Written by Bananaowns
Images courtesy of Studio Bones & Funimation
Before I get this review started, I would like to mention that I have pushed back the review of the second volume of RWBY to next week. The review is completely done, but I was heavily inspired in the process of writing a review for the show that originally was going to be covered in two weeks. As a result, I want to get this review up as soon as possible, especially since it will be done on the day the season ends. It’s an attempt to drive a bit more traffic to these reviews, so I apologize for the delay of the next RWBY review. The next two reviews after this one will be RWBY Volume 2 and Volume 3 respectively with no delays this time. Anyways, let’s get to the actual review for this week.
It’s no secret that it’s the golden age of superhero media. Every day it seems like a new superhero adaptation is announced, but the anime medium has not exactly caught this worldwide superhero fever yet. There were some failed attempts to make anime adaptations of certain Marvel characters, but this did not really go anywhere. Besides One Punch Man, anime that overtly focus on stereotypical western superheroes typically don’t receive a lot of attention. However, a certain manga has managed to become popular in a very short amount of time and with popularity comes the inevitable anime adaptation. Produced by Studio Bones, My Hero Academia is my favorite show of this season. I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.
My Hero Academia is set in a world where a majority of the population possesses superpowers known as quirks. Naturally, quirks quickly give rise to professional heroes, individuals who protect the population at large. The story follows Izuku Midoriya, a middle school student born without a quirk. Despite everyday harassment from his fellow classmates because of his lack of a quirk, Izuku dreams of becoming a hero. After trying to save his longtime bully from a villain, Izuku manages to meet and impress his childhood idol, All Might, the world’s greatest hero. All Might decides to make Izuku his successor and transfers his quirk “One For All” to the boy. From there, the story follows Izuku’s training which takes place at the prestigious U.A High School, the most famous of all the hero academies.
At only 13 episodes, this season served mainly as the introduction to the overall series. As a result, the pacing can seem quite slow at times, but this pacing is perfect for this introductory tone. This series is packed with a surprising amount of emotion. The slower pacing results in a significant build up for these emotional moments which enhances their effect on the viewer. Izuku’s first display of his newly received quirk doesn’t happen until four episodes into the season, but the scene is more effective because of the slow build up. There were three episodes before that which largely focused on Izuku’s motivations and background which really make the viewer want to see him succeed. His first display of his quirk results in an outburst of emotion from the viewer and makes the scene quite special.
Potential viewers should know that this season is mostly focused on Izuku trying to prove himself to his childhood bully, Bakugo. It would be more correct to say it is a character study of these two characters until the last few episodes of the season. It takes quite a long time for the main threat to appear. Once the villains appear though, the series takes a tonal shift. It gets a little darker and takes a more serious tone. It really widens the world and makes Izuku’s struggle to become a hero much more of a growing process. As an avid manga reader, this series introduction was the perfect adaptation of this first story arc. I hope this series gets to animate the entire manga because while this introduction was great, the story arcs to come are even better.
While My Hero Academia features a large array of characters, only three are focused on in some sort detail in this season. This is not a critique of the season because the latter story arcs in the manga feature a variety of other characters; it’s just that this first story serves as an introduction. So let’s take a look at All Might, Izuku and Bakugo.
Admittedly, All Might does not receive the same level of characterization as Izuku and Bakugo, but he is an interesting character. All Might strongly believes in representing an ideal. As the greatest hero, the majority of the world looks to him for guidance and safety. So All Might is burdened with being more than just a man. This ideal is so important that he continues to be a hero despite a horrific injury that severely limited his powers. He sees the good nature and potential in Izuku enough so that he made him his successor. This is one of the more interesting arcs as All Might attempts to be a great teacher for not only Izuku, but the rest of the U.A class as well. Despite representing an ideal, he can certainly make mistakes and struggle with this task.
Izuku is one of my favorite protagonists in any medium. Despite initially not having a quirk, Izuku always possessed the innate drive to become a hero. He reminds me a lot of Steve Rodgers. Izuku lacks the physical ability early on, but does not hesitate for a second to do what he thinks is right. It’s the same mindset shown in Captain America where despite his physical status, Steve Rodgers does not hesitate to jump on a grenade. It’s in this aspect that he represents the same ideal that All Might champions. This is especially powerful given his hardworking nature in the face of adversity. I also love that Izuku is an intelligent character. It is a running gag for him to lose focus when discussing other quirks and strategy, but this creates some interesting moments for the character. In battle, Izuku is an unparalleled strategist. He is able to come up with strategies on the fly. So you have an intelligent character that is still highly motivated in the face of adversity, it’s no wonder why he is the driving force of the series.
Bakugo serves as the main point of contention until the last few episodes. He is not an antagonist, but is the main source of conflict early on. At first glance, he appears to be a hot-headed idiot. This is not true at all, or at least the idiot part is not. Bakugo is actually quite intelligent and is often underestimated because of his brash attitude. He has had a lifetime of people praising him for his quirk and he’s developed quite an awful personality as a result. His character arc largely deals with him dealing with Izuku’s newfound acceptance into U.A. He has a superiority complex that gets tested once he realizes just how talented everyone else is at the academy. His struggle involves with his difficulty with reflecting upon his bad attitude. He makes a great foil for Izuku in this regard. Overall, this season featured some great character development. All Might is an interesting mentor, Bakugo is a great foil and Izuku is an excellent protagonist.
While there are hints of awkward animation here and there, the overall quality of My Hero Academia is excellent. It’s not on the same level of anything by Ufotable, but is stylistically great. Everything is very bright in this show, it feels like a Silver Age comic book come to life, which is great considering that this is a superhero show. There is obviously a hint of western inspiration here with the animation. The cinematography gives this a more cinematic look, with a variety of dramatic camera angles that can make even the non-action scenes feel special.
Speaking of action scenes, they are animated pretty well for the most part. There is one fight scene latter on that displays some not so great animation between shots that are amazing. It’s the typical give and take when it comes to making the special scenes stand out even more. These action sequences are highly entertaining to watch given the variety of quirks employed by the participants. One student can manipulate gravity while another possesses super speed. The point being that everyone one of these fights uses the quirks excellently. Izuku’s strategic ability that I mentioned earlier provides some of the more entertaining bouts of the series. His fights are interesting because he has to strategize around a quirk that he’s not used to yet.
The character design is another highlight of this series. Each one of the students is strikingly different and interesting to look at. A lot of thought obviously went into designing their respective costumes and quirks. This is further helped by the excellent animation of the characters. Each one manages to be highly expressive with my personal favorite scenes being the flashbacks to a young Izuku. These scenes are a perfect example of the rather expressive characters offered by this anime. Studio Bones did another great job with this series. The action is great, with a strong cast of excellently designed characters.
The voice acting is a very strong aspect of this series. Izuku’s voice actor manages to perfectly capture all aspects of the character. Izuku’s emotional outbursts are an absolute highlight of his performance. All Might possesses the perfect heroic cadence with his voice. The voice actor does an excellent job with the differences between All Might’s two forms as well considering their inherent differences. Bakugo’s voice actor expertly toes the line between his more brash, but intelligent nature. Ochako sounds cute and Tenya sounds like the perfect teacher’s pet. As a manga reader, the entire cast managed to match how I viewed the characters. It really was a solid adaptation.
The other highlight of the sound design is the music. The soundtrack for this series is the perfect mix of emotional and triumphant. There is this one track that plays during all the major action scenes that is quickly becoming one of my favorite instrumental pieces in an anime. When the drums start playing, the viewer instantly knows that something epic is about to happen. It really adds an extra depth to the action. The show also starts off relatively well with an outstanding opening that perfectly gets the audience ready for the heroic adventures of Izuku. The closing song is also just as a great as the opening. All aspects of the sound design manage to be great.
I don’t think I have anything overly negative to say about My Hero Academia. There were some moments of awkward animation here and there, but nothing that diminished my enjoyment of the show. From the emotional story and the great characters, the plot was mostly an introduction, but was a great one. The animation and sound design perfectly rounded out this amazing package with a great presentation. For this reason, I give My Hero Academia my Bananaowns’ stamp of approval. This was my favorite show of the spring season. I really hope it gets to continue to adapt the rest of the manga. If it doesn’t reach that point, then I highly recommend reading the manga as well. That’s it for this week and I’ll be back next week to continue my look at RWBY.