Nothing quite like striking after the iron’s gone.
This is the last year in which My Hero Academia will not be an anime that ‘has run for ten years.’ Seems a fine time to get into this superhero comic book anime for tweens. Behold, beyond the fold, I will be talking about the first season of the anime and that means some spoilering.
My Hero Academia, in the first season, is an anime from 2016, based on a 2014 ongoing manga about a futuristic world where most people have superpowers, and the job of ‘superhero’ is an idolised and widely respected job that leads to kids attempting to join highly competitive schools to pursue it, in a sort of mashed up hybrid of an idol career but also a dash of the idea of being a doctor. It’s a big deal, and our protagonist, Deku, wants to become a superhero, except I said most people have superpowers and our hero does not.
This is the first place where the story kind of skewed off of what I expected; I knew at the start of the series of the hook of The Misfit Toy wants to be a Real Boy, and that Deku had the drive to be a great hero, but no powers to back it up. The opening also shows off his notebooks in which he’s been drilling about being a hero for his whole life, learning about and studying them for ages, while grappling with what it means to be ‘without power’ and how that is different to being ‘powerless.’
The other major thing people know about in the series is the character of All Might, a sort of iconistic vision of a Superman-style hero modelled in the anime vein; he’s an enormous, larger than life gigachad who is faster, stronger, and tougher than anyone he faces, and he’s the internationally vital symbol of what it means to be a hero, to be peaceful, to save the day, with a real red-white-and-blue Americana aesthetic over everything.
What I thought was going to happen off this starting position is that Deku gets into Hero High School despite having no powers because this All Might guy sees him and sees something in him and the whole story is about someone developing a power or routing around the absence of powers or maybe just learning to choose powers, but turns out I was straight up wrong. Instead, the first episode explains to us that All Might is a dying icon, a symbol whose powers are limited and who does his heroing around his medical disability, but the power he has is a power that can be passed on from person to person, getting stronger every time. Then, after some training to ensure that Deku can handle it, he shares his power with him, and we now get a much more standard story about Deku becoming a superhero with All Might’s power, which is also so powerful that every time Deku lets himself use it, the power completely effs up his everything, limbs and bones and all.
The first season covers this introduction, brings Deku to school where he meets a pretty awful teacher, gets introduced to a big group of characters, gets his first superhero outfit, and then there’s a multi-episode fight where some villains attack the school to draw out All Might in an attempt to kill him and destroy The Symbol Of Peace.
This is a good chunk of story, especially for introducing a superheroic story that’s going places, it’s just that it’s always a rough sell when a story introduces a pitch to you that gives you an exciting idea then does sometihng else entirely. I thought this was going to be a show that slow-rolled his Getting A Superpower a lot more, but nope, turns out it’s pretty much gunna happen straight away, also him getting in on one of the most dire secrets in world history.
These things that feel like they’d have been great plot points to develop into are much more about setup, which gives the story time to develop the idea of a Superheroic High School, giving you things like superhero teachers and examples of superhero infrastructure, and then have a good old fashion superhero fight scene with the added texture of a bunch of loser heroes on hand for us to cheer for.
I don’t think, watching this, that this is going to be a superhero series I like. Too many moments were set up with an opportunity to do things I really like, that I’m really excited by as a superhero storytelling device, and instead it chooses to do something that I guess is more obviously shonen battle anime. There’s a definite flair to the combat mechanisms but also the combat doesn’t free itself of the way fights get drawn out, and there’s a lot of recapping and reiterating between ad breaks that feels like old tech that stories like this have moved past.
Also, am I too suspicious in saying that this looks like a show that introduces a lot of girls to be present on marketing but will never really do much with them? I feel like there’s a better handle on the awful little twerp Mineta, a character who has gotten a lot of dialogue and expressed his opinions more than we need. I dunno, I feel that if the creepy perv of the class gets more attention and development than the girl in the class, it’s a sign of what the story thinks of as ‘relatable.’ This is meant to be an elite class of people who tested highly, so why are there shitty little arseholes like that and complete losers with powers like ‘has tape’ alongside ‘can synthesise any material?’
Oh, and one last beef about the first season. In the physical testing with quirks the characters do, the teacher tells them he’s added together their scores to get their ranks. Ochaco ranks half-way, despite the fact that one of her tests, the throw-a-ball test, gave a numerical response of infinity. Know what you get when you add ten to infinity?
I dunno, I feel like in that situation, you could have just put her at #1 in the class and had an explanation offered after the fact, but nope, gotta put her in the middle for no good fucking reason I guess. It’s so strange, like I feel like the ranking was based out of a gut feeling but then they include the idea it’s a sum of scores.
My Hero Academia is Bleach for swordphobes. You have the same kind of vast cast of under-developed characters made to fit a visual motif or aesthetic, things that the story promises no really, we’re going to cover this later, we’re going to expand on it, but I am doubtful. The first season wants you to ask questions, but the way it answers what it has so far leaves me feeling like the answers will be very unsatisfying.
I’m not tapping out of the series! It’s still, you know, fine, it’s just a very popular, mainstream series based around cool identifiable characters with special powers and a popular aesthetic that wants me to keep watching because it Will Explain Things Later.
I don’t think it’ll explain it well.