My Hero Academia Vol. 1 - Manga Review

In a world where 80% off the population has a superpower called a “quirk”, heroes and villains battle it out on a regular basis. But where does that leave the other 20% of the population? This is the story of how one quirkless boy will earn the power to change his destiny and become the greatest hero of all.

The Lowdown

Ever since he was little, Izuku Midoriya has desperately wanted to attend the prestigious U.A. High and become a hero but he has one big problem: he is one of the 20% of people who were born without a superpowered “quirk”. As a result, Midoriya was relentlessly bullied for his dream and was ready to give up his dream until a chance encounter with All Might, the greatest hero of all gives him the chance to challenge his fate. However, Midoriya must learn to control his new found power if he will have any hope of getting in to U.A. High.

Who Is It For?

If you’re a fan of the type of coming of age and underdog stories, you’ll absolutely love this series. In addition, fans of American comics should also take a look as the inspiration My Hero Academia takes from them is clear.

How Was It?

My Hero Academia Vol. 1 is a near perfect beginning for the series, delivering moments of heartbreak, action and triumph that had me completely engaged throughout the entire volume. I thoroughly enjoyed Midoriya’s exciting “origin story” not because it did anything particularly innovative but because of the sheer amount of heart this story possesses. If you’re a fan of the famous Shonen Jump spirit of “Friendship, Effort and Victory” you’ll be pleased to know that Midoriya embodies all of these traits to a tee, being the type of plucky underdog you would expect from this type of story. However, what makes him stand out is that each one of his successes feels genuinely earned thanks to his effort and character, and he progresses at just fast enough of a pace throughout this volume to be satisfying. I felt genuinely invested in Midoriya’s struggles as a result, making his moments of triumph all the more exciting and I can’t imagine anyone able to resist cheering for him by the end of this volume.

Another aspect of My Hero Academia that I loved was the way that author Kohei Horikoshi infuses his artwork with style reminiscent of American superhero comics. This is most obvious in All Might’s character design as in his powered-up form he is drawn in a style that obviously calls back to American superhero comics, portraying him in a nostalgically heroic way. This is also cleverly used to create a clear contrast between All Might’s powered up “superhero” version and his weaker self, which is drawn in a more conventional style.

This also extends into the presentation of the series itself, which utilizes comic style effects (see the above picture) that are also present in the original Japanese publication. In addition, Horikoshi’s more conventional character designs of other characters are nicely stylized and creatively realized, creating a memorable cast of characters that reference various superhero comics while maintaining an aesthetic that will be familiar to those who read Jump! series. Overall, I loved how all of these elements came together to give this series a distinctly heroic flavour, making for a unique and memorable read.

As a quick aside, I absolutely loved the impact Horikoshi was able to give panels during action scenes. This was especially used well in scenes depicting All Might’s punches as his sheer power was well-conveyed, really making his status as the world’s greatest hero believable within the context of this world. However, Horikoshi did a great job depicting the rest of the superpowers showcased in this volume and this made for a really fun read.

It also bears mentioning that the rest of the cast of characters in My Hero Academia are wonderfully distinctive, often taking character tropes and putting uniquely super-powered spin on them. I loved that I was consistently guessing what power each character had, and it was neat to see powers were often indicative of each character’s personality. The second half of this volume which focuses on Midoriya attempting to get into U.A. High makes it clear this series has a ton of potential thanks to this cast of characters and it will be interesting to see them grow together. Again, Midoriya and All Might remain the star of the show but Midoriya’s introduction to the rest of his classmates at U.A. High was exciting to read thanks to the diverse cast.

As noted before, the only potential knock against this series I could see would be complaints about the somewhat cliché nature of Midoriya’s story as he gains his powers. However, I felt this was clearly mitigated by how well these clichés are executed upon, and they never feel cheaply used thanks to the heart demonstrated by Midoriya as he strives forward. I would describe My Hero Academia as familiar rather than cliché as it still felt fresh overall thanks to its unique style and genuinely heartwarming execution.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear to me based on this volume that My Hero Academia has a ton of potential thanks to its fantastic execution in establishing a unique world, memorable characters and a familiar yet resonant storyline. While some might shy away from this series because of some of its more cliché elements, what sets My Hero Academia apart is the sheer earnestness of its protagonist and the distinct heart that is present during these proceedings. If Viz picked up this series in hopes of cultivating another tent-pole Shonen Jump series, they were right on the money as My Hero Academia near-perfectly delivers in its first volume and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.


My Hero Academia, Vol. 1
By Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academia Vol. 1 was published by Viz Media on August 4th, 2015. Authored by Kohei Horikoshi, the series began in 2014 and is still ongoing in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. Volume 2 will be published in English on November 3rd, 2015 and there are 5 volumes currently out in Japan.

Verdict:

A

Date of Publication: August 4th, 2015

Translator: Caleb Cook

Author: Kohei Horikoshi

Publisher: Viz Media




Matt

Matt is a broke law student by day, broke law student by night, and one of the co-founders of Taykobon in his dwindling spare time. Although his favourite series tend to be shonen adventure series, he also has a soft spot for slice-of-life shojo romances. He enjoys following the manga industry, and is a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Blue Jays in other nonexistent spare time. 

Favourite series: Bakuman

Favourite author: Io Sakisaka