This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers
My Hero Academia Episode 1
“Anyone can be a hero…”
Against all odds, superhero stories have turned into the most popular modern narratives and are at an all-time high. Skeptical individuals can claim that superhero fatigue is just around the corner, but world record after world record continue to be set at the box office with each passing superhero feature.
So while superhero stories are certainly nothing new at this point, My Hero Academia decides to play into that idea, rather than fight against it, and presents a world where most of the population have super powers (well, 80% and rising). This is a world where superheroes and supervillains aren’t anomalies, but instead, the norm. They’re like baseball players. Infinity War isn’t a seismic ten-year event for these guys; it’s a monthly occurrence.
To its credit, My Hero Academia does more than make superheroes the norm. What’s even better about all of this is that the anime’s main character is someone who doesn’t have superpowers (or “quirks,” as they’re called in this universe). Izuku “Deku” Midoriya is a hopeless superhero fanboy, so the fact that he’s quirkless is especially crushing for the enthusiastic underdog. Apparently all men are not created equal. Furthermore, how much more relatable can you make your protagonist? Who amongst us hasn’t read superhero comics or watched them in film and momentarily wished for that?
As the episode’s title indicates, “Izuku Midoriya: Origin” is very much about Midoriya’s struggles to become a superhero, even if that means he does it with absolutely no powers. The idea of a normal main character who wishes they were special has certainly been done before (She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, most of the characters in Kick-Ass).
Even this show’s premise where the bulk of the world has quirks has been previously tackled (Alan Moore’s Top 10 or Ordinary), but this feels fresh and different. There’s an energy present here that sometimes can only be achieved in shonen-style anime (Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto, and the recent, regrettable Black Clover) that are designed to be serialized and cater to suspenseful adventure.
My Hero Academia begins with Izuku Midoriya lost his thoughts. He’s a third-year junior high student with a lot on his mind. Midoriya pines for a future where he’ll be a student at the world renowned U.A. High School, which is essentially a training ground that breeds the best super heroes that the nation has to offer.
If you don’t go there, then forget about making “superhero” your day job. Midoriya’s chances of getting into U.A. High are pretty non-existent due to his quirkless status, but when other students like the arrogant Katsuki Bakugo constantly bully Midoriya on the topic, he’s even more determined to prove that he’ll be the best.
Midoriya’s determination and enthusiasm towards becoming a hero is quite infectious and it’s easy to get caught up in the guy’s good will. My Hero Academia has no problem at turning Midoriya into an empathetic character that the audience wants to see win. This is absolutely fundamental with a show of this nature and while the audience’s relationship will surely go up and down as the series progresses, it sticks the landing with plucky Deku’s “origin story.”
It’s also appreciated that this premiere doesn’t shy away from some heavy emotional stakes. “Izuku Midoriya: Origin” really shows the audience how miserable Midoriya is without powers, how much this means to him, and the strain that it seems to be putting on his dedicated single mother. The brief encounter between Midoriya and All Might also speaks volumes for the unconventional relationship that’s to form between them. Make no mistake, My Hero Academia is more interested in making you laugh than cradle yourself in a ball of depression, but it’s nice to see that the depth is still there. That flashback scene to Midoriya’s “exam” is brutal!
The premiere’s character work is strong, but so are the strides that the series takes towards building and fleshing out its world. This episode does some impressive work with how it sets up all of the different rankings for heroes and the bureaucracy associated with it all. There are definitely shades of Venture Bros. here in terms of the bigger picture aspects of superheroics and supervillainy, which is far from a bad thing. If anything, it likely means that there’s too much thought put into this world and how it works.
On that note, if the anime’s opening credits are any indication, then there is going to be a lot of characters in this show. That’s typically the case with any “school series,” but that can be even more intimidating when everyone also has a special power to go along with them. It’s a very smart decision to give Deku some time to himself rather than starting episode one at U.A. High’s orientation day. This show is going to be drowning in cast members soon enough, so it should take advantage of this quieter time while it still can.
My Hero Academia also understands that it needs to hook its audience early on and wow them with insane action. There’s plenty of that on display here, whether it’s with intestine-filling evil sentient slime, the 50-foot theatrics of Mt. Lady or the insane strength of All Might.
I also immediately need a solo episode devoted to Backdraft and his fire-quenching escapades. This premiere has to do the necessary groundwork, but it doesn’t skimp on the action or humor. Director Kenji Nagasaki is a relative newcomer, but it’s satisfying to see how well he balances the episode. There’s a lot that gets crammed into these 25 minutes, but at no point does any of this feel rushed, nor do the slower, more methodical moments feel like they drag the episode down.
My Hero Academia has been out in the world for a few years now, but it’s new to Adult Swim and the show’s dub hasn’t been on the market for that long. Funimation does respectable work here and all of the performers give great, natural performances that still offer something original to the characters in comparison to their original Japanese language counterparts. Justin Briner feels particularly comfortable as Midoriya and rises to the challenge to not make the character sound annoying. Clifford Chapin is equally strong as Bakugo and the consistently reliable Christopher Sabat steps in to voice the macho stereotype, All Might.
The show sounds great, but there’s also crisp, gorgeous animation on display here that really shows off the various heroes and powers of this world. Vibrant colors punctuate every scene and creative character designs that don’t take themselves too seriously also make the show’s look work. The series comes from Studio Bones (Full Metal Alchemist, Space Dandy, Mob Psycho 100) and so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that this thing is a joy to watch in motion.
Perhaps what’s best about My Hero Academia is that underneath all of the superhero adoration and crazy powers, at its heart this seems to be a show about the friendship and rivalry shared between Midoriya and Bakugo. It’s no coincidence that the scene from their childhood is what kicks off the series. This is very much their story more than it’s anything else and it should be exciting to watch their relationship develop in the coming episodes.
“Izuku Midoriya: Origin” marks a strong start for My Hero Academia that effectively blends tones and begins this adventure in an exciting way. It avoids the temptation to get lost in exposition or characters and its focus on Midoriya and his passion make it a whole lot easier to get invested in his journey and this show. My Hero Academiadoes the necessary work to make you want to continue to follow Deku on his clumsy hero trials. And from the looks of it, there thankfully appears to be all sorts of unusual heroes and villains for him to fight with against along the way.