We’re all here because we have something in common: We love comics, video games, movies, and superheroes. Even more than that, we love the culture that surround these things. We love seeing underdogs like Spider-Man work their way up into being one of the most significant heroes in the Marvel Universe. We love seeing the X-Men stand against social injustices and supervillains. We all started somewhere with our favorite heroes.
I grew up watching anime and reading manga. It started with Toonami, a late night block on Cartoon Network that showed a handful of anime until it hit midnight and Adult Swim came on. I was so impressed by what I had seen that it left a permanent mark on me. Alongside heroes like Spide-Man, Captain America, Moon Knight, and Nightcrawler, I now had heroes from the East: Goku, Yusuke, and Spike Spiegel.
Japan was making heroes in the same way America was, and it blew my mind.
Written and illustrated by Kohei Horikoshi, My Hero Academia is a manga about becoming a superhero. It captures a Western comic book feeling, and is heavily inspired by the media, with one of the more recent examples being a character’s special attack, titled, “Phantom Menace.”
It currently has 22 volumes, which go all the way to Chapter 212, released in America, but all 257 Chapters are available on VIZ, the official website of Shonen Jump Magazine, for $2.00 a month.
The setting of My Hero Academia takes place in a world where superpowers have become so common that they’re now called ‘quirks’, and almost everyone has one.
These quirks can vary from flashy to simple. The occurrence of these powers is similar to that of mutants from the Marvel Universe; you’re born with the innate ability, and it tends to activate as you get older, generally around the age of 8 or 9.
The difference between this setting versus others, is that heroes aren’t just vigilantes doing the right thing.
They’re licensed, they own entire hero agencies, and they’re even ranked from least to most popular. The top ranked hero in the world is All Might, occasionally referred to as, “The Symbol of Peace.”
The story of My Hero Academia follows Izuku Midoriya, nicknamed Deku.
He begins the story quirkless, shy, awkward, and with a significant lack of confidence because of his quirklessness. Quirklessness isn’t a common occurrence in the world, only affecting 20% of the population.
Because of his quirklessness, he can’t achieve his one and only dream: Becoming a hero.
The story takes a turn when one of Deku’s childhood friends/bully (and future rival), Katsuki Bakugo, is kidnapped by a villain. When the police have surrounded the area, and heroes are too afraid to charge in and save the day, Deku makes that call and rushes in. Things almost immediately go wrong, but a well-thrown backpack was enough to give Bakugo a bit more time to survive, and that’s when All Might, despite his better judgement, rushes in, saves the two boys, and captures the villain.
Through a series of fairly comedic panels, Deku eventually ends up alone with All Might, who reveals that he only has so much time left with his quirk, One For All, a quirk with the ability to stockpile the power of previous users.
When he saw that Deku was the only willing person to take action and save a life, it inspired him. In that moment, All Might already knew that Deku needed to be the 7th wielder of One For All, and the future Symbol of Peace. In order to become the best hero that he can possibly be, Deku has to attend the same high school that All Might attended, U.A. High School, the highest ranked Hero Academy in Japan.
However, there is a dark side to this tale. The purpose of One For All users is to stand up against a constant threat against hero society, a villain named All For One.
All For One has the power to forcefully take and and stockpile the powers of others, with his only opposition being users of One For All.
Back in the days before heroes were licensed, and before the rise of All Might, All For One created a world full of villains and chaos, and the most recent fight between him and All Might left both of them weakened.
In the same way All Might is searching for a new apprentice, so was All For One. This isn’t just a story about one big bad guy versus one big good guy, it’s a story about that conflict lasting generations. All Might’s student will inevitably have to face All For One’s student.
The character development in the story is amazing.
As Deku matures, he becomes more confident in himself and his abilities, slowly grows into his own style of fighting (instead of just trying to mimic All Might, a fiasco that got old after awhile, I’ll be entirely honest), and becomes a respectable student in his own regard.
There’s also a strong cast of characters who grow alongside him, and not only do some of them rival him, but they even outshine him—they had their entire lives to work with these abilities, Deku has only had a handful of months at the beginning of the manga. He’s trying to catch up with the experienced students around him, and it’s a daunting task. Instead of giving him the strongest power and making him the strongest character, which a lot of anime and manga can fall into the trap of doing, they gave him a powerful quirk, but effectively made him one of the weaker characters, and a large part of this is because his body simply can’t handle that amount of power.
Essentially, what this all boils down to is a different take on the battle of good versus evil; the story takes this conflict a more personal route, showing the battle between a specific good and a specific evil throughout the years. It’s worth checking out, especially if you want to see a new hero work their way from the ground up.
After all, we all like superhero stories, so why not give a new one a shot?
So, if you’re still questioning if you should pick up this manga or not, you could always watch the anime, which is free on Hulu.
It’s a good starting point for the series, and should be able to lead you into a decision on if you want to commit to buying the paperback volumes as they’re released in America, or subscribing to VIZ.
James M. Shaw III is 22, a lover of video games and comic books, and has been absorbed in the mediums for as long as he can remember. Some of his favorite pieces of media are Scott Pilgrim vs The World, The Legend of Zelda, and Dragon Ball Z, and they all serve as some of his original inspirations into the field of writing. He also graduates soon, which is pretty cool, if you ask him.