I’ve made it a goal of mine to try and read more manga series because, while Attack on Titan is fantastic, I feel like I’m missing out in opportunities to experience other well-written, exciting stories. I asked my friends to make some recommendations for me, and the first one they mentioned was My Hero Academia. After hearing that it revolved around superheroes, I was skeptical.
My exposure to the classic super-hero genre is minimal, largely because of just how expansive the genre is. Between the comic books, films, and animated cartoons, it’s safe to say that I was overwhelmed by it. Combine this with not being able to get invested behind superheroes with god-like strength such as Superman and his allies and the limitations often posed on them as a result, I wasn’t impressed with genre as a whole. However, reading My Hero Academia has shown me a different side of the superhero genre, and it’s surprisingly fun and exciting to read as a result.
Super Powers are Useful, not Overpowered and Limitless
My problem with heroes such as Superman is that his power is unmatched. There isn’t anything he can’t do, and there aren’t any real limitations to it besides Kryptonite, which even then is something of a rare limitation. Furthermore, his powers are so great that as a means to quell them, these powers aren’t even used at times when the stakes are high. But then there are other superheroes whose powers just seem too specific to be of any use. Ant Man can shrink and control ants. That’s it? How are these powers practical or genuinely useful? Since when does a superhero have need to control ants? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind characters that have superpowers, but unless they can use said powers in a practical way then I’m not going to care.
Several of the superpowers presented in My Hero Academia, called Quirks, have realistic limitations that prevent them from being overpowered to the point of absurdity. For instance, one of the characters can make anything she touches float, including herself, but the downside of this is that if she uses this Quirk too much she’ll get nauseated. It’s an example of setting authentic limitations to the very idea of having superpowers. The series has a good balance between extremely powerful, broken Quirks (creating black holes) and more applicable, relevant ones. I like that the manga does this because it prevents the characters from acting like idiots as the source of the “limitation” to their abilities. Not only that, but the Quirks have been applied in combat in meaningful ways or flipped on their heads, emphasizing their usefulness but realistic limitations as well. It ultimately creates a balanced setting where victory can go to either the superhero or the villain – it winds down to how they use their abilities to become victorious, and for that reason I can really get behind the premise of My Hero Academia.
The Protagonist is the Underdog
From what I have seen in the superhero genre, the hero is typically strong and confident in their abilities while often posing as a more humble, borderline boring individual as their alter-ego. The heroes never need to question their actions – if they’re saving people, it’s all that matters. But at some point, there has to be another level of depth to the character or they end up feeling more like a caricature rather than a human being.
The protagonist of My Hero Academia, Midoriya, is clearly the opposite of this standard due to not having a Quirk. Despite this, Midoriya is an endearing character to follow who simply wants to help others, and his growth is apparent very early on. He becomes more confident and sure of his abilities, but he’s by no means the strongest member of the cast. He shows a lot of potential to grow and become strong, but he has to work for it, and it’s for these reasons that he’s such a likable protagonist.
I really enjoy this manga for the above reasons, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that art style. It’s iconic and ranges from extremely detailed, fine drawings to looser, gestural sketches, but both styles match the mood of each scene perfectly. With the publication in the states coming soon, I’m highly considering collecting the series in book form, and when a manga series has the power to sway me into buying them that’s a good sign of its strong writing and memorable cast of characters.