Review/discussion about: Boku no Hero Academia
(As supplementary material for this review, please refer to my essay on hype, Boku no Hero Academia and How to Hype a Fight.)
The greatest heroes in my life are none other than my parents.
They have taught me that understanding wins arguments and kindness wins hearts. They have picked me up when I am sick, and they have looked after me as I have accomplished my goals. And they have always made sure that, no matter what, I am loved unconditionally.
They can’t fly in the sky, and they certainly don’t wear capes. But they are heroes. My heroes.
A sentiment Boku no Hero Academia would more than advocate.
Izuku Midoriya, otherwise known as Deku, lives in a world where people manifest powers known simply as Quirks. Unfortunately for Deku, his never manifested, forcing on him the Quirkless moniker. Yet a fateful encounter with All Might – the best hero ever and Deku’s idol – grants Deku the opportunity to finally become the hero he has always dreamed of being.
Boku no Hero has many parts worth praising.
One can praise the battles. They each have a purpose in the context of the show: getting the initial meeting with All Might, Deku’s duel with Bakugou, and the students’ first real taste of danger and villainy. Not to mention that they are filled with awesome moments, like Deku’s upwards Delaware Smash to win the mock-hero test or the group working together to let Iida escape to get backup.
One can praise the comedy. While nothing gut-busting occurs, the anime has its share of silly jokes despite all the drama. Ochako tossing her baseball and earning a score of infinity or Deku and Asui (sorry, meant Tsu) looking unimpressed by Mineta’s sticky balls get the audience laughing through good timing and good usage of the Quirks.
One can praise those Quirks. There are the standard super-strength, speed buffs, and invisibility. But then there is the duo ice-and-fire combo. The black hole. The literal controlling of bullets. Plus, the anime combines these Quirks in creative ways like when Momo creates a nonconducting shroud so that Denki can electrify their enemies. Clearly, the show presents a variety of unique and interesting abilities throughout the whole season.
Now, criticisms exist for these separate parts. The fights involving Shigaraki rely too much on the saved-in-the-knick-of-time cliché. The comedy doesn’t always stick. A sizable portion of the Quirks are not used to their fullest extent. But these problems are not so glaring that they defeat their overall nice amount of execution.
The fights, the comedy, the Quirks. All noteworthy. But Boku no Hero’s best, its most important accomplishment is something sincerer.
It is a story about heroes. More specifically, it’s a story about Deku becoming a hero. As the anime shows, one can be a hero with granite arms. Or with frog-like moves. Or with electricity. That certainly makes one a hero.
But to truly be a hero, it requires determination. It requires courage. It requires doing the right thing not because it’s the right thing to do – but because one can.
And so, the description of the story has to change once more because Deku has always been a hero.
That is, this story is about what it means to be a hero. Saving one’s childhood friend from the clutches of despair. Protecting a fellow student, thereby sacrificing one’s chances at his or her dreams in the process. Risking it all, despite knowing the danger, to let his mentor live on.
Being a hero is more than just having a cool Quirk. Being a hero means being a good person.
So, from the Quirk to the Quirkless, everyone can be a hero. That’s the show’s message.
And that’s just awesome.
The show does have trouble in the drama department when Deku yells and cries way too much and Bakugou spouts incessant dialogue about killing and being better than everyone. It gets old fast. Episode seven, where the two basically duel one another, is especially guilty.
Regardless of this issue, the anime’s focus on establishing its setting and ideas in this first season demonstrate its own Quirk: telling a fun and thoughtful story.
Boku no Hero is mixed when it comes to its art and its animation.
Easily at the top are the character designs. Especially the superhero outfits. While perhaps expected, the colorful clothes and specialized accessories not only highlight their respective personalities but also invoke a sense of fun and wonder.
For example, Shouto’s fire-and-ice outfit makes him simultaneously cool and fiery (in more ways than one). Bakugou’s grenade gloves fit his explosive ability. And Recovery Girl’s syringe hairpiece and lab coat give her that relevant doctor look.
Not to be outdone are the villains. Shigaraki’s creepy hands, Noumu’s exposed brain, and Kurogiri’s phantasmal existence make it clear that these baddies mean business.
The best, however, goes to All Might. His massive muscles, the extreme shadowing that covers his eyes and part of his face, and his different outfits (yellow suit, red-and-blue hero garb, etc.), alongside his big, beaming smile, paint him as the friendly giant and Symbol of Peace he is known to be. Not to mention his decrepit persona, with its lanky, jagged appearance, that contrasts well with his buff self.
Actual animation likewise remains high throughout the season. Deku rocking in his chair. Ochako smashing debris with an improvised baseball bat. All Might going berserk during his first true fight. Lots of battles and moments give the anime the chance for a lot of movement – to which it answers.
As for the rest of the artistry, it’s mixed. Lighting hardly plays a role in the various scenes portrayed, and the background art is forgettable. Yet the choreography of the fights is easy enough to follow, and the expressions of the characters (especially Deku) are quite detailed (perhaps to a fault).
All in all, the anime’s visuals are another aspect that deserve some praise.
Boku no Hero is yet another anime with a huge cast. But, per usual, only a few of them matter most. In this case, those chosen few would be Deku, Bakugou, and All Might.
From an early age, Deku looked up to All Might, wanting to be the same as the greatest of superheroes. However, he learned just as early that he was Quirkless. I.e., unlike the majority of people, he did not inherit a unique power.
At this point, the anime takes a somewhat unconventional route. His mother, rather than encouraging him to fight or have hope, apologizes. In essence, she loses faith in him, leaving him crestfallen and without the future he wants. For if one’s own mother cannot even believe, then what hope can Deku have?
In school, he is picked on, and, out of school, he longs to be what he cannot. Thankfully, he meets with, of all people, All Might. And after Deku saves Bakugou, All Might lets Deku hear the words that his mother never said: “You can be a hero.”
Deku trains and trains at All Might’s behest, becoming fitter and stronger than the average person. All in preparation to literally eat a strand of All Might’s hair to inherit his ability, One For All. Thus, Deku turns into All Might’s successor.
In a weird way, though, this development effectively resets Deku back to zero. For where he was Quirkless and then became strong, gaining One For All makes him “weak” once more since, as is shown, he cannot control the ability whatsoever. That’s not a negative; it’s simply a new arc for him to follow.
Yes, it is frustrating seeing Deku always unable to control the Quirk. But it’s a process. He is gradually learning to wield it, like when only using his index finger to throw a baseball or when he flicks the lake beneath him to create a swirling vortex.
So, unlike the others who can rely on their Quirks, Deku must dig deeper. He thinks up plans, makes calculated moves, chooses when and where to use his newfound power. All the while, he champions that true-hero theme by doing what he can to be a good person. Be it giving his position of class leader to Iida or trying to let Bakugou slightly in on his secret.
Deku goes through a lot in the first half of the season, and, while he does not change much during the second half, he gains friends, learns more about himself, and slowly starts to take control of his newfound Quirk. It’s a season that starts him on the right path towards the ultimate end goal of being the best hero the world has ever known.
Bakugou is the weakest of the three, but he is not without his own developments.
He grew up believing he was the best. Nobody ever told him otherwise, especially when his Quirk appeared. His juxtaposition with Deku, who was weaker and without his own Quirk, made it all the more obvious to Bakugou that he was someone special.
His mean-spirited attitude and general feeling of superiority likewise made him despise Deku. Bakugou saw in his childhood friend something he had never once had before: compassion. As such, Bakugou’s hatred for Deku burned as bright as the flames that sparked from his hands.
It took losing to Deku, in stunning fashion before All Might and the other students, to finally start chipping away at his arrogance. The sheer strength of other heroes like Shouto further caused him to realize that, no, he’s not the king he believed himself to be.
So, while Bakugou crying as he leaves the school and acknowledging that he lost to Deku are minor happenings for normal people, these were huge steps for the arrogant explosion wielder. And, if nothing else, him falling off his high horse taught the audience a simple lesson: hard work can beat raw talent any day of the week.
This leaves All Might. On a literal level, he obviously stands above both Deku and Bakugou, for he is the best hero to ever grace the Earth. But on a narrative level, he may do so as well.
He does not receive development in the traditional sense such as changing over the course of the season or experiencing a definitive arc. But that does not lessen his overall impact. Indeed, his best contribution comes from what superheroes do best: supporting others.
All Might supports the world. He does his best to protect civilians, lead the heroes, and fight for happiness.
All Might supports Deku. He mentors the boy, training him, helping him, and looking after him.
All Might supports his other students. He gives them the means to become better heroes, and he teaches them in a manner that is both inspiring and fun.
But, most of all, All Might supports the narrative. Throughout the entire season, his character was built up, swirling in intrigue and wonder. The rumors about his deeds and abilities. The decrepit state of his actual self. The carefree attitude he always seemed to wear.
It was all in preparation for his first true fight (in episode twelve entitled, appropriately enough, “All Might”). The gradual hype that surrounded him, leading up to All Might finally going all out, made his debut performance not just an incredible spectacle but a statement. That, yes, All Might truly is almighty.
Compared to Deku and Bakugou, All Might does not develop. But, when it comes to supporting literally everyone and everything else in the anime, no one else comes close to the Symbol of Peace.
One closing note. Ochako has an argument for having importance, too. But, given that she comes in at about the halfway mark in the season, and, during the final fight, she is practically sidelined, she does not play much of a role besides being the main potential love interest for Deku. Hopefully she will have a more prominent role in the next season, but, for now, it’s fine to let the other three take the limelight.
The opening track of Boku no Hero instills that sense of longing and triumph that permeates the show itself. The slower first half, with its starting lone guitar and somber tone, gives way to the faster and more involved second half. It’s a catchy piece that makes the audience feel exactly what they need to before heading into each episode of the season.
The ending track may not be as varied in its pace or beat, but it is certainly more emotional than its OP counterpart. The steady drums and guitar that charge forward just as Deku does. The determined vocalist fitting that heartfelt pursuit. The ending bit where the extra pauses compared to before allow for self-reflection on where one is and where one has come from. Altogether, the ED is a strong piece. Perhaps the strongest the anime offers.
The original soundtrack contains strength as well. Not as much as the OP and the ED do, but it is not without some nice songs. “You Say Run” as winning battle music works well to pump up the audience. “Watashi Gaki Ta!!”, often played in the next-episode previews, nails that superhero feel. “Bousou Suru Akui” invokes foreboding and dread. “Hero A” uses hip-hop singing and English lyrics to get at coolness. “Kokoro wo Shihai shi te Iku Yami” keeps it creepy with its slow build-up.
The OST’s slice-of-life tracks are not as strong as its more fight-oriented and hero-centric ones, but that’s maybe expected. Overall, though, it’s a fine heaping of songs that go along with Boku no Hero nicely enough.
(Side note: “Mekamekamekemeke” is the best song title from the OST. Too bad the piece itself isn’t.)
Boku no Hero also gets props for some of its sound-effects. The charge-up that goes on when Deku is about to use One For All. Shigaraki’s neck scratching. (That weirdo needs to stop that.) And the small light-up in-between the A and B parts of the episodes.
Finally, the voice acting performances are another positive for the show. Notably speaking, Daiki Yamashita as Deku and Kenta Miyake as All Might deserve shout-outs. The former for the wide range of emotion he experiences, and the latter for sounding exactly like what the best superhero ever would.
Two characters from the anime stood out as my favorites. One obvious and one not-so-obvious.
The obvious one is All Might. He’s a cool guy for giving Deku the chance of a lifetime. He’s also pretty funny, exploding into his buff body or smiling while blood trickles down his chin.
But it’s that final fight that won me over. I remember applauding afterwards at just how awesome the whole scene was. It was a little lame that Noumu was still alive, but the fight itself still stood out as one of the best parts from the entire season. And I have All Might to thank for that.
The not-so-obvious one is Asui (sorry, meant Tsu). Admittedly, I didn’t like her at first, but she really grew on me. Speaking her mind, saying ribbit all the time, staring ahead with the same expression on her face. She was a surprisingly fun character. Even if she was only around for the last few episodes or so.
(Also, shout out to the Mickey Mouse principal. I’m guessing he’s hiding some super Quirk, like he turns into a voracious, unstoppable beast when provoked. Would like to see him join the fray at some point.)
Those two are my favorite. I do like Deku. It’s fun to root for him: in fighting the bad guys, in getting closer with Ochako, in learning from All Might.
But I’m not a big fan of him still being pretty much useless. Yea, it makes sense for his character and where the story is at currently. But I’d like to see him, in the sequel, start to be one of the team instead of the one-and-done dude he’s been for so long. Because, honestly speaking, I have seen him maim himself enough times already to get that One For All is insanely powerful.
Ochako is cool, too. Granted, she doesn’t really do anything this season, but her laughing out loud at Iida’s attempts at being evil and her resting her forehead on the glass window when Deku and Bakugou are holding a “fated battle between men” made me like her more than Deku.
Besides All Might, Asui (sorry, meant Tsu), Ochako, and Deku, I was not fond of any of the other characters. Especially Bakugou. His constant spiels on killing and being better got annoying real fast. That started to let up (understandably) after his big loss against Deku, but he still remained a dude I didn’t care for.
As for everyone else, their abilities are intriguing. No doubt about that. I simply don’t see them as characters that I will be remembering once the series inevitably concludes.
Boku no Hero Academia is a strong start for this heroic adventure. The story’s message is heartfelt, the visuals and music are intriguing and passionate, and the characters better themselves and each other. It’s a sky-flying, cape-wearing ride that’s clearly on the plus-ultra path to victory.
Story: Good, while some of its drama gets a bit over-the-top, the action sequences, the comedy, and the fun Quirk premise, alongside a strong message on what it means to be a hero, create a well-rounded and thoughtful starting narrative
Animation: Good, fun and interesting character designs, nice actual animation, but a mixed artistic direction
Characters: Good, Deku, Bakugou, and All Might bring their A-game to the academy, starting the series off on the right superhero foot
Sound: Good, good OP, good ED, okay OST, nice sound-effects, and good VA performances
Enjoyment: Fine, a ton of the side cast members are lame, but All Might, Asui (sorry, meant Tsu), Ochako, and Deku keep the entertainment going
Final Score: 7/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3