What is a hero? What makes a hero a hero? What does a hero do that makes them a hero?
That is the subject of this anime, My Hero Academia.
Set in a world where superpowers, or “quirks,” are abundant, My Hero Academia follows the adventures of Izuku Midoriya, nicknamed Deku, as he struggles to become the greatest hero in the world. No exaggeration. He was originally powerless, but having been chosen by his idol, the mightiest of heroes and the symbol of peace, to succeed him, Deku gains power and thrusts himself forward with wits, will, and effort. He makes friends, rivals, and enemies along the way, every step taking him towards his goal, on a path fraught with life-threatening peril.
I like this show!
I’m going to get the negative part out of the way first, though.
The premise is a bit inconsistent. They say that 80% of people have quirks, but we don’t see the normal, everyday person using powers. They say Deku was a helpless freak for not having a quirk, but not only does that ignore mad science, but having a population where one out of every five people is quirkless would make him far from unusual. And apparently heroes are forbidden from actually injuring people in combat… like, fighting for their lives. Which is just inane.
Now, on to the positive.
This anime is great!
We haven’t finished the second season yet, but I am absolutely loving it!
To start with, we have the setup. I know I just pointed out an inconsistency in it, but I am thoroughly willing to forgive. I love superheroes, you see, and these are superheroes done well. Not many stories have superpowers so commonplace and abundant and it’s great to see what everyone can do. Even more, though, it’s fascinating, even riveting, to see how people, the characters, relate to their powers. One boy with the power of making fireballs is obsessed with the idea that he is the strongest. Another one has family drama and even abuse surrounding his abilities. As for our main character, Deku, he is the boy who was weak, told his dreams could never come true, and now he has the chance to be the greatest of them all… if he does his very best.
That is something that, I think, most superhero stories overlook, but this one deliberately crafts stories where the power is intertwined with their personal motivation. Not to say that all of them are like that, but several are.
Finishing the setup, we have Deku’s mentor. He is the greatest hero in the world, the strongest and noblest of them all, the symbol of peace. He always saves people with a smile, reassuring them that all will be well by his presence, stating boldly, “I am here!” He is this world’s equivalent of Superman… but he’s still human. He’s not invulnerable or immortal. In fact, he is facing some very serious issues with his health. He’s dying, slowly, and his strength is declining as a result. And his successor, chosen for his behavior in the moment of crisis, is Deku.
So, making this world even deeper, we have the greatest hero with a very human concern, and the driving force behind the plot, especially Deku’s quest to become the greatest hero. Even better, though, this setup gives the world a power ceiling, something which many anime completely lack and thus fall victim to the phenomenon of “power creep.” We see the limits of power in this world, which makes it amazing when those limits are pushed. The strongest hero in the world isn’t at his full strength either, which makes his accomplishments amazing, and makes it plausible for Deku to someday become even stronger. Finally, we see how even the strongest are only strong not because of their abilities but because of their skill in wielding them, and their determination.
The skill, by the way, is amazingly done. In every display of superpowers that I can readily recall, the way the characters think and use their powers is pretty clever. Probably the best list of examples of this could be found in the tournament arc, where everyone had to figure out how to use their abilities against a variety of other abilities and within a variety of circumstances. On which note, this was an especially well-done tournament, not only showcasing the abilities but especially developing the characters.
As for determination, that goes into the main discussion of this anime: what makes a hero a hero?
We have examples of both heroes and villains who are more complex than they appear, and so they make the world more complex on a personal level. One hero is practically a villain in the way he treats his family, but he is a consummate professional in the field and saves lives. One prefers to be relatively unknown, seeing the fame as a distraction from the purpose of helping people. Other heroes want to make an idolized sibling proud, or make enough money to let their parents retire comfortably, or simply stand at the top. A certain villain wants nothing more than to destroy, while another claims his actions are to make the world more just. But the greatest heroes in the show are just people who act in response to need. People are in trouble, so they help. They don’t stop to think about whether or not they should, whether or not it’s their business, they just do. It is a hero’s business to meddle, as they say.
My Hero Academia is, quite simply, one of the best anime I’ve ever seen. The action, the adventure, the training, the abilities, the well-crafted world, the characters, their journeys… it’s just a very good story. With excellent animation and music!
Someday, I will do a favorite anime countdown, and even with the wide variety of titles I’ll have to consider, this one easily vaults into the forward ranks among my favorites. I can’t wait for more, and I will be following this one all the way to its eventual end.
Rating: 10 stars out of 10!