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Here’s why fans can’t get enough of ‘My Hero Academia.’
Slamming into the new spring season comes the third installment of My Hero Academia, the smash-hit action anime based on the beloved Shonen Jump manga. It tells the story of Izuku “Deku” Midoriya, a boy who always dreamed of being a superhero but lacked a superpower or “quirk” in the show’s parlance. When a chance encounter with his boyhood idol grants him the superpowers he longed for, Izuku takes the entrance exam for UA High School, the top hero academy in Japan.
Superheroes are having a moment all over the world, and My Hero Academia is part of that. It combines the superhero tradition of Marvel and DC comics with the story arc structure of popular battle shonen manga like international hits Naruto and Dragonball Z. Add on top of that an overarching story that examines the nature of the hero/villain dichotomy, and you’ve got a series that’s both fun and worth sinking your teeth into.
Everything you should know about My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia‘s underdog story
Izuku worshipped the hero All Might as a small child—he watched videos online of his rescues and carried around an All Might doll. But when he reached the age that supernatural quirks start to manifest, Izuku didn’t develop one of his own. His dream to be a superhero was destroyed and, to add insult to injury, his best friend Katsuaki Bakugo developed a super-powerful quirk and turned arrogant and cruel.
Years later, All Might rescues Izuku from a villain and reveals that his quirk, One For All, can be passed down. He chooses Izuku as his successor and, after some intense physical training, shares his quirk.
Actually getting the powers isn’t the end of Izuku’s journey. He’s lived his entire 15 years quirkless, and that’s given him an entirely different approach to his new powers. He has a more intellectual approach than most and carries a notebook with him to document professional heroes’ powers, weaknesses, and strategies. He also totally lacks any instincts about how to control his own powers, and it takes him a long time to learn to use them without seriously injuring himself.
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Where Bakugo developed powers and grew arrogant, Izuku’s lack of powers kept him humble and thoughtful. He’s still prone to impulsiveness, but always for the sake of others. That’s what convinces All Might he’d make a good hero and makes him a compelling protagonist.
My Hero Academia‘s lovable ensemble cast
Big fights require big casts, which is why series like My Hero Academia need a large cast of likable characters. After all, Izuku can’t learn the power of friendship if he doesn’t have allies to fight alongside, and the viewers can’t root for the characters if they don’t like them. Luckily, Class 1A of UA High School is as lovable an ensemble cast as there ever was.
Izuku’s classmates have a wide range of personalities and powers, ranging from complex and troubled to mostly comic relief. Izuku bonds most quickly with Ochako Uraraka, a bubbly girl with antigravity powers, and Tenya Iida, who has jet engines legs and a hall monitor’s heart.
Those two, along with Izuku, form the core trio, but multiple characters get the opportunity to take center stage. Frog girl Tsuyu Asui captured fans’ hearts for her frankness and caring nature. Shota Todoroki’s body is split between fire and ice powers. But he’s tormented by the abuse he’s suffered from his father, the second-ranking hero. Even Bakugo goes from mean-spirited bully to entertainingly abrasive and thoughtless.
Izuku will always turn to Iida and Ochako first in his times of need. However, there’s a lot of careful maneuvering to keep the ensemble feeling balanced. They chat easily and sling one-liners in big group scenes. Character acting in the background gives a sense of their individuality. Each story arc’s big action set pieces, whether battling against villains or against each other as a school activity, shakes things up and creates opportunities for them to combine their powers in different ways.
How can Ochako use her anti-gravity powers against Bakugo’s explosions? What happens when Izuku, Tsuyu, and Mineta (whose hair forms into sticky balls that he can detach and throw) are isolated from the rest of the class, forced to face a villain who intends to kill them? My Hero Academia brings out each character’s best qualities by putting thought into balancing their powers and personalities.
My Hero Academia‘s big Star Wars Easter egg
There’s a fun Easter egg that has popped up several times in the anime’s location names: Hosu Station, Aldera Junior High, Musutafu City. Many of the places are named after Star Wars planets. Translated into Japanese, Hoth became Hosu, Alderaan became Orudera, which was translated back into Aldera, and Mustafar became Musutafa.
Several others are sprinkled throughout the series. See if you can spot them!
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My Hero Academia‘s Crunchyroll Awards
Last year, anime streaming site Crunchyroll tried something a little different with its annual awards: A panel of judges nominated shows for a wide range of categories in things like “Best Action Series,” “Best Animation,” “Best Score,” and many others. Once the nominees were selected, fans could vote to choose the winner in each category. My Hero Academia collected 10 nominations in eight categories and won seven of them: Best Girl, Best Boy, Best Hero, Best Villain, Best Opening, Best Animation, and Best Action Series.
As with every awards show, there was a lot of argument among the fans over whether each award was deserved. Yuri on Ice, which swept the 2016 awards, got the same treatment. But any award decided by an open voting system is going to be a popularity contest, and something about My Hero Academia speaks to a huge range of fans. There’s no objective metric for why Todoroki got Best Boy over Izuku, or why Ochako is a better girl than Tsuyu (although Tsuyu was robbed, in this fan’s opinion).
But fans do agree that My Hero Academia is worth watching. With gorgeously animated action, an underdog hero surrounded by a charismatic cast, and a bright sense of humor, My Hero Academia has most of the qualities people value in a great anime. It’s still gaining momentum both in anime and manga, with no signs of stopping. Maybe the real superpower of My Hero Academia is all the friends that fans have gained along the way.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Caitlin Moore has been watching anime since a two-episode VHS cost $30. She writes for her own blog, I Have a Heroine Problem; writes, edits, and podcasts for Anime Feminist; and travels to anime conventions doing panels about shoujo manga.