I keep finding myself reading manga and wondering, “does every protagonist have to be a young male with low confidence and bad dating skills?” Then again, what do you expect when most of these mangas take place in high school or college? I take a look at the latest Viz release combining super heroes and adolescence.
My Hero Academia Vol. 1 (Viz Media)
The premise is simple enough to start, but quickly gets complicated in a good way as the first volume progresses. The protagonist is named Izuku and he’s your run-of-the-mill nice kid who gets bullied and has big dreams, but doesn’t have the skills to fulfill them. He lives in a world where superheroes call their powers ‘quirks’ and 80% of the people have them. He wants to be superpowered too, but was born without them, a very rare thing indeed. His life changes very quickly though when he is saved by the hero known as All Might.
Writer and artist Kohei Horikoshi introduces the world well, particularly with some interesting ideas I haven’t seen before in the superhero genre. Take for instance a hero who can grow to 20 stories tall. The power is cool and all, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense when it comes to civilian safety and property damage. When the threat in the opening chapter goes after Izuku she can’t help him because her powers just don’t make sense. All Might however appears to be a Superman type with super strength and flight which can be controlled. This leads to Izuku being saved by him and thus begins their relationship.
Horikoshi clearly isn’t interested in compressing the story and through the 190 or so pages of Vol. 1, the plot changes so much you’d be hard pressed to ever gett bored. While it starts out as your conventional awkward boy who can’t catch a break story, it shifts to a teacher/pupil story, then to a training montage type story and finally to a competition type story. It’s all very quick (almost too quick), but it’s nice that it changes pace so much. You’ll be surprised where Izuku ends up by the end of this volume as his transformation is huge.
Because it moves so fast, the characters around Izuku are pretty flat. The bully, for instance, doesn’t get much page time and serves more as a cliched nuisance than anything else. The love interest gets a bit more play, but again she’s given very little time to develop. Instead, the book focuses mostly on Izuku and his incredible desire to be better. All Might gets some page time, but he too serves as an archetype type character and nothing much more.
I love the expression on the kid’s face.
Speaking of Izuku’s desire, the message is a strong one in this manga. While Izuku does get to be a superpowered character eventually, Horikoshi requires him to work for it. Izuku knows hard work is required to get anything in life and I’d imagine most parents will agree that’s a strong message for their children.
Another element I enjoyed was the power of All Might and its relationship to Izuku. It’s a bit of a mystery where his powers come from and why, which is a nice question mark that’ll keep readers turning the pages. Why superpowered people arrived suddenly is another question I’d love to see answered too.
There’s also a cool extra feature between chapters where Horikoshi shows an original character design of each character, their stats and what inspired him to draw them in the way that he did. It gives the book a bit of extra commentary that’s nice for new readers and fans alike.
The art works very well too, with a cartoony comical nature that sets it apart from some of the more literal mangas I’ve read. This isn’t a comedy by any means, but the cartoonish facial expressions help when it comes to adding some lightheartedness to the very serious nature of the superhero elements in this book. All Might is a bit bland in his look though, but this is probably on purpose to make him more of an archetype than anything else. By issue’s end it’s pretty clear Horikoshi has established a very nice, cartoony look to the characters while maintaining a very detailed and realistic look to the city and world around them. There’s a nice surprise too, with some fantastic superhero costume designs for a few characters you won’t want to miss.
The book is actually not gratuitous at all with the females, but this page is a bit much.
Is It Good?
Horikoshi is crafting a unique and interesting superhero world with breakneck pace that keeps things always interesting. Comic book fans of all ilks should admire the fresh take on superheroes, and the fantastic art too.