Heroes are cool. Swooping in whenever and wherever they are needed most, vanquishing evil and keeping the innocent safe. What the populace is not privy to however is the behind the scenes effort that goes into forging these stalwart beacons of hope. I speak of training, the necessary evil in producing champions of the highest caliber. Sure running sprinting drills isn’t the most awe inspiring task in a world filled with an immeasurable number of super powers, but it just might be that hundredth dash that gave that hero the extra fraction of a second they needed to arrive in the nick of time. It may be cliche, but though everyone is not born equal, their actions may make them greater than the sum of their parts.
As with every hero story ever put to paper, we began with the origin story, the answering of the call to action that sets up any great protagonist big or small, empowered or not. That being said, My Hero Academia is, in its own conception, an origin story, so we technically began with the origin of the origin story. Nevertheless, since we do not know what awaits our heroes once they are full grown and professional, we aren’t hastening through a set up period and can enjoy their slow development. Now, what this means for our present tense beginnings is that our valourous crew of do-gooders are far, far from perfect. Sure they possess the fortitude and raw talent to become names imperiled citizens will one day call upon, but as of now they are unpolished gems. Case in point, Yaoyorozu is a girl with the ability to create any form of non-living matter from her body, a tremendous power that makes her a versatile asset on any battlefield or rescue mission. However, as she is new to combat, she defers to another to cinch victory. Now, whilst teamwork is a traditionally sought after goal for heroes the world over, each student has the potential to single handedly defeat the specific threats they were faced with, as one student so blatantly demonstrated. Thus, we are given a clear representation of not only the student’s individual abilities, or the differences between them, but how important creativity and assertiveness is, especially in aid of compensating for their lack of skill. For this to happen at all in a manga, let alone as swiftly and concisely as it did in this volume, is a sign of how well the narrative of My Hero flows. Though some truly vague and heinous plot points still linger by chapter’s close, ready to enrapture at the beginning of the next, enough development, both plot and character, occurs to show that the manga is not spinning its wheels to cover for a lack of content. Thus, everything that is not solved quickly is subconsciously given the sense of grandeur it truly deserves.
From a encyclopaedic (wiki-building) perspective, possesses a nice pacing to revealing the abilities of its characters. Though still bearing the simplicity of a description card, the declaration of powers occurs far enough apart that you aren’t bombarded by faces, names and Quirks all at once. This allows characters to keep some air of mystery around them until their appropriate debut, whilst also keeping the feeling of discovery alive. This method also aligns with the students, in that they too are unaware of their true potential and are not entirely pre-defined by their ability, as would have been the feeling given off by an introductory rundown of name, skill, personality in their respective chapters of appearance. The descriptions themselves are also simplistic, or humourous, enough to remind us that this is still a bizarre world and that even if we know what a character’s power is, we don’t know how they will use it. Case in point, Tsuyu’s ability to “Do whatever a frog can do, of course” vs Bakugo’s “Nitroglyceric sweat”. Both vague and specific at the same time, oxymoronic and awesome.
Plotwise, this volume marks a right of passage for hero stories everywhere; the introduction of a villain…or five, give or take a couple dozen. Hinted at in prior chapters, we finally witness the apparent main antagonist taking a more hands on approach. Showcasing boldness, strength, ingenuity and naivety without lifting a single finger, these allies of evil present a very real threat within the world of My Hero. It is also through this threat that the manga reveals the true extent of the world in which it resides. Though drawing inspiration from the superhero tales of old, My Hero is still very much a modern tale, unafraid to show reality in its fiction. Sure heroes save the day and beat the bad guys, but those clashes are rarely without casualty and, in a world where some can warp the fabric of space or disintegrate with a single touch, you can imagine how frightening those casualties can be. Combine that with the simple fact that our main cast are just barely in high school, and you’ve got the recipe for some truly gut wrenching horror which, though far from the core aspect, adds some palpable weight to the story.
Having pushed onwards to some more visibly heroic regimes, Volume Two of My Hero really tests its characters. Though we know Midoriya is the inventive type who can use his obsessively collected knowledge of heroism to his advantage, it is another thing to see it take place. To see this ingenuity severely rattle Bakugo’s cage also keeps not only the explosive brat himself a relevant force in the series, but also forces development between the two friends/rivals/mortal enemies/whatever they are to each other. The position of spectator is also slowly slipping away from the rest of Class 1-A, allowing them to stand on their own both within the series and the mind’s of the reader, which is essentially a meta representation of the world within My Hero if you think about it, what with individual marketing and all. It is for this reason, along with the others I mentioned prior, that My Hero Academia presents and interesting and inclusive origin story. With its content combined with the long form style of manga, each character’s development is hesitant, with us only learning about their potential as they themselves discover it. Sure, this isn’t an entirely new concept, nor is the idea of superheroes, nor a school that trains them, but none of that matters. With its execution of these concepts, cliches and tropes, My Hero Academia unabashedly presents itself as the same core story you’ve heard a hundred times over from media both Eastern and Western. Where it sets itself apart however, is in the heart, ingenuity and fervour it puts into each action. You want to talk about meta? How about a manga that in itself feels like a hero?
Training for heroism is a daunting and gruelling challenge. Head on over to Madman to prepare, if you’re up for it that is…