Thursday, December 28, 2017

You don't need a "normal" quirk to be a superhero

The second season of My Hero Academia gave its side characters a lot of chances to shine during the sports festival arc and I was struck by how many of the characters' superhuman quirks were (on the surface) completely unsuited to being superhero powers.

Like, let's run down the list of 10 of the stranger quirks that make for surprisingly good superhero powers (even if I question the logic behind basically all of them)

  • Frog Form: Tsuyu (Froppy's) power of "anything a frog can do!" seems completely unsuited for the superhero life of fighting crime and rescuing other people. Tsuyu isn't even the only character with a quirk like this, several other characters in the series have quirks which merely give them the characteristics of non-human animals, traits that feel like they should be in a completely different story. But Tsuyu is the first and probably best example of how quirks are just what you make of them; Tsuyu is both quick on her feet and a quick thinker so she's always thinking about how she can use her stomach to store things or her tongue to reach out at a key moment. And with her natural swimming abilities, Tsuyu would be well-suited to aquatic superhero activities, although I have a bone to pick with the series on that note.....
  • Earphone Jack: Speaking of strange body modifications, Jiro (Earphone Jack) must've put a lot of thought into how her quirk could be used offensively. Like many of the MHA girls, Jiro's quirk first seems tailor-made for search-and-rescue (since she can plug her "earphones" into the walls to enhance her listening) and not so useful in combat (although she can also use her earphones to amplify and project her heartbeat in an offensive move). That's my bone to pick with the series, we do see the girls (like Tsuyu and Ochako) engage in combat training as well but it feels mighty odd that the guys almost to a T have quirks that are perfectly suited to combat but the girls do not.....
  • Black Hole: Then you have the quirk for the actual rescue hero, Thirteen (who I think is male but this has not been confirmed one way or another) which seems wholly unsuited to rescue! "Black hole" seems to suck up everything indiscriminately and permanently into a black hole (that Thirteen can either summon or it's a physical part of them, not that it matters either way here) which sounds really dangerous in a precarious situation! Sure it's probably a great way to pull people out of danger without having to put another hero in danger or without any equipment but geeze, I would think it would be so easy for something to go wrong here!
  • Zombie Virus: Man it's a good thing that Romero Fujimi isn't a student at UA or I'd REALLY be questioning their admissions process at this point. I mean, sure I've been snarking about all kinds of students with strange quirks that they have let in so far but this guy's quirk is that he emits a gas that turns anyone who inhales it into a zombie and then they can turn OTHER people into zombies by biting them. The kicker is that he isn't even immune to his own quirk! Like Thirteen this just feels like a quirk that would be way too hard to modulate properly if you weren't working completely on your own. Since this is from the OVA, Training of the Dead, I do wonder how much input original manga-ka Kohei Horikoshi had in this because out of all of the ones here this quirk feels the least well-thought-out. 
  • Voice: Okay I had to even look up how Present Mic's quirk even works since it's appeared to be completely ineffective in MHA so far. It turns out that his quirk does let him amplify his voice, I had just been assuming all along that the volume was due to his accessories than his actual quirk (apparently the support items help direct his voice). Still seems like a really easy way to hurt your allies though...
  • Gigantification: Essentially my feelings on superhero quirks are "the wider the range of effects of the quirk, the easier it is to hurt bystanders" and Mt. Lady's quirk is nothing but that. She can get big, really big, and the impression I've gotten so far is that she can be her regular size, her bigger size, and nothing else in-between which isn't very useful (like in the very first episode where she can't fit down the street to save Bakugo from the slime villain). I have to admit though, "screaming" and "being big enough to stomp on villains" are probably really appealing superhero abilities for the shounen manga crowd of literally pre-teen boy readers.
  • Dupli-Arms: We've seen Mezo Shoji (Tentacole) in action a few times so far in the manga but it doesn't actually seem like his quirk helps him with anything superhero related? He was able to carry some students on his back, shielded from other students in the cavalry battle, and there's a future moment in the manga where his ability to make seemingly infinite (and fast) regenerations of his limbs comes in really handy in a pretty unusual way. But none of that felt like he was specifically using his quirk to do anything extraordinary; he reminds me of one of the other 1-A students whose quirk is "tail" since they both use their limbs as, well, limbs and not like superpowers. The lack of some "superhuman" quirk makes me think of Mezo as a "hero in training," not a "superhero in training"
  • Hardening: Alright, I suppose Kirishima's (Red Riot) quirk to just make himself super hard (no not like THAT) all over is something that makes sense as a superhero superpower. He could be the "tank" of a superhero team, although Kirishima has trained so much that he's like, a super fast-moving tank that both receives and dishes damage. Honestly, this quirk really might be really well suited to disaster search and rescue, if he teamed up with Ochako (Uravity) they'd make for a great team!
  • Manifest: I've had a Weekly Shounen Jump subscription for the past year so I'm familiar with a couple of superheroes and UA students who haven't popped up in the anime yet, and I swear that merely mentioning they exist isn't a spoiler. Tamaki Amajiki (Suneater) has what I think is the weirdest quirks to date and, while it does involve eating, to the best of my knowledge he has not in fact eaten the sun yet. What his quirk, manifest, does is that it allows him to, well, "manifest" characteristics of the food he eats. If he eats octopus he can grow tentacles, etc. He's actually part of a team of sorts with Kirishima and a pro-hero Fat Gum so it's an entire team of temporary body modification heroes! His quirk really is useful in battle however, I won't regale everyone with the details from the most recent arc in the manga but the versatility of the manifest quirk really is handy when it's paired with a character who can think quickly on his feet...but yeah I still think this is a weird one.
  • Bubbles: Alright I'll give this one a bit of a pass since Kaoruko Awata (Bubble Girl) was the winner of a fan design contest (albeit slightly modified to make her a pro-hero sidekick instead of a UA student). She has also only appeared in the manga so far but her quirk is that she can create bubbles filled with a smell that she has encountered at least once before. I don't know if this goes so far as to create like, knock-out gases (if so then holy cow this quirk would require an intense training regime) but I still must think that in-universe, this is not the world' most obvious crime-fighting quirk.
Before I go I will say one thing which is that I think the "in-universe" reason we have so many characters with strange quirks trying to become heroes is since that's the only way quirks can be used in Japan. The manga has made it a bit more explicit that, in Japan at least, quirks are more or less forbidden in everyday life and that's why every school kid wants to be a superhero! That line of reasoning does gracefully eliminate the need for a great deal of extensive, further worldbuilding (concerning the regulation of quirks etc) but I'll admit, I have no idea if Kohei Horikoshi is really thinking about that when he creates a new character for My Hero Academia or if he's just having fun with the biggest sandbox he'll ever have a chance to play in.