|Good lead character, interesting setting, good visuals, good action||Takes a couple episodes to get going, doesn't feel like one cour is enough|
It is always nice when a show you have high expectations for actually lives up to those expectations completely. The first season for Boku no Hero Academia managed that. This is another franchise review since I’ll be updating this review as seasons for Boku no Hero Academia come out. The first season was a very well done production that introduced us to Izuku Midoriya nicknamed “Deku.” His journey from a person without any special abilities at all into someone who will rise to the top. Deku’s journey involves gaining that power and his first few adventures at UA, the most prestigious school for developing heroes in the country. The show has a lot of great action, some good emotional scenes, and is really everything I could have asked for in terms of a modern shounen tackling the subject of superheroes.
Honestly the setting for this series is one thing that I do find really interesting. It’s basically like the X-Men universe where mutants become the vast majority of the population. 80% of people in this world have some kind of super power (called quirks). That is pretty incredible and a change that would really have an impact on society. Having that many people with powers would require different methods of handling crime and even jobs. After all some abilities would work really well with certain kinds of employments. The supernatural would become part of the norm. But, it would change the norm since there are so many different powers and different uses.
The big thing though is that while 80% sounds and is huge…that still leaves 20% who have no powers at all. That is a minority big enough to consider, though easily swallowed up by the rest of society. We know the difficulties faced by various minorities right now based on race, gender, and other things. This would be another one to throw into the mix. Maybe a big more gut wrenching for the minority as well. It’s not just that you don’t look like someone else. While some people can fly, jump really high, control gravity, etc, you are left….unable to do any of it. Normal could be incredibly painful.
It is in that world that we find our main character Deku. He is one of the 20%. Now we have superheroes that aren’t super powered. Guys like Iron Man or Batman. But generally those kinds of heroes either have incredible martial arts….or a lot of money. Deku has neither of those things. He’s just a kid who idolizes heroes. Imagine anything you have been a fanboy/fangirl for….he is that for superheroes. The greatest hero in that world is All Might and Deku is probably the biggest fan the guy has. He would like nothing more than to be that kind of person. Someone who can go and save lives with a smile and make everyone feel that they are safe.
Unfortunately….Deku doesn’t have a quirk. He grew up getting hammered by reality telling him that he couldn’t be that. In his own words, he learned that life isn’t fair at the age of 4! Finding out that he had no quirk and wouldn’t develop one is basically worse than telling a kid there is no Santa Clause. Throw into the mix that he’s one of the only kids in his classes without a quirk, yeah there is bullying happening as well. The start of the show makes very clear how tough Deku’s position in life is.
I will agree with others that maybe the first episode should have been a double-episode. It takes two episodes for the story to really get going. Takes a while to really see the full picture around Deku and get attached to what is going on.
The story focuses on Deku as he gains a quirk and chases his dream. To become a hero and rise to the top. As I mentioned the creation of powered people lead to societal changes. One of those changes was legalized heroics. Heroes are employed, they work to solve emergencies and basically survive based on their popularity. There is a very necessary element for some heroes to make a big show of themselves. But to get to that point, they have to go to school. A superhero is basically like any skilled career. You go to a specialized academy for it. There are various heroic schools, but Deku aims for the top school in the country UA.
The story in the first season mostly focuses on Deku getting to the school and his first few adventures. There are only 13 episodes so it feels in some ways like a big introduction to the world and the fairly large cast of side-characters. However it is a very enjoyable first part that is all the better because we know season 2 is coming. Whether it comes this Fall or Winter, I have no idea. But, I don’t think it will be a very long wait until we see more of where the story is going.
Of course Deku is the main character of this whole story. The kid who started out as someone who didn’t appear to have a chance at becoming a hero. Deku had a pretty rough childhood going from a kid who really wanted to be like All Might badly, but then was crushed when a doctor told him that he had no hope of developing a quirk. Deku went through a childhood that was full of tough times with kids who to some degree made fun of him for not having a quirk and desperately clinging to his dreams. Basically just holding onto what was basically the impossible if only to prevent himself from collapsing.
And while Deku of course gains a quirk, that past won’t ever really leave him. His mental makeup is of a guy who is used to being the one picked on and is in some respects very jumpy. At the same time his passion for heroes and his obsession for writing details about them in journals hasn’t been lost. There are probably few characters that can rival Deku’s detailed notetaking and observation of the quirks of others. One quality though that will define Deku for most of the show is that he will rush headlong into danger when he sees someone in need of rescue. Whether he has powers or not, he can’t just turn a blind eye. That can be a dangerous quality, but one that can also get people saved.
The next major character worth discussing is All Might himself. He is a very central figure for the show, the world, and Deku. This is the guy who single-handedly dropped the crime rate spectacularly. A world where people gained powers left and right was ripe for crime to skyrocket and he was powerful enough to drop it down. This guy is very much what you’d imagine a standard North American comic superhero would be. He’s big, he’s incredibly strong and fast, always with a smile and very bright costume. Honestly I think this is what the Japanese would imagine when they first hear about Superman. Very spectacular and most of his attack moves are named after American cities or states. So “Detroit Smash, Carolina Smash, etc.” A person who people honestly refer to as the symbol of peace.
But honestly, he is one of my favorite characters in the show. His focus is particularly there in the first few and last few episodes, but he is a pretty constant presence. This isn’t some perfect person either. The show goes into his current condition and the strain of maintaining that pillar of peace that he’s made himself into. He actually has a lot of troubles and Deku does a great deal to help him. It is honestly refreshing to see an adult in a shounen like this be such a key character. A lot of the time the adults seem rather useless and the teenage kids are the only ones that look good. But honestly some of the best moments in the first season belong to All Might. This guy is the top hero for a reason and he lives up to that. A very likable and funny character that you can’t help but enjoy watching.
There is a large amount of side characters, so will just try to fire some quick notes for the others. Katsuki Bakugou is basically the main rival for Deku. His Sasuke/Vegeta/etc. Deku and Bakugou (or as Deku calls him “Kacchan”) has been the big guy in his class/town his whole life. A guy who developed an awesome quirk as a young kid (he makes explosions) and was constantly treated as something special. That guy you know who was always great at everything and got a big head over it. While things varied in the past, the start of the show relationship between Deku and Bakugou is honestly……victim and bully. Bakugou just has treated Deku like garbage for years and when Deku finally gains a quirk….well he doesn’t take it well. There is room for Bakugou to grow, but I don’t care for his character.
Deku has a couple close friends in Ochaco Uraraka and Tenya Iida. To this point Ochaco is the main female character and Iida is the class rep who also becomes friends with Deku. Both are pretty entertaining individuals with some nice quirks. Ochacho being more about gravity control and Iida being all about speed. They don’t get a ton of time as of the first season to dive into their backstories so we mostly just see them as the friends that Deku picks up in the first season of the show. Ochaco is a really nice girl who does put herself on the line to help people. While Iida clearly tries to be responsible after coming from a family of pretty popular heroes. Both are pretty likable and I hope that we get to see more of their backgrounds and more moments for them to stand out going forward. The first season only had 13 episodes to set up this big shounen series and obviously is leaving room open for characters to get fleshed out as time goes along.
There are a ton of side characters that the show introduced. From students to teachers to villains. They all are great examples of one big strength of the show and that is how varied and interesting the powers are. And also a lot of the powers have side effects or things that the students have to learn to overcome or compensate for. Some powers make people feel a bit queasy, some give them stomach aches if they overuse them, things like that. They actually make a very good reason for the various hero suits to exist. Very smart companies work with the various heroes to make suits that both strengthen what the heroes are already good at and deal with some of the negative effects that exist.
There are a lot of fun side characters in this series. Like the frog girl Tsuyu Asui, the ice man Shouto Todoroki, even the invisible girl Tooru Hagakure. There wasn’t that much time to flesh out all the side characters besides just getting their initial character personalities. Tsuyu is a pretty capable girl who is fairly sharp and can get right to the point. Todoroki seems to have something bubbling under the surface, but is really strong. Even have a very good teacher character in Shouta Aizawa. One of those teachers that seems really hard on people, but mostly doesn’t want to give false expectations. If he feels a student has no potential…they are out. A very badass character who gets his moments to shine in season 1.
This show looks really good. Credit to Bones, they do very nice work. The visuals are sharp for the environment and the characters. The designs are good and Deku especially gets some pretty entertaining facial expressions. Mostly since the show often doesn’t try to just make Deku look heroic all the time. Often when he’s a kid freaking out….he looks like a kid freaking out. Bones has a pretty noticeable style and you can see it throughout the show.
The action is handled quite well. The quirks all look good and the show makes the fights look great. All Might especially gets a lot of great moments to shine. If they can keep this up for season 2 (which they should) then we are bound to get some more nice looking action sequences. They show makes things like powerful attacks or high speed movement look sharp and dramatic. There isn’t much else that can be said about the visuals besides the fact that Bones did a great job with them.
The music is definitely a strength for this show. It has a handful of specific “action tracks” and they really do work well for those scenes. When there is a big moment the music really ties into it nicely and brings that scene up a notch. The soundtrack as a whole is pretty good and I didn’t think there was a time when the show needed a different song or that one song actually took away from a scene.
No complaints about the voice cast as well. Deku is handled really well and All Might also has some great casting. It is something that needs to work since they are asking those characters to at least occasionally use the names of US cities and states for attack names so being able to pronounce the words properly is pretty important.
The OP/ED are pretty solid, though not great. I don’t think they are songs I’ll go back to listen to on a regular basis, but they served well enough for the show. Good, but not great.
In the end I can’t point to many negatives for this series. The only downside is that the first season was 13 episodes which was only enough time to feel like the show was just getting started. But, since they already announced a second season that is hardly a big deal. The first season ends on a pretty high note with some of the best action and dramatic moments in the show to this point. If they can build off that in the following seasons then they will be in good shape.
This is a good show that has strong visuals, music, and a decent main cast. Right now the most fleshed out characters are Deku, All Might and Bakugou. There have been a fair amount of characters shown to this point, but not a lot of them have had enough screentime for us to get more than their general personalities.
If people are looking for a good example of newer shounen series then this show deserves to be watched. It brings the kind of strong action you hope for in this kind of show, with some good characters and setting. I’m curious to see more from this world where most people have some kind of power, but a decent minority doesn’t. Seeing Deku’s rise to a top hero should be fun to watch. I can’t wait for season 2 and can say this show definitely deserves an “A”.
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