My Hero Academia by Kōhei Horikoshi is the latest hit series from my beloved magazine Weekly Shounen Jump. Reading any longer than a few chapters will show you that this is the new Naruto in practically every sense of the word. It’s about a young, talent-less kid who no matter how hard he tries can’t reach his goal of being the greatest Hero of them all. Kishimoto even recently drew a picture of Naruto cheering Deku on in celebration for the author’s success so it’s very clear that he sees My Hero Academia as a worth successor to the ninja mega-hit sensation. But do I think so?

Lots of Spoilers Ahead

Positives

I will be blunt. I think My Hero Academia has the potential to blow Naruto out of the damn water in terms of having an actual story with consistent characters. I feel that MHA took everything about its predecessor that worked and refined it to the utmost degree. Midoriya Izuku, otherwise known as Deku, is our hero who falls into the typical archetype of shounen lead who is wimpy and no good… I… agh, sorry. I’m having really severe flashbacks of Katekyo Hitman Reborn and all those hours I wish I could have of my life back. Anyway. Deku is an amazing character who ends up avoiding every trope of his archetype and damn he is refreshing. Thanks to inheriting the hero All Might’s quirk ‘One for All’ he is a destructive powerhouse but what makes him such a good character is that he uses his mind. It’s fascinating watching him overcome his opponents not just from the typical shounen guts and grit but through observation and taking calculated risks while being held back dramatically by the limitations of his powers. It’s a seriously good set-up and Deku benefits from it tremendously. He’s also a really damn great person and does some surprising things. I like that during the Sports Festival he basically inserted himself into fellow classmate Todoroki Shouto’s family drama and helped him overcome his abusive dad’s power over his life. He forces open this kid’s full power even if it ends up making him lose just because he cared so much. It worked a lot better than your average ‘Naruto beats love into the villain and now they’re good guys’ scene because of how well it was written. I dwell on this part so much because it spoke hugely of Deku as a character.

So Relateable...

So Relateable… (hit me up ladies)

Ochako Uraraka is a great heroine, too by the way. I really appreciate how much fun she can be without ever falling into a dumb cliché or insulting my intelligence the way Sakura did constantly. She’s also really cute in a spunky yet not quite tomboyish way, if that makes sense. I want to talk about her current arc in the manga actually. Uraraka has been becoming more aware of her feelings for Deku and the fact that a series is actually running with the romance from an early start instead of delaying it for hundreds and hundreds of chapters… that’s refreshing as hell. It’s really natural, too. They get along great from the start and she starts to notice him as he does greater and greater things. What I really love is how she doesn’t fawn after him like a dumb… well, Sakura, and instead sees him being successful and becoming stronger and takes this as a clear message to herself that she isn’t working as hard as she could be and that she doesn’t want to be left behind by Deku. In a world where romances in anime and manga never develop ever, the start of one between Deku and Uraraka is something I’m definitely waiting for with bated breath.

Tsuyu is still best girl though

Tsuyu is still best girl though

On the subject of characters, My Hero Academia has an A+ roster of some of the most crazy superheroes and villains you can ever possibly dream up. Fans of series like Dragon Ball and more recently Hunter x Hunter will be right at home here as the designs range all over the gamut and you see stuff like furries and dragons and snake people walking around just like normal. Each character has something unique about them and I always look forward to learning more about Deku’s classmates, his teachers or the villains. The main antagonist of the series, Shigaraki, has a particularly ballsy design in that the author admits it’s super hard to draw. For anyone who hasn’t seen him the villain is a guy who covers his face and body with a bunch of floating, controllable hands. It looks awesome, this is a seriously A+ villain design. I don’t want to spoil what he looks like under the hand though… That was some serious Junji Ito-inspired shit…

I also really adore when the cover art is drawn in a western comics style. It makes me so happy.

I also really adore when the cover art is drawn in a western comics style. It makes me so happy.

The designs can get really silly sometimes in a great way. I don’t think anyone will ever look as ridiculous as Best Jeanist, though. This guy set the bar really damn high.

I have no words

I have no words

My Hero Academia has this raw emotion about it that I love. Watching Deku succeed because of his own hard work (and not being the reincarnation of Ninja Jesus from outer space) makes you genuinely feel great for him and I caught myself smiling more than a little. That isn’t to say it’s all fine and dandy however as the series can take on many different tones when it needs to. I really enjoyed the family drama I mentioned earlier about Todoroki Shouto, and now I’ll elaborate because it was really interesting. He’s the son of Endeavor, the second rated hero in the world. Endeavor is able to control fire and uses it to create a super menacing yet badass beard of flames around his face at all times, but Shouto has inherited both this power of flames and also his mother’s control of ice. Yet he refuses to use fire while fighting… because his dad has no real love for him and forcibly had a bunch of kids trying to pass on the fire and the mother’s ice until one of them finally got both (ruining the mom’s psyche so bad she’s in a hospital now). When Endeavor got this eugenics produced super babby he would train him to surpass the #1 ranked hero in the world and holy crap that is dark. Like, daaaaaaaamn… I love it though. The whole Stain arc is also a masterpiece. The less I say about it the better, but it’s incredibly Frank Miller-esque if you ask me. It’s dark and gritty superhero badassery and Stain’s design reminds me of the very early TMNT back when they were a satire.

The art in my hero academia is for the most part a sight to behold. Horikoshi-sensei has an incredible grasp on gesture and dynamic movement that puts a lot of actual western superhero comics to shame. He does make some errors with anatomy and proportions, but this is sometimes used to his benefit as it doesn’t really matter since he makes the style his own. I was still turned off by All Might’s true form’s neck early on though. It really bugged me as an artist, but I’m used to it now. Also speaking as an artist and fan of superhero comics I have to point out how happy All Might’s battle form makes me to look at. The Golden Age inspired inking made me laugh when I first saw it and it almost always gives me a smirk. Horikoshi-sensei is great at emulating the feel of Jack Kirby’s inking and hatching whenever he draws All Might. Something the author has said himself in the volumes is something I really appreciate. .. Drawing hands is really important to him. He mentions how each character’s personality is evident through their hand gestures and he puts a lot of focus on making each hand expressive in every panel. Since you know, I make comics and all that this logic has been inspiring me to work on doing the same in my art.

Last thing we can talk about is the humor. This series is just plain funny. It’s dramatic and action-filled yeah, but seriously My Hero Academia has loads hilarious moments to it whether it be from the sheer absurdity of someone’s powers to the interaction of the vastly different characters. It does break out into the shounen ecchi schtick rarely because of a single character (Mineta) but I ended up surprisingly not hating the character despite being a dumb pervert. He gets some cool character development and he actually shines which I wasn’t expecting at all. I also don’t mind the dumb ecchi stuff sometimes cause, well… The author draws girls really damn cute. I like his style because he draws their proportions a bit thicker than most other series. They aren’t fat or chubby anything they just seem to have cuter and rounder proportions than you’d typically see. I like this a lot for some reason. So sue me.

Criticisms

Ok my only major criticism is something that bugs me personally. It’s not so much a criticism of what could be done better so much as it is me venting about one character that I don’t feel much for. Katsuki kinda annoys me. If we’re going by Naruto terms than he’s definitely Deku’s Sasuke, but where Sasuke and Naruto had a begrudging rivalry that was secretly rooted in mutual respect and actual friendship, Bakugou Katsuki just yells a lot and sounds like a school shooter. I don’t really like how he’s handled and seeing Deku beat his ass doesn’t make you think “Aw yeah, Deku totally proved himself to his childhood friend! They’re equal now!” but it makes you go “It’s about damn time that Gary Oak looking wannabe got his ass kicked. What a douchecanoe.”. His whole character is just detestable with him wanting to be the best and looking down at others below him as worse than garbage. That annoys me as he does get character development and realizes he’s NOT the best and that he’ll have to work hard to be the best, but a good rival would make me want to cheer for him too and not just the protagonist. I mean, look at Vegeta. He’s this character archetype done perfectly. Vegeta is angry, violent and brash and while he hates Son Goku they both realize that they’re still best friends basically. You want to see Vegeta get stronger than Goku because the two propel each other forward and they both complete each other. Katsuki’s relationship with Deku is just a joke to me and I don’t get why Deku would ever have looked up to him as a kid. He was basically just a bully that was cool enough to let Deku run around with him and his friends. It’s a shame because I don’t hate the idea of Katsuki. I love his design, his costume, his powers, pretty much everything about him except for how he’s handled in the story. Spoilers for the current arc. I was hoping they would just roll with it and have him be a villain and felt that’d be the best way for him to grow. I was close to getting my wish as the Villain Alliance kidnaps Katsuki during the current arc because of how they perceive him to be closer to evil than to good… but they’ve started a rescue mission and made it pretty clear that Katsuki is just an asshole and he’s not ‘evil’. I’m hoping for a change. Maybe when Deku breaks in and he sees himself getting rescued by him it sets Katsuki off further than before and ends up joining the Villain Alliance to make him stronger than Deku only to betray them later. I dunno. Surprise me, Horikoshi-sensei.

The contrast between them is still nice.

The contrast between them is still nice.

My only other real criticism is that Deku’s class roster is pretty large and a few of the characters in it haven’t gotten any real time in the limelight yet. I don’t want this series to have any characters as useless as Tenten, so hopefully this gets resolved. I feel like it will since the author has done pretty good switching around the students doing stuff but you can still pretty much sort the class into ‘the important ones’ and ‘the background kids’. At least the author is aware of this and has said a bit about it that he does have plans for most everyone. I just want Mina to be more important, god she’s cute ;-;

Conclusion

If you like shounen manga there is no reason not to be reading this. That’s as cut and dry as I can make it. It’s practically the best damn series in years in the battle manga genre and coming from someone who loves battle manga WAY more than he should, you can trust my opinion.

Sorry this review took a while to publish. I have been feeling out of sorts but I’m planning to double down and focus on creating more content for the site. I’m almost done reading Tokyo Ghoul and will be reviewing that next.