My Hero Academia: Season 1 (review)

Saturday , 6, May 2017 14 Comments

Clicking this picture will take you directly to the first episode on Crunchyroll.

In a world where 80% of the human population has superpowers, or “quirks,” young Izuku “Deku” Midoriya…doesn’t. Bullied by his superpowered classmates, Deku nonetheless dreams of becoming a superhero. As luck would have it, he is rescued from a sudden slime monster attack by All Might, the number one hero and the Symbol of Peace, and after a grueling training session with him, he acquires a piece of All Might’s incredible strength. He enrolls in UA Academy, Japan’s most prestigious superhero school, where he must prove himsrlf worthy of the power he was given. But All Might is weakening, and the villains in the shadows know this…

Welcome to My Hero Academia, a really fun anime.

My Hero Academia (henceforth MHA) flips the typical setup on its head; instead of unpowered people being the majority as in Marvel, DC, and most anime, supers are the overwhelming majority (the early episodes where Deku is bullied by his classmates would delight anyone familiar with X-Men’s themes.)

Do not let Deku’s angst in the early episodes dissuade you — after his training, he gets it together, and this is a common theme throughout the entire series. There’s little crying about the unpowered, or “quirkless” as the characters call them — instead, the viewer gets a steady diet of slam-bang superpowered action instead of some “socially relevant” whine-fest where no one gets to be a hero.

Another strength of this series is its characters. While you shouldn’t expect anything on the level of the better Netflix shows, each character is loads of fun to watch because they are done in such an exaggerated manner. This way, no two come off as alike. Of special note is the relationship between Deku and a gravity-manipulating girl named Ochaco; it is shown as a budding romance where the two grow closer to one another. It’s very innocent and cute, yet it still makes an impact on the viewer. Also, Deku’s mentor All Might steals every scene he is in, his boundless optimism washing off on everyone around him — though there are times where he isn’t so optimistic.

If the show has a weakness, it’s that it hews a little too closely to a formula common to Japan’s action anime; you have the plucky hero who wants to be the best, the arrogant rival, the love interest, and the mentor. While these elements aren’t unique to anime, they do tend to show up together in anime, and this one my seem like it is painting by the numbers. Also, Deku’s goal to become the number one hero feels too broad — it’s not concrete enough. Nonetheless, the supporting cast makes up for all the cliches and flaws in the show — they made sure the episodes were always interesting.

At 13 episodes, Season 1 of MHA is short but very fun, an excellent series that would leave you begging for more. Simple, fun action with a hero you can root for — it has become all too uncommon these days.

You can watch My Hero Academia for free right here on the Crunchyroll streaming service; the link goes straight to the first episode. If you’re on a mobile device, use the Crunchyroll app to watch it. Don’t worry — it’s officially licensed, not some fansub.

14 Comments
  • […] at the Castalia House blog, I give a spoiler-free review of the anime My Hero Academia’s first season. It’s a good series that would leave the […]

  • Andy says:

    I usually don’t like stories with a premise like this because I like superheroes who are special and facing the world on their own, without support systems like schools and mentors all over the place, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this one. I gets superheroes better than most modern Marvel and DC stuff does.

    I think what clicked for me was the portrayal of All Might. Most modern shows would have probably revealed that All Might is some kind of fraud, but the revelation of his “dark secret” actually makes him seem even more heroic. The lack of cynicism is refreshing.

    • Rawle Nyanzi says:

      I think what clicked for me was the portrayal of All Might. Most modern shows would have probably revealed that All Might is some kind of fraud, but the revelation of his “dark secret” actually makes him seem even more heroic. The lack of cynicism is refreshing.

      That’s what gets me about this one as well. The angst is kept to a minimum, and All Might’s secret doesn’t diminish him as a person.

      Another good thing about All Might’s portrayal is that he is not made out to be some sort of creep in disguise — he genuinely is as heroic and moral as he appears. Other modern shows would have made him a fool or villain who lets fame get to his head. Instead, All Might understands that great responsibility comes with great power.

    • JD Cowan says:

      One of the series’ strengths is in how every hero grows as they learn what it takes to truly be one. While the world sees All Might’s super strength and assume that’s what makes him what it is, we see that underneath it all he is the same as Deku. He is a man like everyone else striving to do good despite what holds him back. That is partially why I feel the first two episodes are two of the best of any series out there.

      The show also has just as strong a take on villains, though that won’t really become apparent until later in season 2. Let’s just say that strong villains require strong heroes.

      Kohei Horikoshi (the manga writer and artist) understands superheroes better than anyone working at Marvel or DC.

  • Glad to see this review here. This is one of my favorite anime, for a variety of reasons, including the ones you list here. Just when Marvel and other staples of superhero yarns have forgotten how to tell a story about superheroes, this Japanese anime remembers.

    Do you see a parallel between this anime and the sports drama anime, things like INITIAL D or PRINCE OF TENNIS? In those, the formula is that the underdog is always overmatched, but through stint of hard training and quickwittedness in the pinch, prevails in one trial, only to graduate to the next, where he is overmatched again.

    • Rawle Nyanzi says:

      You’re a fan? Awesome! I never got bored watching any episode of this anime — which is more than I could say for Iron Fist or even Luke Cage.

      I’m not familiar with most sports anime, but I’m definitely getting a “sports” vibe from the series. Also, it reverses the main feature of X-Men without resorting to “see how YOU like it” mean-spiritedness.

      I’ll have more to say about this series on my blog.

  • JD Cowan says:

    This is my most favorite current running anime. The manga gets really fantastic after about the time the first season ends, and it only gets better after that.

    One of my favorite characters is Bakugo, the rival. While I detested him at first, he really grows into someone you want to root for just in a different way than Deku. I can’t imagine Marvel or DC ever getting a hero like him right nowadays.

    Great review.

  • The superhero All Might has hair reminiscent of a certain superpower’s current Commander in Chief

  • Of course he’s not. But that makes their shared locks no less epic.

    Detroit Smash!

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