In a world where everyone has a superpower, has being extraordinary… become normal? The hit new series My Hero Academia features a universe where 80% of the population possesses a “Quirk.” Ranging from control over fire to frog-like characteristics, having unusual abilities is considered normal. Occupations specifically for those with Quirks have even opened up, making it possible for talented individuals to become heroes. So for people like the series’ main character, Midoriya Izuku, being Quirkless has labeled him as an outcast.
Midoriya dreams of being a hero someday, but his lack of a Quirk has left him on the sidelines. However, after a fateful encounter with the number one hero All Might, Midoriya is given the opportunity of a lifetime. He enrolls in a prestigious hero academy and begins his journey to rise up as an underdog in order to become the best.
The typical rising up from the bottom plotline may feel cliched to some. Yet the author Kohei Horikoshi has put a completely new twist on the idea that makes it brand new to the audience. Instead of a shallow plotline with minor struggles, Midoriya grapples with real problems, learns from them, and often has to face them multiple times because in life there isn’t always a simple answer. Junior Julia Poetzinger, a superhero enthusiast, states that “While underdog plots are common, especially in superhero films or shows, their draw has never diminished, largely because of how we ourselves feel like underdogs in our own lives.”
The majority of fans who enjoy the series like the fact that the plotline has been revamped, but also the fact that the series contains deep character development for the majority of the cast. Todoroki Shouto, while on the surface seems like a cliched troubled teen, was revealed to have an abusive upbringing. Iida Tenya, a responsible student, is attempting to follow in his brother’s footsteps in order to become a great hero that helps others. And Uraraka Ochako, a sweet and kind girl, is constantly trying to overcome her own weakness. The character development is spread out over multiple episodes, building up to a conclusion that leaves the characters with an emotional depth that pulls at the audience’s heartstrings. “I really enjoy the energy. The realistic fiery passion gets me hyped up, even if I’m just staying in bed while watching. The art is very lovely too,” says Junior Courtney Carter.
This development is not limited to the heroes of the series, the villains get just as much effort put into their motives. The villains aren’t presented as righteous or relatable in any way, but they are given backstories that clearly help the audience understand how they got to where they are today. A personal favorite of fans is Stain, the hero killer. While his actions are deplorable, fans view him more as an anti-hero than a murderer. “I love that [MHA] has a morally gray villain who has moral values, except for killing people,” said Junior Sarah Jane Landes. Motive and the “why” aspect have made the series deep, and constantly interesting to fans, as there’s always something new coming down the pipe.
My Hero Academia has become popular in both Japan and America due to the fact it holds deep ties in both cultures. It has typical Asian links, such as how the school is set up, and the formalities between characters. However, the majority of the inspiration for the series comes from Western superhero stereotypes. The designs, the struggle for characters to meet their goals, and the art style all represent classic hero ideals. For example, All Might is similar to Captain America, from his American colors to how he’s known as the “Symbol of Peace.” The art style in both the manga and the animation resembles an American comic book, which also holds a special appeal to foreigners.
One of the interesting concepts within My Hero Academia is the fact that it deviates from the general anime stereotype of relying on friends to save the day. Big names such as Fairy Tail or Naruto, which have recently ended, heavily relied on the idea that the group should be put before a single person, which is the general mindset of Japanese culture. However, My Hero Academia is inspired by the Western idea that there is a chosen one, one person who will rise above the rest. We have seen this concept in almost every superhero movie, but it’s rare in anime. In MHA, friends can serve as support, but also as rivals and motivation to become number one. Each individual character is exactly that: an individual striving for success, and not willing to stop for anything. “It really shows the self-sacrifice it takes for someone to become good at something, which is not something I’m really used to in anime. It’s realistic and a nice twist,” says Freshman Zoe Kung, a member of the Anime Society.
The conception of Quirks in the series also holds a great deal of interest to viewers. It has been proven time and time again, with each new Marvel or DC movie that hits the big screen, that people love the idea of having outstanding powers. This holds true for My Hero Academia as well, but this new anime series also holds deeper metaphysical meaning. In a world where everyone is considered special, is anyone even special in the first place? And more importantly, there’s the subtle message of how everyday society tends to treat people who don’t fit into the standards of what is normal. “If you didn’t have [a Quirk], you are considered out of the ordinary, which resembles how we work as humans. We reject people or things out of the ordinary. There’s also the fact that if everyone had a Quirk, would it even differentiate us from other people? If we all had some sort of power, there would be no one special or different in the long run,” Freshman Taisa Lundberg explains.
With several other large series ending, MHA is arriving at the perfect time to fill the gap. Between well-rounded characters and a plotline that keeps viewers begging for more, My Hero Academia can definitely be considered the next big title in both America and Japan. Not only does it hold appeal to people already interested in anime, it also has served as a catalyst for introducing people to Japanese animation. The fanbase is growing exponentially and shows no signs of stopping. So, are you ready to be Plus Ultra and join the phenomenon?
by Cat Shewfelt
Image via Crunchyroll