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My Hero Academia (Season 1)

The emergence of superhuman mutations, known as Quirks, has ushered in a new era for humanity. With more than 80% of the entire human population sporting these unique abilities, a new profession has arisen. A career path where individuals can use their unique gifts to combat criminals who choose to abuse their powers and save the lives of those in need.

Thus kick starting the era of heroes.

Izuku Midoriya (Justin Briener) wants nothing more than to become one of these heroes. To be a beacon of justice and goodwill to the people, much like his idol, All Might (Christopher Sabat). As a Quirkless teenager, however, the obstacles standing in the way of his dream seem insurmountable. That is until a chance encounter with All Might, where he learns the mighty hero's most guarded secret. Is this the miraculous break that Izuku has been looking for? Or will the road to his dream be rockier than he ever imagined?

My Hero Academia is a 13 episode anime adaptation of a Shonen manga of the same name written by Kohei Horikoshi. Season one was directed by Kenji Nagasaki (whose credits include No.6 and Gunslinger Girls) and written by Yousuke Kuroda (script writer for the Trigun anime and Excel Saga). The series was animated by Studio Bones and licensed by both Madman Entertainment and Funimation. The latter company simulcasting the series on their new streaming site with the new English dub and the original Japanese for the anime spring season.

One of the downsides to the increased amount of anime streaming online is that, with so many options, it can be difficult to choose which shows to watch. Sometimes a premise might catch your attention or the quality of the animation might dazzle you but even then it is hard to know exactly what you're in for until you take the time to sit down and watch a couple of episodes.

When My Hero Academia was simulcasted on Funimation's new streaming site, I was already overwhelmed by the amount of titles available so I passed over it. Not to mention I had just recently finished watching the fantastic superhero parody that is Studio Madhouse's One Punch Man, so another superhero based anime wasn't on my priority list of stuff to watch. That being said, the fact that Studio Bones was involved with My Hero Academia's production easily kept the show on my peripheral. Finding out that Christopher Sabat had been cast the the legendary All Might was the last straw for me to finally tune in.

And boy, I'm so glad that I did.

With Studio Bones at the helm, I already had relatively high expectations of how the animation would look. And yet, I was still blown away with the how they captured the manga's signature character design, energy and tone. Combining excellent comedic timing and editing with several impressive action scenes. One of these action scenes in particular (the climax of episode 2) left me completely breathless at the intensity of the entire sequence. Adding an emotional payoff that had me hooked for the next 11 episodes. I have seen my fair share of well animated, super hero inspired anime series (Tiger & Bunny, One Punch Man), and though I can't say My Hero Academia surpasses either in overall animation quality, it does stand toe to toe with them and brings the story of Izuku Midoriya and the world he inhabits to life in a spectacular way.

In regards to the characters, Izuku Midoriya is your typical underdog. He is the only member of his class without powers and is constantly bullied by his fellow classmate/former childhood friend Bakugo (Clifford Chapin) for his weakness. Izuku is clearly not happy with this treatment and all the negativity surrounding his life clearly weighs on him. But no matter what, he still tries his best to stay true to himself and follow his passion. While we've seen this type of character before, it is Izuku's kindness and bravery in spite of his fear that really sells you on his character. Making you root for him every step of the way.

What also sets the show apart is how the rest of the show's main cast acts and reacts to Izuku's struggle. The mentor/student bond that develops between All Might an Izuku definitely seems to be the emotional core of the story. One that that I am excited to see unfold further. There also seems to be an interesting parallel development between Izuku and Bakugo. Upon entering the school of their dreams, Izuku's ingenuity and good heart earns him the praise of his new classmates.

On the other hand Bakugo, who was originally praised and feared due to his powerful Quirk, is criticized for his explosive temper and is actively teased for it. Seeing rivalries like this in a Shonen action series is nothing new, to the point that it may have become a staple for the genre. However, from the way it has played out so far, I'm eager to see both Izuku and Bakugo continue to react off each other and develop as the result of the other's actions.

That and I just really enjoy seeing an adolescent environment that rewards kindness and selflessness as opposed to power and intimidation.

On the negative side, this first season introduces the rest of the main cast Ochako Uraraka, Tenya Iida,  and the rest of the supporting characters with little to no time to get to know them. Though the rest of Izuku's superhero classmates all have interesting designs, we only get to see their abilities in action a few times and get the basic breakdown of their personalities.

 Which is a shame since I genuinely want to learn more about these characters and see them interact off each other but any extra time that could have been spent on them was saved to further explore Izuku, Bakugo and All Might's character.

Which to be fair, is what a first season of a series should do.

Though as a result of only having so many episodes dedicated to a first season, the last arc which serves to introduce the series primary villains, while exciting, comes off a bit rushed. Again, this is just a first impression and there may be plenty of opportunity to explore these characters in following seasons.

To be perfectly honest, the fact that this show swept me away as much as it did continues to baffle me. As I've said many times in this review, a lot of elements present in this show have been done before. But I think it's the fact that not only did My Hero Academia get these crucial storytelling elements done right, but done extremely well that serves as the series major draw.

Even when compared to the other superhero inspired anime series that I listed above, My Hero Academia is able to stand on its own through being nothing more than a compelling coming of age story. It is this narrative combined, with passion filled animation, inspired soundtrack (composed by Yuki Hayashi), and flawless Japanese and English performances that make My Hero Academia a standout feature for the Spring anime season. Despite the fact the series still has room to grow, it is already off and running toward its second season. The release date of which has yet to be announced. Still, if you're a fan of Shonen anime or well animated action series, My Hero Academia promises to be an excellent representation of both genres. Check it out if you haven't already.

My Hero Academia is available for streaming on Funimation's streaming site. The Japanese dub can be streamed for free while the English dub is available with the monthly subscription. The manga is available through Viz Media.