Hello dear readers and welcome to another anime post here on Shoot the Rookie. Today’s post is all about how I came to love a show I was certain I would hate, and that show is none other than hit series My Hero Academia, which is now Detroit-Smashing its way through season 4!
For those not familiar with the show let me give you a brief overview. It is a show set in a world where many humans now have special abilities known as ‘quirks’. A bit like X-Men I guess. These quirks can be anything – from having frog features to being able to control denim (we love you Best-Jeanist). OK, they are not necessarily the best examples of what I mean but these quirks come in all shapes and sizes. One career possibility for those with the best quirks is to become a professional ‘hero’. The twist is that the main protagonist Izuku Midoriya is quirkless, and the story follows his quest to become a hero despite this disadvantage. This *might* be a bit of an over-simplification, but if you want to know more you should watch the show!
Anyway! This show is a pretty big deal. For a while it felt like you couldn’t even think about anime without seeing something about it. I became so familiar with the weedy, green-haired protagonist’s face that I felt like I knew him despite knowing nothing about the show. From social media I began to piece together that this show was some kind of combination of high-school and superheroes and at that point I decided it was not for me. I have a long standing (and possibly irrational) dislike of all things superhero. To me superhero stories are all just uninspired tales of good versus evil and I had no reason to think My Hero Academia would be any different.
Despite this, the whole of the internet tried persuade me. I responded by digging my heels in and proclaiming that never in a million years would I watch it. Then I met a couple of friends of friends who were raving about the show. They basically grabbed me and shook me (not literally) and told me I had to watch it, that it was the best thing ever (etc…etc…). After this I still didn’t want to watch it. I know my own mind better than anyone else does right?
So… how did I end up watching it?
To be honest, I don’t really know. I guess I was interested in why other people rated it so highly. Maybe there was something about it I didn’t know? So eventually I ended up sticking it on and watching a few episodes. They were quite good. They made me laugh and the characters seemed OK. I gave it a few more episodes. Same thing. It was entertaining and maybe the story was heating up a bit. So I gave it a few more and by the time I knew what was happening I’d finished all 3 completed seasons, diarised to watch each episode of season 4 as they came out, been to the UK premiere of the film and included it in my list of favourite anime’s from the last decade. But what actually happened? How did My Hero Academia confound my expectations and become one of my favourite shows of all time?
Well… in an attempt to understand I’ve broken it down into bite-size chunks:
This is a show about heroes. And other stuff, but mostly heroes. I’ve already explained that I find that a bit of a turn off, but apparently I shouldn’t have disregarded the characters in the show without actually getting to know them first. The show’s heroes (or heroes-in training) are many and varied and on the whole very well realised. From the raw anger of Bakugo to the duty-bound Lida, they all start off as their own little tropes but gradually their personalities fill out to create excellent characters who operate within an interesting social dynamic. The teachers, who are already heroes, are also a diverse and interesting bunch of characters, with the so-apathetic-he’s-usually-asleep Aizawa probably being the highlight. The point I’m really trying to make here is that there is a lot to love within the hero characters, they are not simply cardboard cut-outs whose only personality trait is the desire to do good.
There is of course another side to all hero stories and that is the villains that they fight against. Something I’ve noticed consistently throughout My Hero Academia’s story-arcs is that the villains are excellently portrayed. This is a world where heroes are worshiped by the general public and villains exist in the shadows, and yet the villains are very much portrayed as understandable characters with motivations and desires. There are various villains and villain groups within the series but what struck me is that their social groups have a similar dynamic to the hero social group – expressing concern when a comrade is hurt and vowing revenge if one of their party is killed. They are still very much villains in the traditional sense, but it is recognized by the show’s writing that they are not JUST villains, but also humans with backstories and emotions.
Boom! I’m not really a fan of action. I mean it’s OK in the right context but I find it boring if a show has too many action sequences and think that many shows portray action lazily by just having explosion after explosion. However My Hero Academia is one of the few shows I feel does it particularly well. There are of course lots of actions scenes in the show – from fighting villains, to training, to fighting each other (!), our heroes have to be strong and keep their wits about them. Whilst there are a lot of action scenes, they are kept interesting by being intertwined with conversation and story elements. They are also visually interesting due to the quirks of our heroes and villains with some battles playing out like a puzzle game where you are trying to guess whose quirk will come out on top. Yes there are some explosions (mostly thanks to Bakugo), but the fight scenes are deeper than that and they find really innovative ways to keep your attention.
If there is one thing that really grabs me about My Hero Academia it is its ability to make you laugh and cry in the same episode. It is in many ways a show with a serious story-line and sincere characters, but it is also a bunch of daft high-schoolers who have the ability to cause explosions and other weird things. Somehow in the show’s execution they manage to find the perfect balance of these elements. It has a few really critical emotional moments, but even in less dramatic scenes the emotion can be felt through the determination of our characters to do their best and achieve their goals.
All of the above are brought together by the fact that the show has a really excellent story. It is divided into arcs but also has long running themes that continue to develop throughout each season. The main story hinges around the relationship between Midoriya and the number one hero, All Might, but you feel all the way through that their story is interwoven with the fates of lots of other people and the future of society. It is impressive in both its epic-ness and in its minutiae. You are made to care about each character’s struggles whilst also being compelled by the big picture. It carries a cohesive message around determination, overcoming adversity, understanding your own weaknesses and learning to work with others. It is both entertaining and inspirational, even for someone like me who is much older than the majority of the characters.
So there it is! That is why I fell in love with My Hero Academia despite thinking I would hate it. But what do you think? Are you a fan of the show? Maybe you loved it from day one? Maybe you hated it from day one? Do you have any examples of other shows which confounded your expectations? Let me know below in comments!
Thanks for reading,