My Hero Academia, vol 1, by Horikoshi Kohei

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Publication date – August 4, 2015

Summary: What would the world be like if 80 percent of the population manifested superpowers called “Quirks” at age four? Heroes and villains would be battling it out everywhere! Being a hero would mean learning to use your power, but where would you go to study? The Hero Academy of course! But what would you do if you were one of the 20 percent who were born Quirkless?

Middle school student Izuku Midoriya wants to be a hero more than anything, but he hasn’t got an ounce of power in him. With no chance of ever getting into the prestigious U.A. High School for budding heroes, his life is looking more and more like a dead end. Then an encounter with All Might, the greatest hero of them all, gives him a chance to change his destiny…

Thoughts: I went into this one blind. I haven’t watched the anime adaptation. I knew pretty much nothing about the story. At most I’ve heard a few people mention some character names. The most knowledge I had was from reading the description of this volume on Amazon. I didn’t want to go into reading this with any particular opinion, despite the general popularity of the story.

And you know what? I can see why My Hero Academia appeals to so many people.

It’s an interesting premise that’s set up, very similar to X-Men, only taken to greater lengths. Instead of a small percentage of people with supernatural powers (known here as quirks), it’s a very large percentage of people. Nearly everybody has some sort of power, and has for generations. Most are small things that are useful but don’t necessarily put one into the “superhero” category. But for others, becoming a superhero is absolutely within their reach, as their quirk is something akin to what you might see in such comics.

Izuku is one of the few kids who never manifests any sort of quirk, which is an even greater kick in the pants when you consider that his lifelong dream is to become a hero. Without a quirk, there’s no way he would be considered for such a job, since being a hero is, in many ways, an actual job in this world. There is absolutely nothing special him whatsoever, except in his refusal to give up on his impossible dream.

Only the dream may not be so impossible after all, when the world’s greatest hero, All Might, reveals to Izuku that his own powers aren’t inherent so much as they were granted, given to him by another, and that Izuku’s heart and bravery have marked him as All Might’s successor. All Might’s gift allows Izuku to properly follow the path he has dreamed of since childhood, and his journey as a hero truly begins.

You can see the quick appeal in the “zero to hero” trope here. It’s one that resonates with a lot of people. Someone without any special talents or training ends up being given a huge gift that changes their lives and sets them on their true path, the path of their dreams. I mean, who among us hasn’t had that fantasy in our minds at some point? And in this early volume of the much larger story that is My Hero Academia, Izuku struggles to deal with the powers that he’s been given. They’re not a quick fix for his life’s problems, they don’t make everything so easily for him. He had to train his body almost to breaking point to even receive them, and one he had them, he had to adjust to gaining so much power so suddenly. Children in this world typically get their quirks as toddlers at the latest, and so growing up with a quirk means that it’s just a natural part of who they are. The whole thing is likened to suddenly having a tail. If you’ve grown up without one, you’re not going to know how to control it or move with it for a while. That’s the situation Izuku finds himself in, as he navigates this new world of hero-training he finds himself now a part of.

Some aspects of the art style don’t really work for me, but that’s not something that really prevents me from getting into the story. Even if I may have outgrown some of the, “I wish I could receive a huge gift that would set my life on track” mindset (only some, mind you), there’s a lot about this story that’s appealing. I want to see how Izuku grows. I want to see what happens beyond basic hero training, dealing with asshole bullies, and so on. I want to see more of the world develop. Given that the series has gone for many volumes at this point, it seems there’s a lot more of the story yet to come, and I’m curious as to how it all plays out. This first volume made me quite curious, and even if superheroes and a lot of typical shounen manga archetypes aren’t really my thing, I’ve got my sights on this story, and I hope I’ll be able to read more of it soon.

(Book received in exchange for an honest review.)