Review: My Hero Academia: Season One

In most superhero movies and fiction, people with exceptional powers are a tiny minority. But imagine for a second that there’s a world where superpowers – called “Quirks” – are a part of life for most of the population. What would it be like to be one of the minority who have no powers, and what would it be like if somehow that changed?

That’s the premise behind “My Hero Academia: Season One,” a vibrant and quick-paced anime that takes place in just such a world, which follows a steadfast underdog that wants nothing more than to save others. It has the feel of a classic shonen anime – lots of protracted fighting, a steadfast hero with an inspiring amount of courage who really needs to level up, and a colorful array of superpowers that get used in… interesting ways.

For his entire life, Izuku Midoriya idolized heroes. When he was small, he was found to be Quirkless in a world where the superpowers are commonplace. But rather than giving up, he dedicated himself to following and observing the superheroes – especially the beloved All Might, a seemingly invincible hero overflowing with positivity and heroism. And despite being bullied for his lack of a Quirk by his powerful classmate Katsuki Bakugō, he dreams of being a hero.

One day, he is saved by All Might and learns the superhero’s rather undignified personal secret. And after All Might witnesses the weak, Quirkless boy dash into danger to save his bully, he makes Izuku an offer: he will pass on his power to Izuku, allowing him to attend the hero-training U.A. High School. After months of training, of course. Can’t have a shonen series without training!

And that’s just the beginning of his woes – he has to actually make it past U.A.’s rigorous entrance exams, encounter U.A.’s eccentric faculty, and deal with the fact that any use of his powers immediately breaks his bones. But he may be forced to do some superheroing before he’s really ready – a force of supervillains (some more super than others) invade U.A., and the students end up having to defend themselves.

“My Hero Academia: Season One” is entertaining in multiple ways. On the one hand, it’s a shonen anime in the classic mold, though it moves substantially faster than many of its brethren (All Might’s training takes just one episode). On the other hand, it’s also a rather quirky (pun intended) examination of the Japanese take on the superhero genre, with superpowers ranging from the ordinary (ice, electricity) to the more eccentric (nitroglycerine sweat, belly-button laser, engine-powered legs).

The story whips by at a pretty fast pace, and things are kept energetic and colorful through the constant use of Quirks – the battles between the superpowered people is a pretty spectacular event whenever it shows up, and their weaknesses and strengths make for some pretty splashy fights. But the writers also don’t hesitate to pluck at the audience’s heartstrings whenever they have the chance, mostly focused on Izuku’s teary-eyed struggles to realize his dreams against all odds. At times, it’s really heartbreaking.

The character of Izuku reminds me a little of Marvel’s Captain America – he’s a weak, ordinary boy with a powerful, courageous heart and a real desire to save others, who is given superpowers artificially. He’s also shown to be quite bright, since he has to think strategically when “Kacchan” tries to actually harm him. The supporting cast is pretty compelling but not very developed just yet – all we know of Katsuki is that he’s violent and almost pathologically proud, Uraraka is the perky and kind love interest, and Iida is dutiful, composed and extremely conscientious.

“My Hero Academia: Season One” is a bold, colorful and energetic start to this entertaining series, and its likable protagonist makes it easy to get invested in his superheroic journey. Smash!

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