18 CommentsAnime Analysis / By Scamp /

2016 Anime Catchup: My Hero Academia

boku-no-hero-academia-04-large-36My Hero Academia is fairly clearly inspired by American comic books and culture. This is about much more than the superhero aesthetic though. It’s more a deeper, symbolic inspiration, a lot of which comes through All Might. His muscle-bound body bears a far greater resemblance to American superheroes than that of Japanese skinny Sentai heroes. His outfits and background images when he appears are all star-spangled banner themed and his attacks are all names of American cities. This is important to distinguish as it gets down to what My Hero Academia is fundamentally about: The American dream.

Leaving aside the part where the American dream is a dirty lie in reality and all that, the basics of it is that anyone can become anything if they work hard enough. This is our lead character, a person born in a world where everyone has super powers but he has none. Yet he works as hard as he can to become one because that is his dream. He collects notes, studies relentlessly, and is determined to make it. It’s what makes the American dream such an enticing image because it implies that it’s always possible. He represents hope and all he’s looking for from the world is encouragement to fuel his belief. He doesn’t want to be told sorry he couldn’t make it. He wants to be told he can do it because it’s that belief that keeps him going.

And then the story tries to ruin this image by giving him super powers. In My Hero Academia’s defense, it does an incredibly good job of justifying why him getting powers still fits in with the main theme because of how the power is supposed to represent the power of many being fit into his body and how its passed down to him and all that. It’s a shame because I would have liked to see the story about how a guy with no powers became a superhero in a world where everyone has powers, but I’ll give you a pass on this My Hero Academia. Although only just about.

boku-no-hero-academia-13-large-24After that the story becomes yet another shounen super power high school action comedy thing that they all ultimately become. It still keeps up the central theme of this kid achieving against the odds by threatening him with expulsion since he can’t control his power, but it’s pretty tenuous at best. Also at this point explodey-hands Bakugo became such an irritant to me that I lost interest a bit. This is the point that I sort of forgot to keep watching for the next 6 months or so. I did end up coming back to it and enjoying it a lot still though, and this time I’m going to credit it to the goofy side characters.

Who was your favourite? The blunt frog girl with the weird gaze? The super serious class representative with the rocket legs? The crow dude who stood in the background at looked menacing? The zero gravity lady who our main character had a crush on? The electric guy who became brain dead when he used too much of his power? The invisible girl with the super cute voice? The incredibly menacing ice guy who could destroy an entire city if he felt like it? They flow in and out of the story as the author feels like and they remain entertaining because none of them ever gets a chance to take the spotlight so long as to get boring. Just don’t say your favourite is the pervy tiny purple bouncy hair dude as he sucks and if you say you like him then you suck too.

By the end they had gotten me back into the story, not through the main character anymore, but through All Might himself. The struggle he has to maintain his image as being a symbol while fighting his crippling life-threatening injuries becomes the more fascinating undercurrent to the story. Part of the reason it works is because you can see the flaws in his thinking and the show itself acknowledges it too, but also presents a convincing argument as to why this is so important, at least to him. You can admire this man who tries to represent an powerful idea despite the fact that he is a walking half-corpse who shows how that image can’t be a reality.

boku-no-hero-academia-01-large-33In some way, perhaps My Hero Academia agrees with me. The dream that All Might represents is not feasible in its entirety. But it as an ideal to strive towards is too powerful an image to let go thanks to what it allows others to do. You can criticise the American dream as an ideal that allows you to paper over the cracks in society because you believe in these dreams, but its also those dreams that allows people to work as hard as they can towards those goals in the first place. The fact that I’d get these messages from a Japanese cartoon of all places is certainly strange, but it does a pretty good job of presenting an idealised yet surprisingly nuanced metaphor for these themes.

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  1. Yalu
    Posted December 1, 2016 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    belly button laser dude all the way

    • Scamp
      Posted December 4, 2016 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      A respectable choice

  2. Ken
    Posted December 1, 2016 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    How did tiny purple bouncy hair dude make it into the academy? Must be nepotism or something.

    I forgot how good this show was. When is there going to be a sequel?

    • Abonymous
      Posted December 1, 2016 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      Probably left the bots unable to move with his sticky balls. Seemed to work against the League of Evil.

    • Scamp
      Posted December 4, 2016 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      Possible has compromising photos of the staff. Seems like the kind of guy who would

  3. TheVoid
    Posted December 1, 2016 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Exploding Hands is my Favorite.

    Also it’s just unrealistic for a normal human, especially one without the superpower of money like Batman, Green Arrow, some disability that gives inhuman superhuman level skill, etc. to be a Superhero. Plus in a world where these powers exist one that passes itself to others would actually be totally possible, potentially even one that steals them or copies others. But all these powers have limits.

    There was even briefly a spinoff about a Vigilante normal hobo who is a buff old and portrayed as crazy, and they still needed a superhero with powers to cut off the guy who turned into a giant monsters power because they can’t stop him otherwise. The closest to normal is the guy with the tail, but he knows karate unlike Deku and the tail still helps him him keep balance and aids him through in battle as well.

    Also Batman has the superpower of popularity and BULLSHIT, so he can do stuff like dodge Darkseid’s undodgeable eye lasers that kill normals. That surprised even Darkseid in Justice League Unlimited, especially when Superman has never been able to dodge it.

    • Ibri
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      It is also unrealistic for villains to not just use machine guns or better a sniper to mow down the large percentage of the heroes who don’t have super durability/ other defensive abilities. (I mean if everyone in the group confronting eraser had a gun it should have been easy to take him out.)

      But yeah usually “normal people” who learn to fight against super powered ones have http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CharlesAtlasSuperpower

      • TheVoid
        Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

        Japan does have strict gun control and there are required secondary abilities that go with them so that their body can handle said powers as we’ll learn later.

        There’s bound to be more gunslinging crooks in America as a result.

    • Scamp
      Posted December 4, 2016 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      I think you give humans too little credit. We’re capable of some fairly remarkable things even if we can’t rip off our hair and turn them into sticky balls

      • TheVoid
        Posted December 5, 2016 at 1:31 am | Permalink

        No I give them plenty of credit. The thing is that their world just isn’t suited to heroics for normals. Even amongst Quirk users there are many who just don’t have a useful quirk or a body built to handle heroism, both of which they should be training for if that’s something you have planned for your future. Deku himself is just an ordinary kid physically and no quirk to help him beyond that.

        Not to mention normal folk are the minority in MHA world, and a decent build body in a country where weapons are heavily restriteced means you have nothing of value to contribute against a automated weapon by the government.

        Let’s not forget where the hilarious Samurai Flamenco went with normal superheroes. Granted I loved it to the end.

  4. bbb
    Posted December 1, 2016 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    I agree, I also like how you never really get tired of the side characters since they aren’t focused on too much, although that isn’t really the case later on in the manga.
    Can’t wait for second season since ice dude is going to play a big part and he’s my fave.

    off topic but did you hear about the blood blockade battlefront season 2 announcement? i was jumping for joy until i saw that rie matsumoto and the writer aren’t coming back :( i want to know what your opinion on it is. i hope it’s not all doom and gloom as i’ve seen many other commenters proclaiming it’s going to be.

    • Scamp
      Posted December 4, 2016 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      Yeah no Matsumoto seems strange and disappointing. Like I attribute some of the issues with the show to her…but so are the vast majority of the high points too. Without her it would seem lifeless. Oh well

  5. Abonymous
    Posted December 1, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    The show is probably teasing us with these likable side characters in order to prepare for when All Might will eventually go down. It would be interesting to see how society would fill the void a singular presence like All Might would leave. Izuku doesn’t seem like one capable off fully filling it.

    • Scamp
      Posted December 4, 2016 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      So long as explody hands turns out to be the villain then that sounds cool by me

  6. DarkEnergy
    Posted December 1, 2016 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    This show has awesome side characters. I think my favorite is Shouta “The Erasing Hero, Eraserhead” Aizawa. What a badass teacher. I think it’s funny that he uses his Erasure Quirk so much that he has dry, irritated eyes just from staring at people.

    Sexy Honorable mentions: Mt. Lady and Momo Yaoyorozu

    • Scamp
      Posted December 4, 2016 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      Mt Lady is pretty great for how much she owns having that amazing giant ass

  7. T1g
    Posted December 3, 2016 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    Frog girl is best girl

    • Scamp
      Posted December 4, 2016 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      This too is an acceptable choice

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