My Hero Academia starts out like many other superhero stories. A villain is wreaking havoc in a metropolis as heroes try to subdue him. Then a powerful and famous hero bursts from the crowd, throws out a catchphrase, and easily bests the villain.
In this manga that hero is All Might and all of this is viewed by his biggest fan, Izuku Midoriya. Mockingly nicknamed Deku (a play on words meaning useless), he takes diligent notes in hopes that he can one day be like All Might. Unlike most superhero stories, superpowers (called “quirks”) are overwhelmingly normal in this world (Quirks), and Deku is the oddity. He has no quirks, and according to his doctor, will never develop any. But he still wants to be a hero.
(SPOILERS) After throwing himself in the way of a villain to save his childhood bully/friend and being saved by All Might, he learns his hero’s greatest secret: All Might is dying, and needs a successor. He chooses Izuku as this successor, and now the story becomes more original.
In stereotypical superhero stories, he would be granted an all mighty quirk and achieve all his dreams with minimal effort. Izuku doesn’t get this luxury though. Before he can even accept this quirk he must train. After a quick training montage, he accepts the quirk but is still not capable of using it.
In his first attempt he manages to shatter his entire right arm along with the obstacle and learns he isn’t even close to being able to use it. Right now he’s just a vessel barely holding a quirk that constantly threatens to overflow. Him and his fellow classmates at the top superhero school all must learn this.
Here is where My Hero Academia truly shines. Besides the multitude of wonderfully unique quirks, hundreds of students in the top school in the country all study to become heroes, and not one has yet fully understood themselves or their limits yet.
The stark realism in these childrens’ quirks is what makes each character so endearing. Each and every quirk is approached as a genetic trait and has both upsides and downsides. The seemingly useless can be incredibly powerful and vice versa. Egos are born and torn down and the hopeless gain inspiration.
One of the main characters is even the product of mild genetic breeding (a result of his father’s attempt to create a super powerful child). As the series progresses each character learns that their quirk is like a muscle that be stretched and exercised. A fire and ice user must learn to not overuse either to avoid burning himself or suffering frostbite. Izuku must train his body before using his incredible strength to avoid irreparably destroying his muscle fibers.
The students interact with each other with and without their quirks, most having led a normal life, and thus focusing mostly on relationships that they build through personality instead of similar traumas (Looking at you X-Men).
The most interesting interaction is between Izuku and Bakugou. Bakugou, a young man with the power to create continuous explosions from his hands, was originally good friends with Izuku, drifting away once he gained this incredible quirk. After being saved by Izuku in the first chapter, he resents his weakness and even more so Izuku’s weak power.
Bakugou is a rare character that presents all the traits one would expect from a villain, yet remains a hero. The perfect example of an anti-hero, he continues to exhibit a narcissistic ego and yet also a good and clear heart.
The realistic approach to what leads a person to darkness shows that an ego is often not enough to make someone evil and that the world is not split perfectly between black and white. The world itself makes a strong attempt at a realistic view of a quirk infused world. Superhero-ness is a booming business and the heroes are superstars.
There are apprenticeships, training programs, and some heroes even use their quirks for other businesses as well (such as Best Jeanist, a hero that can control clothing fibers, being a clothing designer). This exploration of a development of quirks, of a world with quirks, of a young man’s introduction to a world he literally dreamt of is what makes this manga so original and interesting.
The author’s gradual introduction and realistic approach to how a quirk could backfire is what keeps the material fresh. Yet, at the same time, it still retains the trademark Shonen trait of inspiring hard work and dedication that makes me want to be just like Deku.