“What It Takes to Be a Hero” and “Roaring Muscles”
All Might crushes Deku’s dreams of becoming a hero, but an act of bravery from the boy changes his mind, and he takes Deku under his wing for an intense training program.
By the end of the third episode most modern shonen anime have already had our hero assaulted by evil every which way imaginable, so I’m both surprised and delighted by My Hero Academia‘s insistence on taking it slowly and giving us a real feel for our characters. It’s definitely not the most action packed thing in the world, but the show seems to be taking the Marvel Comics approach and playing up the personal drama and coming-of-age story angle. Fortunately, that leads to lot’s of good meaty character drama for us to get into.
As I noted in the pilot, Deku is absolutely the star of the show, and it’s his presence, and the care and attention the writing and animation teams pay to him, that really seals the show as something worth watching. His desperate earnestness and naked emotion might not be very cool in this modern age, but god bless the poor guy, they make you root for him. My heart breaks a little bit every time he cries, and make no mistake, there’s a LOT of crying Deku already. In fact, I’d probably argue he’s pretty close to being a male moe character, so much do you wanna hug the poor guy and tell him its alright. The flipside is that it makes his actually heroic deeds seem all the more impressive. Heedlessly throwing yourself into danger is hardly a new way to prove yourself as a brave soul, but it’s all the more effective by having this big nerd do it. The animation team keep up their end of the bargain too, keeping Deku appropriately shifty and awkward, and conveying his crises through fabulous body language. Someone at BONES probably never wants to animate tears again after this show.
While episode 2 is a little light on actual plot advancement, episode 3 makes up for it with a rush of new ideas, new concepts and new possibilities. I’ve heard some argument that All Might being able to artificially give Deku powers sort of sells out the entire concept of his struggle, and while I see where they’re coming from I don’t necessarily agree. There’s a fascinating show to be made there but it’s a much darker, more dramatic show than MHA clearly aims to be and I’m not about to knock it for taking the more fun, spectacle filled route. I’ll never criticise the inclusion of a good old 80’s training montage in anything, and the one here is a humdinger that shows off the show’s good ability to blend background comedy that nicely contrasts with its dramatic moments. It’s a difficult task to accomplish (I heavily criticised Bungo Stray Dogs for its constant mood whiplash) but it’s pulled off here admirably and the result is a show that can be enjoyed on multiple levels – as a serious character drama but also as a goofy comic story.
That kind of sums up these initial episodes of MHA. It’s a show that aspires to be many things and succeeds at most of them, to the point that it’s probably the most enjoyable anime I’ve watched in quite some time. the key will be to see if it can maintain that as we move into the relatively static school setting. To keep up this pace we’re going to need something a bit beyond the normal domestic disputes of high schoolers, but I’m confident the show has the confidence to try something different.
- The show is doing a good job of seeding future stories by being extremely vague about the source of All Might’s powers. Who did he inherit his power from? What’s the origin of this mysterious Quirk? And, as Iro cannily pointed out, if All Might is ‘One For All’ then surely somewhere out there there’s a villain with ‘All for One’.
- BONES continue to do a fantastic job of making the show look like a million dollars, and again I’ll single out their character animation. So much character is expressed through body language and so many punchlines only work because of it. Various visual flourishes like the 16-bit isometric tutorial are delightful also.
- In case you missed the pun, ‘Plus Ultra’ is very VERY rough Latin for ‘Go Beyond’.