A runner up for the 2015 Manga Taishou award, My Hero Academia (Boku no Hiirou Akademia) is mangaka Kouhei Horikoshi’s third serialized work, published in Weekly Shounen Jump. Horikoshi’s previous accolades include an honorable mention in the 72nd Tezuka Awards for his one shot Nukegara. The English adaptation is provided under Viz’s Shounen Jump label, with Caleb Cook, a newcomer to the industry, providing translation.
In a world where nearly the entire population develops some sort of superhuman power by the time they’re four years old, Izuku Midoriya faces his final year of middle school knowing one thing for certain: he’s absolutely normal in every way. Yet this doesn’t stop Midoriya, called Deku by his childhood-friend-turned-rival, Katsuki Bakugou, from dreaming of someday becoming a superhero. Deku works hard to seize his dreams by developing a fanatical knowledge of all those who have become real government sanctioned heroes, including an awareness of their powers and limitations. Yet for all this, he’s mocked by his classmates and teachers, since it’s impossible for someone without a superpower, called Quirks, to gain entry into the prestigious UA High School where heroes are trained.
Yet despite these setbacks, Deku still clings to his dream until one day he finds himself face to face with the most prolific hero the world has ever known, All Might. All Might saves Deku from a rampaging villain, which prompts Deku to chase after the hero, one question burning in his mind. Can a quirkless normal kid like him ever hope to become a hero?
All Might’s rejection is swift and crushing, and it would seem that all hope is lost for Deku, until the very same villain that threatened his life re-emerges, this time with its sights set on Katsuki. Although there are other heroes that have responded to the call, none of them feel that they’re any match for this villain’s unique quirk, leaving Katsuki in danger. Witnessing this, Deku immediately blames himself for delaying All Might with his question, causing the hero to push the limits of his special quirk. Yet his inaction doesn’t last for long. When Deku realizes that it’s Katsuki in the villain’s grasp, quirkless or not, he leaps into action to save his classmate and former friend, setting off a chain of events that may very well make Deku the hero he wishes to be.
An homage to American superhero comics in manga form, Horikoshi’s work in My Hero Academia is nothing short of delightful. The characters bring a delightful energy and vibrance to the page. Deku functions as the prototypical everyman, but with the same sort of childlike wonder and determination that every superhero fan can sympathize with. The background characters provide a diverse backdrop to the story, with powers ranging from things like a girl with a zero gravity touch and a boy that turns into a tree man attacking with vines and roots. At times, the humor even pushes the boundaries of the fourth wall, with characters calling out All Might’s importance simply based on how he’s drawn differently from everyone else. Cook’s translation provides a very faithful rendering as well, keeping the energy and momentum of the story on the page.
My Hero Academia is a quick read, upbeat and energetic in its pacing and storytelling, with over a year in time passing in the first volume alone. For fans of Marvel or DC, or for anyone looking to persuade an American comics fan to take a walk on the manga side of things, this manga promises to entertain.