This. This was exactly what I needed last year. I couldn't seem to read anything, so anime was my staple. But I kept hearing everyone sing the praises of this new series, so I had to give it try. Superheroes in manga/anime seems to be a thing now. Not too long ago, Tiger and Bunny came out. Now, One-Punch Man and My Hero Academia have come out roughly at the same time. I've only read the last but if the others are as good as this one, I may finally jump on the Superhero bandwagon!
Our hero, Izuku Midoriya, lives in a world where 80% of the population has a "quirk," a superhero ability that can range from water, gigantism, explosions, and even stranger ones. With so many people holding powerful abilities, the police forces were unable to handle them and so some rose up to take the mantle of hero and keep the peace. The best known hero, All Might, is Midoriya's personal hero as well. He wants to save people with a smile just as All Might does. There's just one problem. Midoriya is one of the rare 20% born quirkless. How can someone without powers ever be a hero?
First let me say, this is no Batman story (not precisely-more below). I've read at least one review lamenting the story not going that direction but I love how Deku (a nickname giving to Midoriya meant derogatorily but he accepts it after a classmate gives it a positive spin) sees his dream fulfilled! There is so much I could gush over, but I'll try to keep this as short as I can.
The characters are superb. Just when you think you can't like another character as much as the last one, you have to eat your words. By far the best have to be Deku and All Might.Though Bakugo (Kacchan as Deku calls him) is quite frankly a jerk.
All Might is...amazing. Your typical muscular, all powerful superhero, he is not all he appears. He can now only appear in his known form for three hours a day, thanks to a terrible injury he received. The rest of time, he is a shadow of his former self; only his eyes show his steel will that keeps him alive. He might not be the smartest superhero but he doesn't do it for the fame. He cares and will (and is basically) risk his life even to the last second of his time to save someone. But he's not perfect and already you can see that Deku can teach him a lot. Their relationship is truly lovely and l love the pride and respect he has for his heir.
Deku made this book and I have no doubt will make this series for me. His dream is completely out of the question, his mother does nothing but apologize to him, his "friend" Kacchan ridicules him constantly and yet he holds on to it no matter what. I've seen some call this stupid or unrealistic. I don't see that. I see someone who knows deep down the truth but he can't let go because it's more than a dream. It's almost a calling. He's spent his time well, studying the different heroes and learning their strengths and weaknesses. How they fight and deal with each situation. Even when a way opens up for him to realize his dream, there is no quick fix. He has to train his entire body before he can even attempt to accept the power being granted to him. And it's still not enough. Until he can regulate the power, he will cause damage to his own body. And so, he has to be smart. He has to strategize and choose the right moment and the right to cause himself the least amount of damage but make the most impact. He must use his brains and he approaches situations differently from his classmates who have always had their powers.
The world, though only seen in brief glimpses, is established well. Many people in the streets look unique with everything from tails to wings and more. We also see character use their abilities in school and elsewhere. There is even a "scientific" hypothesis given when Midoriya learns he's quirkless.
One of the best aspects of this book - and looks to be the rest of the series - is the
theme of heroism. Midoriya doesn't yearn for fame and fortune like Bakugo does (and who calls everyone around him extras) but he yearns to help people and give them more than a rescue but a smile to trust and bring hope in hopelessness. Even powerless, when confronted with a situation where Kacchan is about to die and the heroes stand back doing nothing - their powers won't work against the villain - he can't stop himself, "My legs just started moving! Why? I dunno!! You...you looked like you needed saving." That act inspires All Might, not only to save the day but also to tell Izuku there is a way for him to become a hero. But it won't be easy.
All Might too risks everything to help people. Further, we're shown it's more than just flashily taking out villains. Cleaning up a beach without knowledge and maybe even holding on to an impossible dream can be heroic.
The artwork, as you can see, is amazing. It's some of the cleanest, sharpest, and most detailed I've seen in quite awhile. Crowd scenes can be stared out for minute after minute and still you find new things. And yet, the mangaka also knows when to zero in on a face or a single character. There are clear influences from American superhero comics. All Might's costume is red, white, and blue and all his attacks are named after American locations (Detroit Smash, Texas Smash, etc.) The covers of each chapter resemble classic comic issue covers. One has only to look at All Might in his hero form to see he's drawn in the Western style, which leads to one of the series running gags. Twice in the first volume, comments break the fourth wall to mention how differently he's drawn from the others.
Another character that brings a lot of humor (though also some real seriousness) to the story is their homeroom teacher, Shota Aizawa or Eraser Head. When in combat, he is deadly serious but his deadpan or even half asleep expression (not to mention the times he's shown like in the picture beside here) lends itself to some very funny moments.
Izuku's classmates with their unique quirks and a hero school that looks to bring some very strange scholastic moments promise to bring a lot of entertainment and mayhem to this series. While I've worked hard to try and give you a taste of what this manga means to me; in the end, I can't. It's an experience you just have to attempt for yourself. This series is in the early days and there is no telling where it might go. But I really believe it will be exciting to find out!
P.S. The anime is coming out this April and should be simulcasting. I can't wait!