My Hero Academia, based on the still very much on-going manga by Kōhei Horikoshi, is a pleasing blend of shonen anime tropes and western comics. The world is full of both heroes and villains, in fact 80% of the world’s population is born with Quirks (super powers), making the need for schools and proper training in using those powers for good a must. This leads us to our primary setting: U.A. High School, one of the world’s top hero training schools, and our lead protagonist: Izuku “Deku” Midoriya. Deku was born Quirkless, but his desire to be a hero was noticed by the world’s #1 ranked hero All Might, who revealed to the young boy that his Quirk “All For One”, could be passed from person to person, and that he has chosen him to be the next to inherit the power. Midoriya is one of the most likable protagonists possibly ever, his winning smile and pure desire to be helpful to other people combined with his bravery and off-duty comedy nerd antics make him damn near impossible to dislike.
Much to the series’ credit is that the rest of the cast is full of great characters, from Deku’s hot-headed and arrogant school rival Bakugo to Todoroki, a fellow student with a rather unpleasant upbringing we see in the forefront during this story arc. Throw in really super-sweet Uraraka and straight-laced Iida as great actual friendly friends of Midoriya, and you have a superb principle cast, and that’s not even counting the many other students and teachers featured in these 12 episodes. They all have a unique look, thanks to both the original art style and its western comic roots. You’ll honestly find it hard to find a character you dislike.
Without getting too spoilery, this 12-episode arc covers the U.A. Sports Festival, a yearly event where each school year competes in front of a TV audience, both as entertainment and as sort-of auditions for them as potential side-kicks for currently active heroes, ready for when they graduate. Our class (and other classes from the same First Year age group) take part in an obstacle-course race, then a “Cavalry Battle” (groups of three have to carry one person and hold on to a headband, with each captured headband representing a certain amount of points) and finally the top 16 take part in a good old-fashioned single-elimination tournament.
I have to mention Hitoshi Shinso, a new character that appears in this arc. His power is mind control (activated in a rather tricky-to-avoid manner) and so he’s had a rough time of it in school as people have been teasing him that he’ll become a villain because those are “typical villain powers”. It’s a funny idea that could only exist in a world where powers have become so commonplace. This story, despite its rather plain format, has some great character development for several of the main cast, some properly jaw-dropping fights and animation (it is Studio BONES after all!), and a great soundtrack from Yuki Hayashi (Haikyuu!!, Death Parade) too. This could have been awkwardly stretched or full of filler episodes either side, but thanks to My Hero Academia taking the more modern yearly seasons route rather than year-round weekly episodes, it’s kept at a good pace.
The Opening is our site’s very own Fan Award for Best Opening/Ending of the Year 2017 co-winner “Peace Sign” by Kenshi Yonezu, while the Ending is “Dakara, Hitori ja nai” (or “Therefore, I am Not Alone”) by Little Glee Monster. The Blu-ray is bursting with extra content, with the two discs containing the Season 1 recap episode “13.5 – Hero Notebook”, an interview with Chief Animation Director Yoshihiko Umakoshi from Anime Expo 2017, 11 “Inside the Episode” short features, promo videos, a clean Opening and Ending, and of course, some trailers as well.
I also have to reiterate from my Season 1 review that both the Japanese and English voice casts are among the better of their respective areas. An anime with so many young characters could easily end up with a bunch of them sounding very similar (especially in the English dub, where school-set shows tend to suffer from over-American “dude” teen… syndrome, which is a thing I just invented), but happily this is avoided. As there are so few new characters in this arc there isn’t any big new voice they needed to get right, but it’s still worth pointing out when an anime gives you a choice of two good voice casts, rather than so many similar shows falling victim to having a poor dub.
My Hero Academia is really hard to criticize in general, let alone these 12 episodes. It’s packed with likable characters, a fun setting, it has beautifully animated and choreographed fight scenes and moments of genuine humour and drama where needed. This twelve-episode chunk technically has no antagonist (though plenty are set up for the future) but you won’t notice; the struggles between the students, their ideals and reasons for wanting to become a hero, as well as their pasts, are all you need to be glued to your TV screen. I can’t recommend this series enough!