Hit anime My Hero Academia premieres on Adult Swim tomorrow, its first time on television. If you’re feeling superhero fatigue, don’t sit this one out. It may just remind you of why people love superheros in the first place.
My Hero Academia takes place in a world where most people have a super power of some kind, which are called “quirks.” Most quirks are minor and mundane, like Deku’s mother, who can use telekinesis on small objects. Some, however, allow people to become superheroes who protect the city and fight crime. Deku, the protagonist, is a kid born without a quirk, but he still has a powerful desire to become a hero and help people. He’s close to giving up on his dream until his personal idol, the hero All Might, reveals that he can pass on his own quirk to Deku, granting Deku superhuman strength. Since no one else knows that certain quirks can be passed on to other people, Deku has to keep his connection to All Might a secret. Now that he has a quirk, however, Deku is accepted at the prestigious hero academy, U.A. High School, where he’ll learn the ropes of being a hero and eventually become one himself.
The show is a pastiche of a lot of my favorite superhero tropes. All Might is a selfless and earnest Superman type, and Deku’s quirk-y classmates give My Hero Academia an X-Men feel. Deku’s classmates and their parents are wrapped up in their own petty bullshit in a way that makes some of them pretty cynical. Their rivalries with each other sometimes overshadow what they’re actually here for—to protect people. Deku sincerely just wants to be a good person, to the point that he filled notebooks with notes on other heros to try to learn how to fight against them even without a quirk when he was younger. His earnestness and desperation gives the show such a pure heart that it’s hard not to root for this kid.
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The moment the show sold me was at the very end of the second episode. Prior to getting his quirk, Deku is close to giving up on his dream. After seeing Deku’s desire to save people, to the point of rushing into the fray to try to save someone from a superpowered villain despite being quirkless, All Might comes to him to thank him for being such an inspiration. “Top heros have stories about them from their school days,” he says to Deku. “Most of the stories have one thing in common: their bodies moved before they had a chance to think. That was true for you too, wasn’t it?” All his life, Deku has only ever wanted one thing, and he’s been told over and over that it’s impossible. We know what he’s about to hear, but as Deku bursts into tears, falling to his knees, I started crying with him. All Might says, “You can become a hero.” The music swells, and Deku thinks, “Dreams can become reality.”
For me, dreams becoming reality is what superhero stories are all about. They’re about the idea that one person can change the world and inspire others to do the same. One of my favorite scenes in a superhero movie is the scene on the train in Spiderman 2, where the passengers realize that the guy in the spandex suit shooting webbing from his wrists is just a kid. One of them says that they have a son that age, and all the passengers stand up to protect him Spiderman. Yet right now, in the bowels of Infinity War frenzy, I’m feeling a little bit of a superhero fatigue. When the threats are as big as Infinity War’s galaxy-destroying Thanos, I feel like I’m missing the heart of why we look up to these heroes in the first place. In My Hero Academia, even as Deku and his friends at U.A. High School face bigger and bigger threats, you never lose sight of his desperate, lifelong wish. All he has ever wanted is to be a good person, and watching My Hero Academia always makes me feel like I, too, can change the world.