Picture this: at long last, you’ve graduated from junior high, and you’re about to take the biggest step towards securing your future. There are all kinds of high schools around the country offering world-leading courses in science, commerce and the arts.
But for a select few, they require a more specialised academy. One that can mould them into something truly wonderful… the path towards becoming a hero.
This is the premise of My Hero Academia, a fun, thrilling anime that is about to enter its fifth season. If you haven’t started it yet, fear not citizen, because we’ve got the education you’ll need to understand why this shounen adventure is such a hit.
And so, we proudly welcome you to AnimeLab Academy! Our graduation rate is second to none, and the cafeteria serves nonstop anime, day and night. Oh, how nutritious!!
Let’s begin with a pop quiz, sidekick. Can you guess how My Hero Academia first debuted?
If you said as a manga, give yourself 100 points!
Artist Kōhei Horikoshi developed the idea as a one-shot in 2008, creating a world in which superheroes saved and inspired the people around them. Its successor commenced serialisation in Weekly Shounen Jump in 2014, and shortly made the leap to the screen in 2016.
One day, for reasons unknown, people around the world began manifesting strange, supernatural powers known as Quirks. Gradually, this phenomenon grew more widespread, to the point where 80% of the population had an ability of some kind.
Such awesome traits would inevitably be used for evil, and deadly crimes rapidly hit an all-time high. Before the world could slip into chaos at the hands of these dastardly villains, their benevolent counterparts would rise. These are the heroes, the most wondrous profession you could possibly have, tasked with protecting the innocent from disaster.
But what of the unlucky few that didn’t seem to have a discernible talent of any kind? Most would become outcasts, derided by their peers for their misfortune, and live unfulfilled, wishful lives. It could be enough to crush most folks, but not Izuku Midoriya.
Despite being Quirkless, he idolises the world’s mightiest heroes, making up for his lack of notability with courage and determination. Alas, it seems as though his best efforts will never be enough to live out his dream… until a chance encounter with the greatest hero of them all changes the course of history forever.
What are Quirks?
A Quirk can be any number of things, with varying degrees of use. As you’d expect, many of them involve harnessing elemental powers like fire, ice and electricity, or inhuman brawn and agility — your standard superhero stuff. Then, there are less obvious ones, such as a shadowy figure with offensive and defensive utility, or the ability to manipulate fabrics into different shapes. One kid just straight up has a cannon in his mouth called the tongue tank, and yes, it is absolutely amazing.
One aspect that My Hero Academia explores is the potential drawbacks of superpowers in a given situation. Even the slickest heroes may not be suited to a certain catastrophe if their Quirk is incompatible. For example, being able to blast streams of water would prove a boon in an inferno, but during a flood? Maybe you’re not the best person for the job, and it’s best to defer to someone else. Thanks for keeping everyone hydrated, though.
Knowing how best to utilise one’s blessings is something we all take for granted sometimes, and in this anime, it’s a clever narrative tool. Of course, you could probably find a use for the tongue tank in any scenario, but that’s just my opinion.
Learning to be a hero
You can’t just wake up one day and decide you’re a hero, you impetuous upstart! There’s a lengthy training and recruitment process you have to go through, and the first step is getting a proper education. Just as in real life, sometimes a champion’s strongest weapon is their diploma.
There are a few different institutes that offer hero programs, with U.A. High School among the most prestigious. That’s where a great deal of My Hero Academia takes place, as you may have inferred from the title. The department of heroes is the creme de la creme, where eager youngsters test their mettle to become the next generation of saviours.
Not everyone is equipped for a career out in the field, and U.A. caters to this with a variety of alternative branches, including the departments of support, business and general education. The former two allow students to support heroes with their tech or their professional acumen, while general education prepares pupils for a career that could be independent of the hero industry altogether.
There’s no shame in being a productive member of society, but considering many of the general education students are actually wannabe heroes who failed the entrance exam, there’s more than a little tension.
Meet the heroes of U.A.!
We’ve already mentioned the star of My Hero Academia, Midoriya, but there’s lots more to be discussed. He has gone through most of his life being considered weak, even futile. He has garnered the unfortunate nickname of Deku, which sounds cute, but actually translates to ‘useless’.
Imagine being this unspectacular in a world so fantastical. How could you muster up the willpower to even get up in the morning? Fortunately for Midoriya, the strength of his spirit outweighs his physical shortcomings. He has the true pneuma of a hero; indomitable and selfless, and one day, it’s these intangible qualities that lead to him receiving a Quirk of his very own.
This Quirk lets him channel all of his strength into a single part of his body for a moment at a time. It takes its toll, and it really packs a wallop.
Upon admission to U.A., Midoriya meets a wonderful group of friends, from the peppy, bashful Ochaco Uraraka to the responsible stickler Tenya Iida. You could fill an entire article just gushing about Class 1-A, with their many wonderful powers and personalities, and you’ll soon find your own favourites.
Of particular mention, of course, is Shoto Todoroki, whose versatile Quirk, Half-Cold, Half-Hot, endows him with access to both ice and flames. He’s rather withdrawn and guarded, however, so it’ll definitely take some time before you can break down his barriers and learn more about him.
In the meantime, you’ll at least get an earful of Yuga Aoyama. He cannot stop twinkling!!
You can become a hero…
My Hero Academia is equal parts enjoyable and earnest, with one of the most likeable protagonists you’ll ever meet. Consider Midoriya your lens into another world, where dreams can come true if you work hard enough and even the most impossible goals are never out of reach.
It is a masterclass in pacing, and to be quite honest, you’ll have scarcely realised how many episodes in you are until you double check. Everything feels so fresh and engaging; it keeps throwing new curves into the mix with an exquisite sense of purpose.
But it’s not just an adrenaline rush, as this anime will have you in tears within its first episode (and if you don’t cry, you’re probably a villain). It allows its supporting cast ample opportunities to shine, and even the lesser heroes can prove their worth in a pinch.
Meanwhile, the villains — whom we’ve intentionally only mentioned in passing, suspense!! — range from compelling to tragic and everywhere in between. Everyone’s got a motivation, be it altruistic or malicious, and although the line is drawn between good and bad, it’s rarely quite so straightforward once you learn about the people behind the veil. Whether they’re pursuing power, vengeance or just recognition, the old adage remains true… we are all the heroes of our own stories.
And you’re the hero of this next one, sidekick! All you’ll have to do is train hard, get in some cardio and check out My Hero Academia. It’s the fast track to superstardom, and your Quirk is sure to turn heads.
When you’re done, don’t forget to study up in the extensive AnimeLab library for extra credit. …Oh, and if you come across Bakugo, could you kindly ask him to stop telling me to die? It’s becoming quite upsetting.