero like his big brother. Iida is an extremely responsible person, taking on communal tasks and leadership positions without any hesitation (although not always appreciated by his class mates).

His formal mannerisms as well as his Quirk and outfit seem inspired by Kakugo from Apocalypse Zero (Kakugo no Susume, Onward Kakugo).

 Shouto Todoroki My Hero Academia Shōto Todoroki

Seemingly angered and frustrated young man who enrolled in U.A. High based on recommendations. This is a testament to his power, which are overwhelming compared to his peers. He drags an emotional baggage around involving his father. He generally acts cold or embittered to his class mates and others around him. He doesn’t even seem to hold any reservations opposing a teacher, who are all of the highest “Pro” level heroes.

His distinguishing feature is the scarred left side of his face, along with like colored hair.

 Shouta Aizawa My Hero Academia Shōta Aizawa

One of the teachers at U.A. High and being among the most respected ones as well. Aizawa-sensei has a weird mannerism where he sleeps anywhere he can, bringing a sleeping bag for the occasion with him. He will even sleep right in the middle of the school’s hallways. He is a very demanding teacher however and will frequently belittle his students if they prove below his expectations. He’s also very responsible to his students.

Aizawa wears plain black clothes and with his long scarf and black hair this gives him a goth look. He has tired, bloodshot eyes and always seems tired. 

Character’s powers will appear very powerful, but then come with some quirky (pun not intended) side effect or a suspiciously unfortunate limitation. One character’s powers revolve around electricity. But if he overloads his amps, his brain shuts down and he goes “full retard” for a period of time. Other Character’s are just over the top more powerful than the rest to a point where you ask why the rest even bother showing up. They make for some epic shows of power though.

Art and Animation

My Hero Academia uses top notch animation and art with a distinct grungy and youthful style. Both art and animation aren’t exceedingly detailed. For a comparison Bleach by Tite Kubo falls inline with this art style. I cannot say much else than that the art is crisp, the animations on par and the shading bare minimal. My Hero Academia is a bit more old school in that regard, with very little depth in Character’s faces (as opposed to the current trend of more realistically looking characters).

My Hero Academia Art Style

For animations the series uses up to par technology, only using “blurring flurries” for super fast mass attack sequences. If there’s one thing I despise then it’s using stills to depict a lot of moving characters. To me that’s just laziness. The same holds true to me when for instance a Character performs a high speed attack. If that’s not animated correctly and/or hidden by blurs or vague smears then I hold that as a lack of professionalism.

My Hero Academia Animation Style

Notable/Unique Aspects

Alright here is the problem. I like My Hero Academia, really I do! It’s entertaining for a Friday evening reclining with your favorite beverage and some snacks. But during the writing of this review I really struggled pointing out the unique and very good parts. There weren’t any very bad parts either. My Hero Academia, in my mind, does everything right but nothing about it is exceptionally noteworthy. I’d say, watch it yourself since it’s certainly not a waste of your time and decide for yourself.

However…, if we’re talking about setting then it does shine compared to some other series *cough* Naruto *cough*. From the get go the setting and mechanics of the My Hero Academia world are “in place”. Frequently other series require additional rules or mechanics to be placed there or explained by the author to fill up plot holes or keep the story moving. My Hero Academia however is pretty much set in stone from episode 1, which is an uncommon feat.

Summary

All in all what do I think? Well, at this point I’ve seen the episodes of Season 2 as well and I can say that the show does improve over time. It kind of grows on you. It’s good for casually watching an anime after work or school in the evenings where you just want to wind down. The plot is easy to follow, the fights are solid enough and the characters have just enough depth to them to make it work. The comedy is a key factor as well along with the show’s tongue-in-cheek approach to Super Heroism.

So take the plot with a pinch of salt, or two. You’re only watching My Hero Academia for the enjoyable action and for the comedy. That said, I don’t think I’d enjoy re-watching episodes or this season of My Hero Academia in the future. Not like I enjoy watching old Dragonball or Bleach episodes from time to time. It’s just not memorable enough for that.

If you’ve watched Season 1 to the end is Season 2 worth it? Certainly! As I mentioned above, it’s a good addition to your after-work or after-school winding down anime session. Season 2 adds some more depth to all of the characters and starts to showcase what they’re truly capable off.

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