Review: My Hero Academia – Vol. 1

If there is one genre of comics that’s overcrowded its superheroes. In fact, I would argue that in the early days of widespread manga in America it was the fact that they weren’t superhero stories that made them so popular. The strange thing is that being a manga fan doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a comic fan and vice versa. For me, comics are comics. As for superheroes, well I’m basically burnt out on them. I’ve read so many that it’s really hard to excite me with the eternal battle of good versus evil. I basically try to avoid the genre as much as possible, but it’s impossible to ignore it all together.

The funny thing is, I didn’t want to avoid My Hero Academia. I was curious for the first time in a long time for a superhero title and I think it was because it was from Japan. That’s not to say that Japan doesn’t have superheroes, but that they tend to be different and branded differently. But here was My Hero Academia, a Japanese superhero title.

my-hero-academia 1The premise of the story has two well-worn plot devices if I’m completely fair to the story. The world is filled with people with powers. To the point that everyone basically can be a superhero or villain, but there’s only so many positions open so a lot of people just have “quirks”, which is what they call powers in the story. The other device is a superhero high school. Which again isn’t new, but it’s handled in a fresh way.

The story follows the “quirkless” Izuku. He’s a middle school student with no powers basically, but he’s obsessed with heroes to the point that he can shout out their stats while watching them battle in the streets. Even without a quirk he still wants to be a hero which annoys one of his classmates to no end.  When their teacher points out that they’re applying for the same high school, which happens to be the top hero school and incredibly difficult to get into. This sets Katsuki off on Izuku and we see how belittled Izuku feels as he’s treated poorly for not having a quirk of some kind.

Everything changes though when a villain attempts to harm Izuku and his idol and the arguably the greatest hero in the biz, All Might, steps in and saves him. Izuku latches on to his leg and asks All Might if he could ever be a hero without a quirk and his idol tell him no. This is the final straw that breaks Izuku’s back, but as he heads home he sees the same villain taking control of Katsuki’s body. While everyone else is on standby waiting for a hero that can properly deal with the villain to show up, Izuku jumps to action and shows that even without a quirk he has a heart of a hero.

Izuku’s reckless actions change his destiny as All Might shows up in his alter ego and tells him he’d like to pass his quirk on to him due to the heroics he displayed despite his disadvantage.

The story continues from there, but even though a lot happens and a lot of ground is covered it still feels as if the story is just getting started. As you may have guessed, Izuku does get the power passed on to him, but it doesn’t turn him into an invincible powerhouse. Rather he can’t really control the power and injures himself using it. Personally that’s what I really liked about My Hero Academia because so often superhero titles just give someone powers and have them master it two pages. Instead, Izuku has a long road ahead if he’s going to even be able to control his power and a longer road to master it. It was very believable and All Might even tells him that it will be rougher for him because he didn’t have a quirk beforehand.

My only real gripe is that because this is a weekly serialized story, it has a very continuous nature to the reading. While that’s pretty much the norm for manga, for this particular volume it leaves the story in a very anti-climactic setting. I’ll still be back for more, but it wasn’t because the ending left me wanting more.

Now I’ve read a fair share of manga, but there’s definitely a few styles that I’m drawn to more than others. The style for My Hero Academia is one that I’m not big on. The hair is huge and wild and at times it has a slapstick comedy look to it. At first I wasn’t sold on all of it. The heroes looked great, but the rest was kind of goofy.

About half way through though, I dug the art. I liked that certain characters where almost intentionally illustrated differently. All Might in particular is done in a more American superhero style and there’s even some jokes about it in the background of the comic. There’s a lot of variation at times, but in the end it all adds to the character of the world and the story.

This is probably one of the first manga I could offer to an American comic reader and have them enjoy it. I don’t have to say what genre it is or what it’s like, I can just say it’s a superhero story and have them enjoy it. Maybe that’ll get them to check out more manga that isn’t superhero themed, but then that logic doesn’t even work on American comics so probably not. What I can say for certain is that anyone that reads this book is sure to enjoy it because even though there are familiar elements, at the end of the day they’re combined to form something new and the way they’re handled is very endearing. If you’re a fan of heroes or underdog stories, you’ll be a fan of My Hero Academia.

[button btn_url="" btn_color="teal" btn_size="large" btn_style="default" btn_outlined="no" link_target="blank" link_rel="" icon_left="" icon_right=""]Score: 4/5[/button]

My Hero Academia – Vol. 1 Story & Art: Kohei Horikoshi Publisher: Viz Media/Shonen Jump Comics Price: $9.99 Release Date: 8/4/15 Format: Trade Paperback; Print