Izuku Midoriya is kind of a wimp. He has a lot of heart and spirit, but he can turn on the waterworks at the drop of a hat, and he’s a total shrimp physically. That’s what makes this middle-schooler’s determination to enter the prestigious U.A. High School’s Hero Program especially foolhardy. But isn’t that how most great journeys begin? The odds are stacked against him, sure, but Midoriya just so happens to be the star of a Shonen Jump manga, so we know we’re in for a ride full of hard work, determination, and a healthy dose of rivalry. That’s My Hero Academia in a nutshell, and it’s one of the stronger opening volumes of a Jump series in recent memory.
One of creator Kohei Horikoshi’s greatest strengths is the way he handles major moments in his manga. The peaks and valleys are well placed, and the heroic beats hit harder as a result. Horikoshi tends to go big when it comes to action. Rather than peppering or stretching out the thrills, they come in large splashes, either full- or half-page illustrations that show his heavy pen, thick with details and frenetic speedlines.
Horikoshi’s short-lived Barrage was enjoyable in similar ways, but with My Hero Academia he clearly has a stronger grip on characterization and crafting interesting worlds. Even though Midoriya starts off a meek, bullied student, his growth comes hard and fast while managing to avoid tearing away at what makes him special. He’s still got a massive heart and a body bursting with potential, so his development seems natural. Thanks to a run-in with a real superhero, Midoriya is given the opportunity to actually make a hero of himself, but he still has to be able to properly wield the power he was given. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he handles having a power that could literally tear his body apart from the inside if he doesn’t take care and learn to pace himself.
Fellow classmate Katsuki Bakugo hates that Midoriya has somehow managed to get his own “Quirk”—which is the term for powers that around 80% of the population naturally manifest—and the only time he takes the foot off the bully gas is when Midoriya inadvertently saves him through an act of impulsive and ill-advised heroism. It’s clear this rival is here to stay and follow his own path along with our hero, but at the moment he’s a fairly bog-standard, one-note foil. It’s still the first volume, though, so even though there are more unique characters peppered throughout the opening chapters—All Might, the hero who gave his power to Midoriya, comes to mind—I’m willing to give him time to grow.
My Hero Academia has a lot going for it so far. There’s a bit of the ol’ Marvel Comics brewing in here along with the classic shonen tropes, and the cast of new heroes are all poised to make something of themselves and really flex their powers. It’s easy to see why it was popular right out of the gate in Japan, and hopefully it continues to build upon its strong opening in the coming volumes.
Story & Art: Kohei Horikoshi
Publisher: Viz Media
© 2014 by Kohei Horikoshi