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[Anime Review] My Hero Academia Season 1

Well, isn’t this new? So recently, the weeaboos I pretend to call ‘friends’ decided that I should watch anime, and as somebody who’s literally never watched anime before, and prefers a decent videogame to a television show like Game of Thrones, Love Island or Trapped In My Uncle’s Basement, I wasn’t entirely convinced that this was a good idea. However, I’ve now watched a season of My Hero Academia, and whilst this is stylised as a review, it’s going to be more of a discussion and various observations of a first-time watcher, which is an excellent way of telling anime diehards to get off my back. Without any further ado, go beyond! Plus Ultra!! (Also, some spoilers. Be warned.)

My Hero Academia follows the adventures of Izuku Midoriya, a Quirkless, ordinary 15-year-old in a world where Quirks, mysterious biologically-altering superpowers, are common amongst most of the population. In such a world, heroes and villains have naturally risen up about as predictably as a woman getting angry and emotional for no apparent reason about once a month. Midoriya, despite having no Quirk, wants to become a hero and enrol for the most prestigious school, UA, to learn how to be a hero. He’s a sympathetic and relatable protagonist, I’d argue, because he represents the common masses – most of us aren’t special, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting to be special. Our ‘heroes’ in this world aren’t Quirk-filled supergiants and incredibly strong fighters, but CEOs, military commanders, authors, film stars and pop-stars, and their ‘Quirks’, if you like, are their abilities to lead, write, act, sing, inspire and create: that’s what we idolise.

However, this is Midoriya’s world we’re talking about, where celebrities are simply heroes and the best of the best is the unbelievably strong All Might, the most legendary of all the modern heroes. Midoriya idolises him, and again, he’s mimicking the way we idolise our celebrities and heroes. Of course, there is one thing that prevents Midoriya from being a perfect audience foil: pseudobulbar effect, or excessive crying. Unlike his douche schoolmate Bakugou, and, actually, pretty much every other character in My Hero Academia, Midoriya has a habit of bursting into tears at the slightest provocation; whilst this is often played for laughs, it does also have the more important effect of making Midoriya seem meek.

The plot of My Hero Academia is quite simple: Midoriya has no Quirk but wants to be a hero, so enrols to UA anyway and ends up becoming a disciple of All Might, who has the power to pass on his limitless strength to others. As plots go, though, it’s effective because the school setting means that we’re not just focussing on Midoriya’s journey. The tetchy Bakugou, the absolutely adorable Uraraka, the indomitable Iida and the other students all have their own mini-arcs and stories dotted throughout, and the way that we see Midoriya growing alongside these characters, rather than them remaining pretty much static and having only Midoriya develop, makes My Hero Academia all that more engaging to watch. Iida’s subtle development from a serious student who is socially inept to a leader of the class that understands how to use his Quirk to help others is nice to see, and every other character’s minute developments really brings them all together as a cast of characters rather than the backup characters to Midoriya’s protagonist-ness.

With Quirks comes combat, as one might imagine, and combat is sprinkled throughout these episodes like sand is sprinkled on a beach. However, the fight scenes are all imaginative and exciting. Thanks to the comic-book like introductions for each character, giving us an idea of their Quirk’s strengths and weaknesses, with every fight we get a feel for the stakes and it means that they’re not pointless frippery, but important duels that cement our knowledge of the characters and their limits. The most tense of all the fights was the one between Bakugou and Midoriya, because the stakes were so well-defined; Midoriya was essentially powerless through his power – he was strong enough to completely obliterate Bakugou, but he couldn’t do that in a training exercise, and so he was at a disadvantage because he couldn’t use his power in the fight, whereas Bakugou could.

Another thing I like about My Hero Academia is that Midoriya has powers other than his newly-discovered Quirk. Midoriya’s major strength throughout every episode is his encyclopaedic knowledge of heroes and their skills, and even without needing his powers, he survives several fights simply by predicting the movements of his foes, acting in the right way to dodge their blows and inspiring others to fight with him. The show implicitly hints that even without Quirks, one can use strategy and knowledge to overcome almost any opponent.

The art and animation are sublime. It’s reminiscent of a comic-book style, and so there’s a heavy focus on locations, which all look incredible yet realistic, and battles, which clearly have more work put into them alone than was put into the entirety of Love Island. You can feel every punch that’s landed, every explosion that tears through a building, every tear that drops from Midoriya’s dumb face. It makes for a visceral and violent show with a comedic edge that puts us solidly in ‘superhero comic’ territory.

The character designs are fantastic, too. With such a brash show, the characters are similarly brash and brightly designed. All Might in both his strong and weak forms is extremely cool, and Midoriya’s ordinary-ness, homemade costume and big round eyes sets him apart as a normal kid who has to work harder than others to be a hero. The kids of UA all get unique costumes befitting their powers and they’re all striking in their own way. It’s a great way to make each kid visually distinct, as well as implicitly reminding us what their Quirk is – there are a lot of characters in this, after all, and remembering them all is about as pointless as remembering someone’s name at a dinner party that you weren’t particularly excited about attending.

Lots of those characters, though, are pretty funny. Comedically, My Hero Academia is pretty strong, with characters like All Might, Mineta and Aizawa forming the main base of hilarity. Aizawa deserves special mention for his introductory scene, which is by far the funniest part of season 1 and solidified him as my favourite character. Often, superhero movies and shows encounter and entirely fail to navigate the tonal minefield that is balancing silliness and levity with death and destruction, but I would say My Hero Academia walks this line like a professional tightrope walker, as there are moments of seriousness dotted throughout the silly episodes, and moments of amusement throughout the serious episodes, so it never really feels like there’s a drastic change in tone going on, merely a focus on one or the other. One could perhaps claim that the final few episodes in the season turn the serious gear up a notch or seven, but a show can hardly be climactic without something serious happening, so I can forgive it for that. Just about.

The pacing is somewhat eclectic, with three ‘major’ arcs – the enrolment, the school and the showdown with some villains – and whilst the arcs are acceptable, there’s an awkward transition between each one which sometimes could have been fleshed out more. It would’ve been nice to see at least a bit more hero training before the kids have to do battle with evil, but overall it’s not terrible pacing. The stories are well-told and packed with detailed information that slowly builds up the world. It’s clear that genuine thought has been put into how Quirks be as common in people as non-binary teens are on Tumblr would affect society and how it functions.

I suppose I should say that the OP and ED are quite good, as far as I can tell. The songs are uplifting, and the OP does a good job of foreshadowing future events without spoiling it for new watchers: with each episode, re-watching the OP has you understand that what was seemingly a random clip actually meant something in the context of the story, and it’s a good way to keep it interesting. The ED is a bit less visually interesting, but still quite strongly reminiscent of the main story: Midoriya’s rise from Quirklessness to heroism.

Overall, from my limited experience of anime, My Hero Academia is a good show. It’s exciting, funny, featuring a relatable protagonist with a whole host of complex and entertaining side characters, as well as a genuinely engaging story. It’s not perfect, because there’s very few superhero-esque shows that are (Heroes season 2 springs to mind…), but it’s a highly enjoyable anime. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but… I’m excited to keep watching it. Oh god, this is how becoming a weeaboo starts, isn’t it?

[Anime Review] My Hero Academia Season 2

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