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Mangamania: My Hero Academia

Titlecards-myheroacademia

When I was a kid, I was a huge Manga fan. I remember seeing one of my classmates reading Shonen Jump and I asked to read it. From there, I became a big reader of Manga. I would go down to Borders and use my allowance to buy volume after volume of Manga. Naruto, One Piece, and many more. Eventually I fell out of the hobby and switched to western comics in High School. Recently however, I’ve come back into reading Manga and I have decided to share my love of Manga with the world. And thus I welcome you to Mangamania!

Our first episode will examine a newly translated manga that was brought to the states last year: My Hero Academia! (Boku no Hero Academia)

Premise

my-hero-academia-coverOn an alternate Earth, Super Powers are the norm. Years ago, a child was born with Super Powers, called Quirks, and soon 80% of the human populace had them. For someone to not have a Quirk is a rare occurrence. And with the coming of Quirks came Superheroes. And most of them go to U. A. for hero training. If some do well in the field, they are sponsored by the Government and become heroes for pay. And the greatest hero of them all is the legendary All Might, the greatest of all superheroes and the symbol of peace for all mankind! However, some do not become superheroes, such as our main character Izuku Midoriya. Izuku is a big Superhero fanboy who has observed and recorded Superheroes for years and years. He has wanted to be like his hero, All Might, ever since he was a kid. However, it was diagnosed by the Doctor that it was highly likely he would never develop his own personal Quirk, due to a special evolutionary rarity symbolized in him having an extra bone joint in his little toe. To say that this devastates Izuku is an understatement.

Izuku spends most of his time being bullied by his former childhood friend Katsuki Bakugou for having the audacity to dream of one day being a hero without superpowers or watching superheroes and recording notes on them, which Katsuki uses his powers to burn. One day, he was attacked by a slime villain that attempted to possess his body. Fortunately, the hero All Might comes to his rescue by trapping the slime villain in a bottle. Izuku, having met his hero, asks him the question that he’s wanted to ask for a long time: Can someone without powers become a hero like you?

All-Might ponders this and tells Izuku that even with Powers, being a superhero is a very dangerous occupation and that for Izuku, a job in police work or firefighting, while overlooked due to superheroics, are good occupations for non-powered people. However, just as All-Might is about to leave… he changes into an extremely thin and sickly man who constantly coughs up blood. As it turns out, All-Might actually doesn’t have a conventional Quirk. His Quirk is called One For All allows the user to access stockpiled power, which grants the user momentary superhuman strength at destructive levels, increased agility and superhuman speed as well as changing his appearance. However, due to a massive battle in the past which left him gravely wounded with several organs removed, including his STOMACH, All-Might is running low. In fact, he can only stay in his All-Might form for about 3 hours a day, and thus he is slowly running out of time. The battle itself that wounded him was kept out of the papers and public knowledge. Even pro heroes with Quirks are at risk to be killed. He stands by what he said to Izuku and departs. All-Might also discovers that he has dropped the bottle containing the slime creature, which has found Katsuki and, liking his ability to create explosions from his palm sweat, decides to possess his body in some disgusting human slime monster combo.

Izuku, arriving on sight, spots the heroes trying for crowd control, but unable to help due to their powers not being up to snuff to try and get Katsuki free without hurting him. All-Might himself is in the crowd, unable to transform to help out. Izuku, after making eye contact with Katsuki, who is terrified, runs forward to save Katsuki, throwing his bag to distract the villain, but of course, he is unable to free him. Luckily, All-Might musters up enough strength to transform and save the boys. He also admits his shame for scolding Izuku for doing what none of the other Pro Heroes were doing: Risking his life to save another

Later, after Izuku is scolded by the other heroes for risking his life and Katsuki being a prideful dickweed to Izuku about trying to save him, All-Might meets Izuku and tells him that because Izuku did the one thing that have defined heroes in their greatest hour, moving to help someone without thinking and thus making the biggest difference in that situation, he can tell Izuku the five words he has wanted to hear from his friends, the doctors, and his mother who could only say “I’m Sorry” after he got the news: You can become a hero. Izuku is moved to tears of joy.

As is revealed in the next chapter, All-Might’s Quirk can be passed on to another and he’s chosen Izuku. However, Izuku will have to train 10 months before applying for U.A., the Hero Academy, before inheriting the power. Can Izuku do it? Will he gain the power he needs to become a hero? Will this series not do the thing I hate the most in Manga: The Time Skip? Find out… In My Hero Academia!

Writing and Characters

The writing for this manga is honestly some of the best writing I’ve seen in a while for a Manga, especially for a superhero story. When I first heard the premise, it reminded me of Sky High, but in reverse. Think about it. Sky High is about a kid going to High School and is the son of two of the greatest superheroes on Earth, but doesn’t have any superpowers. However, whereas Sky High was a lighthearted look at Superhero properties while being an examination of the pressures of High School and growing up, My Hero Academia is about a world where EVERYONE has superpowers and if you don’t, by that world’s definition, you are not normal. I like this idea and it is explored all throughout the first chapter.

We see how Izuku was as a child, always watching the same video of All-Might saving people and fangasming whenever he would say his catch phrase, “Fear not! Why you ask? Because I am here!” And then we see how he was told that he could not live his dream of being a superhero like All-Might. What makes it even sadder is that his mother doesn’t even try to encourage him. She just breaks down, sobs, and apologizes to him. That’s how deep this cultural mindset is. As far as I’ve read in this manga, there are no Batman Expys. No street-level, non-powered superheroes. To this world, if you have no powers, you cannot be a hero. Imagine how soul-crushing that is for a child to hear.

That’s what makes it so relieving for Izuku to hear from his hero that, yes, he can become a hero. Sure he has to get a Quirk, but I like that he doesn’t immediately become like Superman. He has to train his body for 10 months before the entrance exam to U.A. High School in order to gain All-Might’s quirk. And he does this later by dragging massive amounts of disposed beached trash for this amount of time. It’s a training arc in one single chapter and it works very well.

However, as we will see in later chapters, just because he gains the power, doesn’t mean he is all powerful and invincible like Saitama from One Punch Man. The first time he uses his power during the entrance exams, Izuku punches a giant robot after jumping into the air… and breaks his arm and legs because of the amount of pressure it took to leap and punch a giant robot. I like this idea as it shows that Izuku will have to train his body harder in order to fully master One-For-All. It adds a level of tension to whenever Izuku fights.

The writer and artist for this, Kohei Horikoshi, as you can tell from my analysis, is a VERY good writer. If you haven’t heard of him, he wrote a few manga, mostly one shots with two previous ongoing series before this. The first was Ōmagadoki Dōbutsuen and Barrage, both were short lived with Barrage lasting 16 chapters due to lack of interest by the public, despite how good it was. My Hero Academia seems to be the manga that he was building towards all this time and his writing skills show. I also like how he doesn’t approach superheroes with the look of Tokusatsu, but rather Western Style heroes. I will discuss the art and character designs when I talk about the superheroes themselves, but suffice to say it’s clear that his affection for Superheroes in general is present on the page.

Now let’s talk about characters. We’ve gone in length about Izuku’s story in the recap and you can tell that he is basically a fanboy who has been given the chance to live out his one true dream of being a hero. While it may seem like he’s only gotten far by relying on others like All Might, Izuku would eventually make it past the entrance exam, which involves fighting robots, due to his inner heroic nature and his own drive to be a hero. During the exam, when a gigantic robot worth zero villain points, if destroyed, nearly crushes the female lead Ochako Uraraka, Izuku is the only person that actually tries fighting it while everyone else runs away, not wanting to risk themselves for no points. Izuku, despite heavily injuring himself, destroys the robot, saving Ochako who in turn, rescues him from falling to his death. This would reveal the truth that saving a person is more important to the Academy than fighting a villain. This allows Izuku to join the academy and shows him for what he really is: That he has more potential to become a superhero than he thought and sets the stage for his arc. He may be nervous and slightly in over his head at times, but when the chips are down, his own safety is the last thing on his mind when trying to save people.

There isn’t much to say on All-Might at this point in the series, the first 3 volumes of the manga I’ve read, but it’s clear he is the Superman-Expy for this world of heroes. The symbol of Peace and Hope for this world. I like that even though he is all powerful and seemingly invincible, he has one big weakness: His time limit. And I love the physical contrast between his heroic self and his civilian identity. It’s both horrifying and hilarious to say the least. We don’t know much else about All-Might personally, but he’s a likable person in and of himself.

Now let’s talk about the other characters. There are about 3 other main characters that I’ll touch on, Katsuki Bakugou, Ochako Uraraka, and Tenya Iida. Katsuki is the rival of the manga, the “Sasuke” to Izuku’s “Naruto”. However, while that may be their dynamic, the differences between Sasuke and Katsuki are monumental. Katsuki was originally a friend of Izuku’s, but the power he had went straight to his head, causing him to develop an ego and something of a “might makes right” mentality. That having the power to blow stuff up gave him cart blanche to do whatever he wanted and that anyone who didn’t have a power was automatically a target for him. It’s shown that when they were kids, Izuku and Katsuki were friends, but the power drove them apart. It’s interesting to note that if put there, Katsuki could be on the villain’s path as he has all the traits necessary for a person to go down that road. Time will tell if that happens to him.

Despite her role as the Main Girl, Ochako is actually one of the most developed characters of the bunch. She has the ability of Zero Gravity which allows her to cause things to float when she touches her fingers together. Ochako is introduced during the entrance exams and quickly becomes one of Izuku’s best friends. What makes her interesting is that her motives for becoming a hero is not one of purely altruistic intentions. The reason she wants to be a hero is for the government pay so she can help her family recover from their financial slump. So while she’s in for the money, that doesn’t mean she’s incredibly greedy. She’s still a good person who will help others like a superhero, such as when it seems that Izuku has failed the entrance exam, she goes to one of the exam heads and asks that some of her points be given to him since he helped her. Of course there is no need since him saving her helped him pass the exam, but it also shows her true colors as a good person. Plus… she’s so cute!

Tenya Iida is the straight man of the main cast. His Quirk is “Engine” which manifests itself as exhaust pipes on his legs that grant him super speed, though he needs fuel for it, in the form of Orange Juice, according to the author. Which I find funny. In terms of personality, Tenya is the straight man of the group. He is analytical, straightforward and a stickler for the rules. He’s also a very humble man, willing to admit that he’s not perfect, though he underestimates himself, especially when he believes that Izuku is more capable to be Class President than he is. However, Izuku helps him realize his own worth, eventually becoming Class President in place of Izuku. So far in what I’ve read, Tenya has a lot of development to go, but so far, he’s a very likable character and a good juxtaposition to the main cast.

My one big problem with the characters thus far, however, is that there are a lot of characters, side and main. I couldn’t begin to list them all and that does somewhat take away from development. There are good ideas for characters here, but there may not be enough time to develop them all. Hopefully, down the road, that does happen. The characters we do know though are great and very likable, even Katsuki, in his own angry and prideful way. Izuku is a great main lead and not a Gary Stu of a character and I will enjoy following his adventures to becoming a hero.

Art

In my opinion, the best kind of Manga art is one that manages to have fluid art and differing character designs while managing to retain the artist’s style without looking like everything else. My Hero Academia succeeds at this. Each character looks unique and has their own distinct design that matches their personality in some way. Katsuki looks pompous and like he’s about to explode at any time. Izuku looks like a nervous wreck who may fall apart at any moment. Ochako is adorable with pinchable cheeks and Tenya is tall and reserved with glasses and a straightened haircut. And All-Might is designed perfectly after Western Style Superheroes, with Superman being the obvious main influence. They all fit perfectly with the Manga’s story.

Now, this is where I sort of fall behind with my critical analysis, as I am more in tuned with writing than art. However, I will say that it does look good. I have seen plenty of bad comic art, but I have also seen plenty of good comic art. And this falls into the latter category. The building designs look good and it feels good to be seeing art that looks either hand drawn or digital art. Again, I am going with the former since even though there are scenes that look like they are 3D art on 2D backgrounds, that could be due to coloring and shading. If it is hand drawn, it looks very well done especially during the actions scenes.

Let’s also talk about the action scenes. They are very energetic and even though at times they can be a bit crowded, they flow well and you are able to absorb every detail. It also allows you to be able to FEEL every blow, especially when Izuku uses his Quirk and breaks his arm doing it. It looks like it really hurts.

I also have to give props to Horikoshi for his faces and expression. The smiles, the faces of rage and of course, the crying. His cry faces are probably the best as they don’t feel like I’m seeing “The Sexy Cry” where people look fine with single tears coming down their faces. This is hardcore crying, Izuku getting the most cry time with multiple tears, snot on their noses, the works. It’s not attractive and it looks good. If that makes sense.

Overall, the art is very good and while I am not entirely well versed in art, I find no real fault with the art. The character designs are good, the expressions are great, the action scenes are amazing and though they can be crowded at times, I do find myself enjoying them immensely. Overall, the art is spectacular.

Final Thoughts

Read this Manga. Read it. It’s one of the best Superhero Stories I’ve ever read and I am glad I have. I will continue to read it as long as I can. The art is fantastic, the story is very well written, and the characters are very likable in their own ways. If I had to say what I liked best about this Manga, it’s that it’s about exceeding the expectations everyone, including yourself, puts upon you. Sometimes life can be very unfair. Sometimes you have a dream since you were a kid, but then something happens and they say, “no. No you cannot be what you’ve always wanted to be when you were a kid. That dream is unobtainable.” That’s why All-Might’s words to Izuku mean so much to him. No one, not even his mother, offered words of encouragement to him. But in the end, the person who he respected the most, told him, “You can become a hero.” Those words helped Izuku begin his journey to heroism. So remember, no matter what happens. No matter who tells you otherwise, you can be a hero. You can be what you always wanted to be when you were a kid. You can become a Hero.