I want to open this up with saying that this is not a review, nor an analysis. I would like to start a new series where and I and fellow Geeks of Color members can “spotlight” any sort of entertainment that we believe our followers would enjoy. And as a fan of both comic superheroes and anime, I cannot recommend Boku No Hero Academia (My Hero Academia) enough. It’s already growing large in popularity, but I can see this anime going down as our next Naruto if it continues to climb at the rate it’s escalating.
Since My Hero Academia returns this weekend from a small hiatus I felt it was a perfect time to throw this spotlight together. This wonderful series full of heart and inspiration blends two of my favorite mediums to create something that is endlessly entertaining and completely wholesome. Kohei Horikoshi is the creator of the hit manga series, and his passion for geek entertainment shines throughout his work. Many manga creators find inspiration in Western comics, but I don’t think their inspiration is as obvious as with Kohei’s work. For example, All Might, the shining symbol of peace and this world’s greatest hero is a depiction of idealized American comic heroes. His image looks like one created from the Golden Age of comic books and he leads the world with bursting charisma and a sparkling smile to serve as a beacon of hope for all that is good. He’s a parody of sorts of heroes such as Captain America and Superman during their Golden Age iterations!
My Hero Academia follows Izuku Midoriya, an early-years teenage boy from Tatooin (yes, like Star Wars) who is obsessed with the world of heroes around him. In this universe, 80 percent of the population is born with special abilities known as “quirks.” Quirks allow people to follow their dreams in being professional heroes, but Izuku was born quirkless. Regardless, he wants nothing more than to be the greatest hero and inspire others to the same effect All Might did for him as a child. No one believes Midoriya can achieve his dreams, but by a chance meeting with All Might, who sees inspiration in the young boy, Midoriya’s entire world is changed. All Might tells him that he too can be a hero and decides to mentor our hero-in-the-making. For me, Midoriya represents the child in all of us who found the most joy in looking up to the heroes we grew up watching.
Midoriya is a wholesome and timid boy, yet he’s still always ready at the moment to save anyone in the blink of an eye. Whether it be physically or emotionally, Izuku is there for the reassurance of others. At the same time, he’s a growing boy himself. We are witnessing the story of a high schooler growing into his own as a hero, and it’s no secret that Kohei Horikoshi is a die-hard fan of Spider-Man. I think it’s safe to say he derives much influence from Peter Parker for Midoriya, and it’s all the better for it. In fact, in an interview Kohei claims Spider-Man is the quintessential hero. Both heroes hold a child-like naivety and sense of care for those around them, while they are simultaneously still trying to figure out the world around them.
My Hero Academia‘s influences don’t stop there. Kohei grew up invested in the same anime that we did and one of his favorite works includes Naruto. Masashi Kishimoto even drew this tiny congratulations sketch for Kohei when the anime adaptation was announced! Many of my favorite aspects of Naruto are reflected in My Hero Academia. Most notably, this is through our protagonist once again. Sure, Midoriya and Naruto are not mirror images of one another, but these two are both persevering “failures” who continued to strive against the odds and reach great lengths. What started as the worst student in his ninja training courses, ended up the greatest ninja of all time (in Naruto). Kohei has stated that he finds the story of a growth into a hero very inspiring and interesting, and the way the anime ends the second episode captures this thriving spirit. Right before Midoriya’s journey truly begins an older voice-over of him states “oh yeah, this is the story of how I became the greatest hero.” Viewers and readers learn right off the bat that although at one point it seemed impossible, Midoriya will one day achieve his biggest dream.
A second aspect of Naruto that I always loved is the character development. I think it’s hard to beat the level of character development that’s spread all around the humongous catalog of ninjas in Kishimoto’s world. The roster is huge and at one point or another we’re likely to learn the backstory or aspirations of most of his characters. Although My Hero Academia is only in the middle of its second season I can already seeing this same level of development sprinkling in. Without going to into spoilers, I’ll say my two favorite side characters are Shoto Todoroki and Bakugo Katsuki, with one of them bringing me to tears through the anime.
All in all, I think My Hero Academia is a lovechild of American and Japanese geek culture. It’s a story that I think many of you would enjoy and quite frankly, I believe it to be an anime that many need. It’s hard to explain the levels of joy and uplifting feelings I get from watching the anime (or reading the manga), but I think the relatability of Midoriya is something worth experiencing. This is about a boy who did not fit into the world around him, and he strived for greatness despite the odds. More importantly, it was not only himself but those around him that give him the support he needs to fulfill his wishes. I think many of us geeks find ourselves in similar situations at one point or another, and as far as escapism goes, I believe My Hero Academia has given the dosages of motivation that I need. Also the animation and soundtrack are both amazing! Check it out!
My Hero Academia is available on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Funimation.