Monday, July 25, 2016

Anime Review: My Hero Academia

Back when the spring anime season was getting underway, I talked on the OASG podcast about how I still wasn't sure what shows I would end up liking but I was sure Concrete Revolutio and Flying Witch would be among them. I was right but imagine my surprise when I also really ended up liking the "populist" hits My Hero Academia and Kiznaiver! My tastes usually don't like up that way but this time they did and I hope that Funimation found a whole slew of fans for MHA since I can't remember the last time I saw this much pre-airing hype for a new anime (as in, Funimation was even making dubbed character spots to advertise for the show even before the first episode, that takes money!). I have seen a lot of buzz for it online and I have to say folks, I've considered getting a Weekly Shounen Jump subscription before but held back (not enough series I like/the series I like are monthly) but if I can figure out a way to catch up with this series (ie, library please hurry up with my holds!) this might be the manga that makes me do it.

My Hero Academia

As I find myself typing so often, this is yet another superhero story and yet another superhero story whose premise isn't very unique. Here the difference lies in the fact that 95% of the population has superpowers, although so many of them are weird and decidedly un-heroic (like the girl who has organic cable jacks growing from her ears), the term "quirks" fits here very well. 

Like many protagonists before him, Midori is powerless, he admires heroes but without any power at all his chances of becoming one (and then surviving in a frankly very dangerous world) are slim. Until that is, Midori manages to impress his greatest hero, All Might, and the declining All Might realizes that Midori possesses the spirit he had been looking for in a successor and, one long-yet-too-short-training period later, Midori has inherited a very unstable, enhancement power and he's enrolled in UA High School, the most prestigious hero-training school in Japan.

That premise takes longer to unfold than a newcomer might expect, in fact the entire show is paced rather slowly and deliberately. It's clear by the end that the anime was trying very hard to end at the end of a manga arc and it seems as if there wasn't any additional material for a filler episode. While I understand this reasoning it makes me wish the show had been a two cour or more production from the start since that would allow for more flexibility (and a second, undated season has already been announced). And when I say slow I don't just mean "the show gives each emotional moment the time for it to weight upon the viewer", I also mean "I swear there are longer than usual gaps in the characters talking in an effort to run out the clock". There were times when I found myself wishing I could watch Funimation's video at a 1.25 speed like I do with youtube videos where the presenter speaks too slowly, and it didn't help that even manga readers said that the fight this season ended on is one of the duller ones in the series, the later half of the show just needed a little more pizazz. 

By that point however I certainly wasn't about to give up the show, it won me over early on which shocked me since last year I did try out a little bit of the manga and I didn't like it! I recall that I didn't like the art, found the premise dull, and didn't connect at all with Midori, which is another reason why I was surprised that I fell so hard for this series. I'm not quite sure what changed in this adaptation (I need to look at the early chapters again to see if I really did dislike the art that much), but I am a big fan of the director's two other most recent works, Classroom*Crisis and both seasons of Gundam Build Fighters. I felt like you could feel his hand regarding the characters here, even if he was working off of an adaptive instead of an original script, there's a common feeling amongst the three shows where you connect much more with the characters and their emotions instead of being drawn in by the action on-screen. Midori's classmates may have the weirdest of powers but they're all rather likable (except Bakugo who was blessedly given a "I am an ass because I've always been some sort of ass" backstory) and the story deftly manages to give many of them more screen time than I expected. When your premise is as worn as this one you have to really did into some other part of the story to make it good, never mind memorable, and MHA's strength lies with these characters and the different perspective each of them brings.

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