There’s a tendency within the anime fandom to hate on anything popular – just look at the amount of threads on the MAL forums dedicated to slating Sword Art Online or the backlash that Gintama receives for having six seasons listed in MAL’s top 20 most popular shows. Sometimes this vitriol is warranted, but sometimes it’s simply because it’s considered cool to criticize something that’s popular. The extremely popular show My Hero Academia has also fallen prey to this tendency, with some becoming upset over the number of awards it received at the Crunchyroll Anime Awards this year (seven) and others writing it off as your run-of-the-mill shounen trash. Below I’ll argue why it’s deserving of its popularity, especially when compared to its shounen predecessors.
It’s of a Consistently High Quality
Rather than weekly episodes released over several years, as with many shounen shows before it, MHA has been released in split-cours, with months between each of its seasons. This has resulted in the generation of additional source material to adapt while the show takes a break and, subsequently, less filler to dilute the quality of the show. No need to spend months waiting for the plot to progress while characters fight ninja ostriches, take on mecha versions of themselves, and make curry *cough* Naruto *cough*. It also enables its studio to accumulate additional funds from the sale of its merchandise, resulting in a bigger budget for following seasons. This could explain MHA’s consistently high production values. I mean, the show is stunning… It’s vibrant, colourful, and extremely detailed. Even the ropey block of flats where Midoriya and his mother live looks gorgeous. And its characters are never off-model – a problem that Bleach, Fairy Tail, and Naruto have in spades. I mean, I’m actually sorta fond of these shows, but, seriously, ew.
Its Down-To-Earth Main Character
MHA has a large, memorable, and varied cast of characters, but Midoriya is by far the best of the bunch. When you think of heroes you usually think of sullen, untouchable beefcakes, like Superman or Batman. But Midoriya subverts your expectations of what it means to be a hero in the very first episode. He’s portrayed as this massive dork, who, despite having no super powers, risks life and limb to save his friend. There are no absent/abusive/dead parents or repressed trauma, something which has been done to death and is practically a given these days (see Black Clover, HunterxHunter, or Bleach), Midoriya’s just a nice guy who aspires to help other people, like the hero he looks up to. And even after he inherits this awesome power he doesn’t become unstoppable overnight, like Black Clover’s Yuno, Ichigo, and Luffy (who also inherit their powers). And he doesn’t grow arrogant or cocky, like Jojo’s Dio, who was also just in the right place at the right time. Instead Midoriya goes through this teething process in which he’s kind of laughably shit. He has to work much harder than his peers to meet the standards set by their school and is by no means the most powerful hero around, and he knows it. He’s so down-to-earth and humble, it’s very endearing. I think more main characters should be like him.
Its Badass Female Characters
Something that I dislike about most shounen shows is its treatment of its female characters. They are frequently absent or overlooked (e.g. in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and HunterxHunter the female characters play a miniscule role compared to their male counterparts), constantly playing the damsel in distress (like Naruto’s Sakura or Bleach’s Orihime, who both had to be rescued many times, despite having powers of their own), or mainly there to be ogled by viewers (e.g. most of the women of Fairy Tail, including Wendy, a child). But the ladies of MHA are manifold. They are empowered and strong, witty and intelligent. They are not simply damsels in distress (Tsuyu, AKA: best girl, saves Midoriya’s life during season one and Uraraka holds her own against, arguably the strongest student, Bakugo during season two). And they are not just pieces of ass. Even when you consider Midnight and Yaoyoruzu, the fair amount of skin that they show makes sense in the context of their abilities. It’s not skin for the sake of skin. It’s encouraging to see female characters treated in such a way in a show intended for boys.
These are just some of the reasons why I love this amazing show. I haven’t even mentioned the pulse-pounding fight scenes or terrifying villains. I just wanted to highlight a few things I think distinguish it from other shounen shows. I hope that in doing so I’ve persuaded you to not write MHA off simply because of its popularity or genre. So please, by all means, give it a go and let me know what you think of it!