Dragon Ball and Naruto are among my favorite anime franchises of all time. Both of these shows are tried and true Shonen anime, with Dragon Ball in particular being not only one of the most influential anime of all time, but hugely instrumental in popularizing anime in the west.
But as much as I love these two anime, they aren’t really evocative of the shows that I enjoy today. They are high action battle anime, while most of what I consume now are shows like Yuki Yuna Is A Hero, Sakura Quest and Usagi Drop, all of which are fun and cutesy slice of life anime.
Both the manga and anime for Naruto have been over for quite some time now, and while I love Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, it hasn’t quite evolved to be the Shonen anime that I’ve been missing. In comes My Hero Academia, a show that has done everything it could possibly do to remind me why I feel in love with shows like Naruto and Dragon Ball in the first place.
My Hero Academia isn’t a parody or deconstruction of typical Shonen tropes, rather, it plays everything completely straight. It isn’t ashamed of its Shonen roots, rather, it simultaneously embraces them and fixes problems that have historically plagued the genre.
In the world of My Hero Academia, the act of being a super hero has become the world’s most popular profession. For generations, people have been born with genetic abnormalities known as Quirks, and these Quirks can manifest in a variety of ways.
At the center of My Hero Academia’s story is a young man named Izuku “Deku” Midoriya. Since childhood, Deku has longed to be a hero in the image of All Might, the world’s number one hero. But unfortunately, Deku was born without a Quirk.
Deku’s first step to achieving his dream is being admitted to U. A. High,the most prestigious school for aspiring heroes. As a result of being Quirkless, his chances of passing the entrance exams are slim, and it doesn’t help that he has to deal with his childhood friend turned bully, Katsuki Bakugou, along the way.
Deku’s most defining traits are his passion and determination, and another aspect of his character that I find to be interesting are his combat skills. He has almost zero real combat experience, but he does have unparalleled observation skills.
Ever since he decided to be a hero, Deku has written countless notebooks detailing the Quirks of the various people that he has encountered. These years of study have given him great skill when it comes to reading and deciphering Quirks, fighting styles and even openings for his own counterattacks.
One of the coolest things about My Hero Academia is the simplicity of its lore. Quirks are really easy to comprehend, and they are not limited by an arbitrary power supply like Ki or Chakra (I still love you, Naruto and Dragon Ball). Quirks function similarly to normal muscles. A person’s ability to use their Quirk is governed by their proficiency with said Quirk, as well as their own physical parameters, and overuse of a Quirk can actually damage the user.
Because the show is so inventive with its Quirk diversity, the fight scenes are extremely cerebral in nature. In order to be an effective hero, the characters must learn how to make the best use of their Quirks in a number of different situations. As many people have said, My Hero Academia is very reminiscent of early Naruto, in which each ninja had clearly defined advantages and disadvantages against one another.
My Hero Academia also features its own cast of charming characters. Some of the standout ones are Deku’s friends Ochaco, a girl with the power to influence gravity, and Iida, a U.A. Class Representative who has boosters in his legs that allow him to run at incredible speeds. There are a number of other characters that don’t necessarily receive tons of screentime, but manage to be memorable if only for their unique Quirks (special mention to Kirishima).
So far, I’ve stated that My Hero Academia has a fantastic cast, awesome fights with interesting powers, a cool world and is unashamedly a Shonen anime to its core. But one more thing that I find to be one of the show’s strongest points is its pacing. My Hero Academia has an extremely brisk pace, but it never feels rushed. Mysteries and character arcs that you think won’t be resolved until much later on in the story, are usually at least touched upon shortly after being brought up.
This is one anime that makes use of every single episode that it has, and as a result, it feels much more satisfying to watch. Long running Shonen anime have conditioned me to expect long, drawn out fights, sympathetic villain backstories, and essentially being strung along for dozens and dozens of episodes. My Hero Academia eschews all of these problems, and does a great job of keeping things moving, but also giving time to the slower moments when necessary.
My Hero Academia is the personal breath of fresh air that I needed in anime. I’ll never stop loving cutesy slice of life shows, nor will I ever not adore Naruto and Dragon Ball. But this show does so many things right, and has the good problem of making me watch four or five episodes, when I only planned on watching one. I had a great time with the show’s first season, and I’m greatly looking forward to the second season and beyond.