Set in a world where 80% of humans have amazing supernatural abilities known as ‘Quirks’, My Hero Academia follows Izuku Midoriya on his journey to become a superhero. There’s just one small problem – poor Izuku was born quirkless, meaning he has no special powers at all. After stepping up to rescue his friend in an otherwise impossible situation, Izuku is gifted a quirk known as “One for All” from the world’s mightiest superhero – All Might. After acquiring this newfound power, Izuku is enrolled in U.A. High School, where future superheroes are taught and molded. My Hero Academia follows Izuku’s journey to become a powerful hero, no matter what obstacles stand in his way.
Volume 1 lays the groundwork of the universe of My Hero Academia, introducing Izuku (also known as “Deku”, or “useless”) and the tragedy of his obsession with superheroes and their respective quirks, only to be denied such a quirk for himself. The story progresses with more of his backstory, including his past with Katsuki Bakugo, a longtime acquaintance who was known to bully Izuku for his lack of ability. Faced with the bitter reality that he would be unable to attend the school of his dreams, U.A. High, due to his lack of superpowers, Izuku is about ready to let his dreams die when he notices that Katsuki’s been attacked by a dangerous villain. While others stand around, fearful of the villain and his strength, Izuku charges in fearlessly in an attempt to rescue his friend. Just when it seems like the two would be killed, the bastion of righteousness and strongest of superheroes, All-Might, appears! He quickly disposes of the villain and following the rescue he is stalked by Izuku in a rather entertaining art-sequence.
After hearing Izuku’s story, All-Might confides that he is actually weakening daily. His superhero appearance can only be maintained for a few hours a day, and aside from a few close friends, the world at large doesn’t realize that All-Might’s strength is waning. As a result, and because he sees great potential in Izuku, he promises to entrust his quirk, “One for All”, to Izuku. However, in order to be ready to accept his power, Izuku needs to undergo extensive training. He completes said training under the watchful eye of All-Might and takes the entrance exam for U.A. High. Narrowly making it in, Izuku makes some new friends at the school as they design their costumes and begin realizing their respective identities as heroes.
Volume 2 has two major story arcs – the first is a sanctioned exercise pitting the students against one another. Izuku is partnered with Ochako, a girl introduced in volume 1 as having the “Zero Gravity” quirk. Opposite their duo is Katsuki and Tenya. The arc demonstrates a shift in Izuku and Katsuki’s rivalry, and also highlights some of the other quirks among Izuku’s classmates. The second major arc is an outdoor exercise with the young class of superheroes, but the activity takes a turn for the worse when a group of villains shows up, forcing the teachers and students into a desperate battle as All-Might is nowhere to be found.
My Hero Academia is a lot of fun. The world is thoughtfully laid out, and while the premise of “super-humans” being the norm isn’t the most original, it does allow for some intriguing dynamics. Similarly, while a high-school for super-powered youth is a familiar plot mechanic, the strength in My Hero Academia is all about the execution. One example – in the first volume there’s a fairly large amount of hype around the reveal of students’ newly designed costumes in the closing pages. I thought this was a great plot point for two reasons: first, it was an obvious nod to the western superhero genre. Second, it did a fantastic job of tapping into the excitement and imagination of super-powered youth in charge of designing their own look. Rather than throw them into the arena immediately (that was saved for volume 2), taking that moment to acknowledge the journey they were all about to start together was an excellent choice in storytelling.
The art is striking, and most notably is the purposeful construction of the various characters. One of My Hero Academia’s greatest strengths is the wealth of variation among the different heroes. Each one has their own backstory, their own rival…and even in the first couple of volumes it’s made pretty apparent that My Hero Academia isn’t the “Izuku” show. Quite some time is spent expanding the storylines of the complementary characters, including his childhood frenemy and rival Katsuki.
The story of My Hero Academia is made up of familiar fragments that comprise a larger and much more interesting mosaic. While two volumes is hardly enough to make a sweeping assessment, the framework and foundation of the story that is being crafted is getting me hyped for the upcoming chapters. The effective cliffhanger at the end of volume 2 certainly isn’t helping with my anxiety either.
Kohei Horikoshi has created a few shorter series in the past, but My Hero Academia is quickly shaping up to be his most impactful work. If past performance is any indication of future results, it’s safe to say that this manga is definitely a title that should be in any collection. Look forward to my review of volume 3 in the first week of February!