“Something that you receive because you’re lucky and something that you are given because you are recognized are different in essence” – All Might
Studio BONES‘ adaptation of the popular manga My Hero Academia came as one of the most anticipated anime of the Spring season. Expectations were high, and expectations were met. My Hero Academia is a very faithful adaptation that manages to grasp the little aspects that enamored so many readers of Kouhei Horikoshi’s story.
Battle shounen are probably the most exploited genre in anime, which is why it’s quite ironic that the genre seems to be stuck in the same formula for the past decade. My Hero Academia does not change the formula, nor does it do anything innovative. It’s not like it needs to either: Japanese entertainment usually works by fitting moulds, hence why you always see so many generic, seen-it-all-before new series every season (and why they still manage to sell well). This is no necessarily a bad thing – if the formula works, why change it? But if you’re looking for some new take on this genre, you will probably not find it here, or at least not in the first season. That is not to say that My Hero Academia does not bring any new elements. For example, one of the things I liked the most is the fact that while Midoriya is as impulsive as any other main character, he is not reckless and he usually thinks before he acts.
If there is one thing that could be criticized, though, is that the pacing is quite slow. This was probably due to the fact that BONES did not have enough time to include the following arc, which is quite long, and so they had to stretch the first ones. It was actually sort of puzzling that the anime only got 13 episodes, considering the manga has already published nearly 100 chapters. BONES has already announced a second season, but it’s still unknown whether it will be also one cour. Not everything is to be blamed on the anime, though. Other shounen like Naruto and Hunter x Hunter have also used the “students fighting villains/each other”, but that was usually done once we had had enough time to get familiarized with (and attached to) the characters first. Hopefully that is something that they will achieve with the second season.
Shounen stories usually touch on motivational topics like self-improvement, not giving up on your dreams, friendship, and so on. “Effort” is, therefore, a key element in these type of stories. In a genre that is plagued with main characters getting ridiculously strong (often by the so-called “power-ups”), viewers had grown interested in other side-character that had to work twice as hard because they weren’t born with talents. Fans would take a liking to One Piece‘s Usopp or Naruto‘s Rock Lee. As a matter of fact, when I first heard about My Hero Academia was when someone referred to it as “Rock Lee gets his own anime”. For the most part, this is true. The first two episodes of My Hero Academia are very refreshing as they introduce a world where the big majority of the population are born with “quirks” (superpowers), which creates new jobs like “super heroes” and “villains” (a premise that is heavily influenced by Western comicbooks). In this scenario, Midoriya, a kid who has a passion for super heros and wants to become like his idol “All Might”, gets the devastating news that he’s “quirkless”. That is probably why the biggest issue I had with the series is that it doesn’t quite fulfill its initial premise by actually giving Midoriya a quirk (and a very powerful one at that). While the topics of “talent vs effort” remain through Midoriya’s constant (off-screen?) training to master his ability and how useful his hero-studying proves to be, I was still slightly disappointed after hoping for a story in which the MC could become a hero through normal, human training.
BONES did not only do a great job with the adaptation of the content, but the art style is also very loyal to the illustrations from the manga. Even though the backgrounds look quite cartoon-y and fake at times, it still fits with the Western hero-aesthetics of the show. The animation was solid and in some battle scenes reminiscent of Madhouse’s One Punch Man. The soundtrack was also very fitting (although some tracks were sometimes misplaced) and both the opening and ending were quite catchy.
My Hero Academia is a tricky series to review because it mostly depends on who’s watching it. If you’re an anime veteran who has seen more than 10 shounen, My Hero Academia will be nothing but an entertainment to you, but if you’re new to anime (or a kid), you’ll probably fall in love with the series. My Hero Academia has a lot of heart and themes that are worth spreading: If you’re not as gifted as others, it doesn’t mean you can’t make it. It only means you have to work extra hard for it.