In a world where 80% of the population has some Quirk granting a supernatural ability, real life has come to resemble a comic. Villains prowl the streets, and heros rise up to stop them. Izuku Midoriya wants nothing more than to be a hero, but he’s one of the few Quirkless. Undeterred, he’s set his sights on the most prestigious hero-training high school: UA. Then an encounter with the greatest hero, All Might, gives him an unexpected chance to live out his dream.
I’ve always been fond of superpowers, and My Hero Academia gleefully portrays a huge variety. From augment quirks like the ability to harden one’s body to the ability to manipulate elements like ice and fire to the more alien-looking who sport extra limbs or animal-like features, Quirks can be pretty much anything. Which is not to say all of them are particularly useful, especially for those who want to become heros.
With such a huge percentage of the population sporting some type of power, heros have somewhat supplanted the police when it comes to managing crime. Most of the villains they deal with are low-level criminals, and some heros choose to focus more on rescue operations than crime-fighting. Either way, heros tend to be celebrities, and none more so than All Might. His trademark smile and catchphrase—combined with a staggering amount of physical strength—has made him the top hero.
I really liked what the series does with All Might. He’s traditionally heroic, with a strong sense of justice, but he can also be goofy. His larger-than-life public persona hides a wrecked, weakened man failing from an old injury. I liked his brutal honesty telling Izuku that attempting to be a hero without power was pretty much impossible, and pointing him towards the police as an alternative if he wants to still help people out. I liked that he can admit when he makes mistakes (although I still don’t think he was wrong pointing out that what Izuku can do against superpowered villains is going to be severely limited without some ability of his own). It’s also interesting that for all his greatness (and he is great in a lot of ways), All Might isn’t perfect, and he has his own areas to grow. The strong teacher-student relationship between the him and Izuku, which in many ways is also a father-son dynamic, lends a touching depth to the story.
Because Izuku does end up with a Quirk after all: he inherits All Might’s powers.
From there Izuku must struggle to master the insanely powerful Quirk he now possesses, because although he now has the power to be the hero he always dreamed, the Quirk is in many ways too much for him. So he ends up trying to solve most of his problems without using his Quirk, as using it will break whatever part of his body he tried to strengthen. Izuku is an interesting lead because he frequently shows his thinking is going in a totally different direction than one might expect. He’s a long-term planner, and his hero-worship gave him a vast knowledge of various Quirks and fighting styles. But even beyond that, as he quickly demonstrates in the initial chapters, he’s humble, and inclined to believe better of others than himself. He also understands that he’s starting from the bottom in many ways, and that drives him to work incredibly hard to try to catch up.
In addition to Izuku, the story digs into many of the other students that share his class. The most prominent is Bakugo, someone Izuku has known since they were little, and whose strong Quirk has left him with a mountain-sized ego and a vengeful attitude. But it’s the little nuances to his character that make him such a fun one to follow. Bakugo’s always been the best—but at UA, all the students are the best of the best, and he’s in the odd situation of not only having peers but being outclassed. And despite his looks and attitude proclaiming him a delinquent, he works just as hard as Izuku and refuses to do anything that might get in the way of him becoming the top hero. (Amusingly, one chapter reveals he’s actually got higher grades than Izuku: he may be hot-tempered and short-sighted, but he’s NOT stupid. Which will get very interesting if he manages to put the pieces together about Izuku’s transformation.)
The class, teachers, and villains who round out the cast are also interesting for the most part, though for the sake of length I’ll avoid talking about all of them. Aizawa, Izuku’s homeroom teacher, is one of my favorites. His Quirk is the ability to erase other people’s Quirks (which seems incredibly useful for a teacher at this kind of school, although he rarely has to use it on the students). Although he’s scruffy and disinterested in those without potential, he cares just as much for his students as All Might, and goes to tremendous lengths to protect them from evil.
All in all, if you’ve read or watched any shounen manga or anime you should have a good idea what you’re in for: lots of high-octane fights, a massive cast, interesting powers, and an epic story slowly unfolding through the various smaller challenges the characters must face. As of this post, the anime just finished its 13-episode run, which was my initial introduction to the series. It was hard to stop after episode 13 so I got caught up on the manga in the meantime; the anime is a faithful adaptation, though it’s only gotten through a relatively small part of the chapters released to date. But season 2 is coming! I rate this series Highly Recommended.