When my son saw that I was reading this, he asked me how I liked it. When I told him I was enjoying it so far, he gave me a funny, vaguely skeptical look. “Really?” he said, “Because I know how you are with things that are popular.”
Ouch. But, I can’t really argue there.
I do, however, often have a weakness for superhero stories.
Plus, I learned my lesson from One-Punch Man. This looked like it might have a lot of humor and parody, so I watched two episodes of the anime of My Hero Academia before delving into this tankōbon.
The story takes place in a world, like Tiger & Bunny, where superpowers are commonplace. It’s so common to have a “quirk,” in fact, that the fact that our hero Izuku “Deku” Midoriya was born without one makes him stand out.
This being shounen, not having any power whatsoever and being a total weakling doesn’t stop Midoriya from wanting to be a hero, though. In fact, he’s kind of a hero fanboy, a hero otaku, he’s so desperate to be one. He’s been keeping notes on all the heroes and their powers since forever. Despite knowing there should be no way in, Midoriya strives to get into the elite hero school, U.A.
This devotion to what seems to be a lost cause annoys his arrogant friend, Katsuki Bakugo. Bakugo got his quirk at the usual time. He also lucked out and actually pulled a cool one (as opposed to randomly sprouting a tail) where he can make energy blasts from the sweat on his palms. He’s sort of a natural brawler, so this suits his temperament, which is… well, temperamental. Bakugo is kind of a classic red oni, heavy on the oni.
It’s Bakugo that gives Midoriya his nickname “Deku,” which comes from a reading of the characters of Midoriya’s name which can mean a ‘scrub,’ as in someone who isn’t skilled.
The relationship between these two middle school friends/rivals is the core of the first volume of My Hero Academia /Boku no Hero Academia (and the first couple of episodes of the anime), because Midoriya manages to pass the entrance exam to U.A., despite being “quirkless.”
I have to admit that when I first heard about this set-up, i.e. someone with no superpowers in a superhero school, I was hoping that what this meant was that Midoriya had no powers whatsoever. I figured the whole gimmick would be that he was basically Batman, a really smart guy who could hold his own against Superman because he’s just that brilliant/devious/clever.
That’s not actually what’s happening in My Hero Academia.
It sort of is, but as it turns out, there’s an aging superhero known as All-Might who is in need of a ‘vessel.’ He has an extremely rare quirk called “All For One” that can be passed down from generation to generation. He’s never found anyone worthy, even though a crippling injury from a fight against a super-villain has necessitated that he speed up the process of finding an apprentice.
After seeing Midoriya run towards danger when Bakugo is being attacked, All-Might figures he’s found his vessel. The only problem is that Midoriya isn’t transformed by this gift. He’s still a ninety-eight pound weakling, and any time he uses the “All For One” power it nearly kills him.
But, it is enough for him to gain entry into the elite academy and his journey towards becoming a hero begins.
I should note that the story structure varies wildly between the manga and the anime.
The anime starts* with Midoriya already in the Academy, squaring off in a training session with his frenemy Bakugo. Some of the other main characters are introduced in situ: Ochako Ururaka (float girl) is Midoriya’s partner in the exercise and the serious, bespectacled Tenya Ida (speedy) is Bakugo’s. All-Might is already an instructor and is, in fact, sort of presented as the headmaster (not as the brand-new teacher starting the same year a Midoriya, as he is in the manga). The backstory comes as flashbacks in between all the action.
The manga is a much slower build.
In the manga, the reader is introduced to the world of the quirks, like, literally from their beginning in “Keikei City, China.” Then the story jumps to when Midoriya and Bakugo are still in middle school, and they stay in middle school throughout most of the chapters collected in the first tankōbon (1-7). We also get the adoption/apprenticeship/training of Midoriya by All-Might (the discovery of his secret, etc.) in “real time,” as well.
In fact, the volume ends on orientation day at U.A. We meet Eraserhead and have a few tests that Midoriya naturally fails miserably. Then, All-Might introduces the idea that there will be battle in the next class (and we see the characters finally dressed as we first see them in the first episode of the anime.) In the manga, there is also the hint that a mysterious group of villains in on the move, targeting All-Might.
I’m not sure how I would have reacted to this with just the manga, honestly.
The first two episodes of My Hero Academia are very compelling. Bakugo is presented in his full raging a$$holery bada$$ness, but we immediately see how torn up he is by his defeat at Midoriya’s hands in the training exercise in a way that makes him much more immediately sympathetic than his middle school bully persona. Getting his arrogance in small doses via the flashbacks made me think of him as tortured and broken, rather than just a completely horrible human being.
The manga also breaks the fourth wall regularly in order to point out how “differently All-Might is drawn” from the rest of the cast. (He is, in fact, always more heavily-shaded.)
There aren’t exactly overt panty-shot type fan-service moments, but the costume of Mt. Lady hugs her butt pretty darned closely, and she’s almost ALWAYS seen in a provocative, slightly bent over, butt-centered pose.
Mason may have had a point. I could see myself having bounced out of this manga pretty easily if I had not first had the backbone of the story introduced to me via the anime.
Thus, my recommendation to anyone new to My Hero Academia (if such a thing still exists?) would be to follow my lead. Either just watch the whole anime, or start with a few episodes before picking up the manga. Midoriya is a very compelling character if you like the shounen trope of the guy who fights his way to the top by sheer force of will… and I do. A LOT.
So, I’m definitely going to stick with this.
I just finished watching the 25 episode season of Pandora’s Heart’s anime, and so I think I will put the two seasons of My Hero Academia into rotation. When I go into work today, I’m going to see if I can pick up the next several volumes of the manga.
I mean, what the heck. I can like something popular now-and-again, can’t I?
Edited to add: * I am apparently a moron and started watching episode one, season TWO. So, my bad. Too bad that’s not how the anime starts, though, because it totally hooked me!