Welcome to the first in our series of My Hero Academia reviews. We’ll be reviewing each season in the coming weeks, endeavouring to give a full assessment of the show as we build up to reviewing the most recent episodes. Thanks to George Beresford for additional contributions to this review.
The superhero theme has been done to death. From comic books to TV shows, video games to movies, the concept is so popular, it’s easy to become bored with the whole thing. It’s also hard for media producers to put a unique spin on their own superhero brand.
In the world of My Hero Academia, 80% of the population have “quirks”, mutations which grant them some kind of superhuman ability. Protagonist Izuku Midoriya is one of those with no quirk, yet he dreams of being a hero, inspired by the world’s greatest hero. A series of chance events lead to Midoriya inheriting a fraction of All Might’s powers and attending the school for heroes, UA.
It’s hardly fresh territory. The concepts of a large population having superpowers, as well as schools for superheroes have been done countless times before in films like Sky High and shows like the Umbrella Academy. MHA may be dealing with a tired concept, but it still nails it with its excellent production, vibrant artwork and engaging story telling.
One of MHA’s biggest plus-points is its quality character design. Plenty of anime struggle for ideas when designing a large cast of characters. Just look at Dragon Ball Super during its Tournament of Power arc. But MHA doesn’t seem to suffer from that problem. Around 50 unique heroes and villains appear in the first season, attending or teaching at UA, fighting in the streets or strutting their stuff on TV. All of them have quirks that are unique and, well, quirky. They range from the powerful, like Todoroki with his ice powers and the super-fast Tenya to the quirky; Tsu who has the powers of a frog and the flashy, self-absorbed Aoyama who can fire a laser from his navel.
Each character is designed exquisitely, their appearance and powers fitting perfectly with their personality and making for a varied cast which makes every episode different. Protagonist Midoria is an easy character to like; friendly and modest with a determination to succeed. He’s played off well against perpetually furious childhood rival Bakugo, mentor All Might and romantic interest Uraraka and the story progresses naturally, with nuggets of character development and humour sprinkled between creative, superpowered fight scenes.
The English language voice cast do their jobs well too, with several Funimation favourites taking starring roles. The standout performer is Chris Sabat. In the role of All Might, he veers between caricature, pleasantly reminiscent of his portrayal of Major Armstrong in Fullmetal Alchemist, to serious, jaded tutor in the vein of Dragon Ball’s Piccolo.
While the opening episode isn’t as punchy as it could be, it takes its time setting up Midoria’s origin and, I’ll confess, didn’t immediately grab me, it quickly picks up the pace. By the end of episode 2, I was hooked and binge-watched half the season in one go. With numerous great superhero anime out there like One Punch Man, Tiger & Bunny or Zetman, it can be hard for series like MHA to truly stand out, especially when they fail to introduce a truly unique concept. But trust me when I say this one is worth watching. Summon your inner hero and find the power to go watch it on Crunchyroll!
Jonny Keen | [rating=5]
Superhero, Action, Comedy | Japan 2016|