I’m on chapter 42 of My Hero Academia. I started earlier this year when the anime had recently finished. I heard good things so I figured I’d get on the hype train and catch up with the manga.
If you’re unfamiliar with MHA, it’s essentially a superhero story in Japan. Everyone’s abilities, however, are called ‘quirks.’ You’d think a superhero story would be played out in this day and age, but it’s surprisingly not – at least not in manga. I’m familar with Marvel and DC and therefore a lot of what we consider ‘superpowers.’ Nevertheless, I find the quirk abilities new and fresh.
The first five chapters are solid, solid stuff. It introduces us to the main characters, it establishes the protagonist’s goal, and introduces readers to the world. It’s one of the better openings I’ve seen in shonen manga in a long time. It’s a lot more exciting than One Piece, not as heavy handed as Naruto, and YEARS ahead of the new Demon’s Plan.
Chapter six and things start to mellow out with a lot of introductions and set-ups. We’re brought to U.A. High School (the academy of My Hero Academia) and there are two mini arcs about assessing physical ability. For ten chapters, starting at Ch. 12, we are brought into the first major(?) arc: the “Unforeseen Simulation Joint.” This is the first time we meet the villains of the plot.
I was pretty surprised to learn that the aforementioned story arc is the end of the first anime season. I couldn’t help but think it was a little short. It’s hard to not compare MHA to other big shonen stories. I understand it’s not fair to use One Piece since it’s been going for 20 years, but even it’s first arcs averaged 20 or so chapters.
Okay, enough prologuing. Why am I not super impressed with My Hero Academia? I have two big reasons that boil down to 1) a poor suspension of disbelief and 2) lackluster side characters.
I’m having a hard time believing the in-world logic and I’m really into Keijo!!!!!!!! (1)
Remember how I mentioned quirks? Well, mangaka Kohei Hirokoshi does an bad job of explaining where they come from; it’s basically a cop-out. The origin of quirks are “never determined.” As of chapter 42, it’s yet to be brought up again. There are over 100 chapters now, so maybe they return to it, but thus far I’m unimpressed.
So, okay, the trigger for quirks is never explained, but that same chapter states that a person will have a quirk if their pinky toe has an extra joint. Based off this, I’m keen to believe that quirks have something to do with DNA mutation and human evolution.
So going off my headcanon of DNA – because there isn’t a better explanation in-canon – there are some quirks that work and some that make NO SENSE.
Let’s start simple; MC Izuku Midoriya (Deku) and mentor All Might have the quirk of super strength. Okay, I can believe that via DNA mutation (and the first five chapters has Deku training so it’s very believable).
Katsuki Bakugō, Deku’s rival, has “nitroglycerin-like” sweat that causes explosions. This is a smart one and I find it’s very well explained.
Tsuyu Asui is a frog girl and has all the abilities of a frog – webbed feet, long tongue, jumping abilities: this is all possible via my DNA headcanon.
There are some good, believable quirks in My Hero Academia. Then there are the others that I just can’t wrap my head around.
My main beef is with Tenya Iida. His quirk is “engine,” where engines in his calves can be activated and allow him to gain super speed. Ok, super speed is one thing, the engines in the calf is where I draw the line.
Someone tell me how an UNEXPLAINED trigger and DNA MUTATION causes a human to develop COMBUSTION ENGINES AND SIX separate mufflers for exhaust in BOTH their CALVES. How. HOW?
Ochako Uraraka is another offender. She can manipulate the gravity of herself and things she touches. How? HOW?? In what way does a DNA mutation allow a person to DEFY THE LAW OF PHYSICS? They don’t even call it flying or telepathy. She just touches something with her fingertips and there you go. WHAT?
Cementoss is a teacher at U.A. High School and is one of the worst in my opinion. The guy can control cement. I just don’t understand this one. In what way, in what form does a MUTATION allow a person to do that? I know it’s an manga, but c’mon!! You can’t just throw out ‘nitroglycerin-like sweat can cause explosions’ and then expert me to take ‘controls concrete’ like it’s the same thing!! IT’S NOT. (2)
I might be taking this too seriously, but I definitely feel like there is a better way to explain in-world logic. Let’s look at One Piece for comparison.
In the world of OP there are “Devil Fruits.” They’re mythical fruits that grant characters abilities at the expense of not being able to swim (a wonderful conflict since the planet of One Piece is like 90% ocean). These powers are slowly introduced to the reader; Luffy is introduced with his rubber powers, then Buggy with his body separation, and so on and so on. The ridiculousness of the powers escalates over the series. Eventually we get to element controlling (fire with Ace, sand with Crocodile), and animal transformation (villains of Water Seven arc). 20 years later and we have the crazy powers of Dressrosa where the villain controls strings and another can turn people into toys.
Again, it’s unfair to compare My Hero Academia to One Piece since the latter has 20 years and nearly 900 chapters. MHA’s problem is that it’s too rushed. The readers are introduced to our MCs (Deku, All Might and Bakugō to a lesser extent) at a good pace, but then side characters burst onto the scene because of the classroom setting. Characters sometimes get little profiles at the beginning of chapters (or in volume extras), but I find that’s a cheap way to explain someone, mostly because it’s not memorable and therefore easy to forget while reading the story.
I understand that, because it is a classroom setting, characters will all be introduced at once, but I believe there could have been a better way to do it. During the “Unforeseen Simulation Joint” arc students are broken up into groups and we get a better look at their quirks, but it’s almost like it’s too little too late.
Why is this person getting so much screentime? Or, There is shit character development and I only like four people.
Derived from the same core issue as above, a lot of things are rushed in the first 30ish chapters of My Hero Academia. One of those things is character development. I’m not going to ask a new series to explain the reasoning of every character as they are introduced, but I’d like something more than two personality traits.
Case in point: Minoru Mineta. This is the most one-dimensional character a story can make. He’s a pervert and a coward. That’s it. His quirk is so-so, allows him to do perverted stuff and is so niche he can barely use it to attack.
Again, returning to a One Piece comparison; Sanji and Usopp. The former is a womanizer who strikes out, the latter a coward who tells tall tails. It works. They’re backstories explain it VERY well (more or less. Sanji’s history is coming up in the current arc).
Why does Mineta do what he does? Why does he want to be a pro hero? How did he pass the entrance exam? These are the things that could make him likable. Only the last question was answered and it was in a character profile in a volume extras section. SHOW DON’T TELL.
Because he was paired with Deku during the “Unforeseen Simulation Joint” arc Mineta got a lot of screen time. Mangaka Hirokoshi clearly thought it through since his quirk helped save the group, so in that instance it worked. BUT THERE ARE OTHER STUDENTS I’D LIKE TO SEE IN ACTION FIRST. Specifically invisible girl, purple skin girl, and tail boy.
For me (having read up to ch. 42), the best developed characters are Deku, Bakugō , All Might, Shouto Todoroki, and to a smaller extent Ochako Uraraka. The first two are absolute character masterpieces that are achieved in the first few chapters and builds exponentially as the story continues. All Might is also fun to follow because we see his weakened state, his mentoring, and him dealing with his slow loss of powers. Todoroki has issues with his quirks and his father, and this relationship acts as a good foil to Deku and All Might.
Uraraka has a modest backstory. She wants to be a pro hero to make money and support her family. It’s hardly original (see Nozomi in Keijo!!!!!!!!), but it’s good.
Here’s my problem, the best money driven character in manga/anime is Nami from One Piece. Most importantly, being rich isn’t her ultimate goal or her means to her ultimate goal. Nami needed money to pay off a debt to free herself, but she wants to chart the entire world. Uraraka needs AND wants to make money to support her family. Therein lies the difference.
I’ve clearly been spoiled by One Piece and it’s masterful ability to make a character sympathetic as quickly as one chapter (e.g. Senor Pink). I think My Hero Academia would benefit from more flashbacks and backstory for its characters. I’m not asking for OP levels, but I would appreciate a reason behind their motivations.
In Conclusion: if it wasn’t obvious already, My Hero Academia ain’t no One Piece, but it’s still good
As I’ve said, I’m only on chapter 42 which is in the middle of the Sports Festival tournament. A lot of old school, male anime fans who were raised on Dragon Ball Z and Yu Yu Hakusho seem to love tournament arcs, but I’ve found it lackluster so far.
I’ll keep reading, however, to know more about Deku and All Might. I believe that they are the strongest part of MHA. I want to see them interact more, I want to see Deku master his quirk, and I NEED to know how All Might will manage with his health.
This relationship is what I would recommend for anyone undecided about the series. I honestly haven’t seen a mentor-student relationship this good since Naruto and Jiraiya, and the last time they were together was like eight years ago maybe? Don’t quote me on that…
I like the plot of My Hero Academia, this is probably the only action manga set in high school I won’t roll my eyes at. Seeing an underdog rise through the ranks is always a good story, so I’m looking forward to future arcs. The villains have been downplayed (more or less), so I am definitely excited for them and the heroes to butt heads again. I just hope in the meantime that writing/dialogue improves.
(1) This may sound strange if you’re only familiar with Keijo!!!!!!!! via gag videos and gifs, but trust me when I say you need A LOT of suspension of disbelief for it.
In Keijo!!!!!!!! the girls wrestle on ‘land,’ they use their butts and boobs to hit each other, and everyone has a special move that belongs in a fighting game.
First: the proportions of the land change with every new angle. Officially, it looks to have like a 1.5 meter circumference. Then, as the fights progress I swear it expends to 3m and eventually 5m. I don’t know if anyone else notices it (since it’s a series about cute girls fighting with butts and boobs), but I do. It’s kinda distracting, but it works. But this happens in a lot of anime, nbd.
Second: Yo, I dunno about you but my tail bone is sensitive. I don’t think the sport of Keijo would ever translate to real life because the hits these girls are taking/making look like it would hurt. I don’t care how soft your butt is, it would HURT.
Third: There’s a move in the show called “buttack on titan.” End of discussion.
(2) I couldn’t help but think, the whole time I was writing this rant, of the parallels to Xmen. I haven’t read Xmen, I only really know the series via movies and a couple videos online. If anyone does know the series/history really well, please comment and tell me how I’m wrong. I just don’t understand how the powers work in MHA, because sometimes they go to scientific and a lot of times they don’t. And it really bothers me.
Honestly, if they hadn’t gone scientific, I probably would have accepted the powers more. But because the mangaka has it a couple times, it ruins immersion for me.