My Hero Academia / Boku no Hero Academia (Vols. 2 – 8) by Kohei Horikoshi

I’m nearly caught up with the all the tankōbon published in English so far.  Volume 8 of My Hero Academia / Boku no Hero Academia takes us through “Chapter 71: Kota.”  If you’re a super-fan, MangaFreak has all the scanlated chapters up to chapter 153.

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I’m still trying to decide if I’m enough of a super-fan, myself to want to catch up to the “live-stream,” as it were.  I have been very burned by getting that invested in a weekly manga (and its fandom). To add to that, My Hero Academia / Boku no Hero Academia is a Weekly Shounen Jump (WSJ) product, just like Bleach and Naruto, which both ended abruptly and so, so very badly.

I’m not sure that I trust the editorial staff at WSJ to understand *why* their product is successful and to cultivate and lead their mangaka to explore the important bits.

I mean, there’s an obvious canon ship in My Hero Academia / Boku no Hero Academia.  If the numbers drop, are the editors going to be like, “Whelp, that’s a wrap, Hokikoshi-sensei.  Just slam Modoriya and Uraraka together, give ’em a couple of babies,  chop off Modoriya’s hair so he looks like crap, destroy any power Uraraka had on her own beyond being a breeding female, and call it the end, okay??!!”

Not that I’m bitter.

But, you can’t deny, it’s a WSJ trend.

SPOILERS

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A lot happens in Volumes 2 – 8.  We get the sports area competition (and Todoroki Shoto’s tragic—seriously tragic–backstory,) the heroes choosing their names (very glad that Midoriya went with “Deku”), the injury of Iida Tenya’s onii-chan, and so, so much more including an internship for Midoriya in which he finally gets a better sense of how to control All For One.

Speaking of the transferable quirk, we also discover that there is an opposing quirk out there called One For All, and that maybe the origin story of the super-quirk is not entirely wholesome.

As I allude to above, there is also the introduction of the Hero Killer villain and his intriguing philosophy…. which was kind of a turning point for me.

Mason saw me reading these further volumes and he asked me what I thought of everything so far.  At the time, I was reading volume 4, and I still wasn’t sure.

As long-time readers of my reviews know, I’m a hard sell.  Comedy is hard for me, but also I really like my stories to have some… meat, some substance.  Barring that, I want a sense of the edges of the world, the places where dystopia and disaffection lurk.  I like action-action-action, but I can get bored of that if there’s nothing more there.  I managed to drop out of Assassination Classroom after having read a ton–almost 11 volumes? So, yeah, I need a strong hook–for me, I especially want a kind of dark hook, something that tells me that the mangaka has created something that could be thought about deeply, in a real-world context.

With the introduction of the Hero Killer, we’re getting somewhere.

And, more importantly, WSJ seems to recognize the interesting bits of this darker side, too.  They’re currently running a spin-off to this manga called, Vigilante: Boku no Hero Academia Illegals. I just started reading that, and might have a review of that up separately.  (I promise I will get back to yaoi, but my heart is shounen, so bear with me.)  This seems to follow people who don’t fit into the hero mode, who still want to do good, but because of the laws of society, they’re illegal–criminals.

Heroic bad guys.

Okay, you’re interesting me, WSJ.

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The other thing that intrigued me in the main story and got me thinking I may have found something deeper is that the heroes of the universe of My Hero Academia get very worried when clips of Hero Killer’s speeches get out.  His point?  The world is overrun by heroes.  All these quirks mean that no one is really special.  You don’t actually have to be heroic to be a hero.  In fact, as we see in the internship arc, some heroes spend their time selling products on TV.

Hero Killer HATES that sh*t.

Plus, and he doesn’t talk about this explicitly, but his quirk has made him physically deformed.  A lot of people don’t get the good quirks.  There’s a lot to find problematic about this quirk-filled world.

So we’re starting to ask the question that has been on the opposite side of of hero, Midoriya’s journey.  His question has always been: what makes a hero?  Like Captain America in the Marvel comic universe, his answer is pure.  It’s your heart.  Quirk or not, being a hero should mean “doing the right thing, even when that’s the hardest thing.”

Now, we’re starting to ask, “What makes a villain?”

In fact,  in these volumes, there have been some serious questions about the hearts of some of our colleagues at UA.  When Hero Killer takes out Iida Tenya’s older brother, paralyzing him, Iida starts to walk down the path of revenge.  Similarly, we see the instructor, Eraserhead, keeping a shadowy watch on Bakugo Katsuki since he is still so consumed by his hatred of Midoriya (he makes them work together on the final exam–which KIND OF works, except he’s still so angry.)

However, the implication of his concern over Bakugo appears to be that UA may have produced villains in the past, and they’re keeping an eye out for villainous behavior–which, of course, FASCINATES me.

So, I mean, this one has got a lot of what I love.  A LOT.

I will certainly follow the volumes as they come out. The only question is… how much further will I fall into it?

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My Hero Academia / Boku no Hero Academia (Vol. 1) by Kōhei Horikoshi

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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.

SPOILERS

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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!