My Hero Academia First Impressions
EDITOR’S NOTE: This review covers the first episode of My Hero Academia. Dead’s a really lazy asshole.
I wasn’t really sure if I would be doing this First Impressions. I’m not even sure I can call it a First Impressions. The manga this show is based on has been one of my weekly staples, and I’ve been buying the collected volumes as they come out. We’ve talked about this series on the podcast many times, so I wasn’t really sure what I could add at this point. Then I watched the show and figured, what the fuck? Might as well write something about this show that I’ve kind of already talked about quite a bit on this website. Mainly about the areas where it doesn’t measure up to the manga.
Some number of years before the start of the series, a glowing baby was born in China. Shortly after that, people started being born with powers. Flash forward to now, and people with powers, called Quirks, are the norm, and being a superhero is now an actual job people can have. But some people are still born Quirkless, and, like one of Magneto’s wet dreams, they are discriminated against. At least that’s the case for Midoriya Izuku, our protagonist. He was born without a Quirk and is constantly ridiculed and straight up threatened by Bakugo Katsuki, a long-time classmate of Midoriya with the power to create explosions from his body. After being attacked by a villain, Midoriya meets All Might, the world’s most popular hero and the man who inspired him to want to become a hero. And that’s where the first episode ends. It’s kind of weird looking at where the first episode of the anime ends. It covers almost exactly half of the first chapter of the manga. Yeah, the first chapter is 52 pages long, but it still seems like a fairly small amount of material to cover in the introductory episode.
But I can understand why they could only get half of the first chapter in the first episode. It’s almost a frame for frame recreation of the first chapter. Hell, they actually add stuff in the first action scene where some heroes fight a villain. But even with the added stuff, the episode never feels poorly paced. Within the first five or so minutes of the episode, you’re given the backstory of the world and a quick summary of how things work with heroes, which is something I’ve always loved about superhero anime and manga. Most superhero manga I read have the heroes being monitored and handled by the government. It’s basically a What If? story where the Superhuman Registration Act is introduced (from Marvel Comics’ Civil War), and everybody was cool with it. With the amount of comics I read, I like seeing this different take on superheroes.
After the opening action scene and one near the end, most of the episode is spent focusing on Midoriya. He’s a very weak, feeble person, and that makes a whole lot of sense given the world he lives in. Being Quirkless in a world where being a superhero is an actual job you can go to school for must be a special kind of hell, but Midoriya makes up for it with intellect. After the first fight scene, he immediately begins jotting down notes about Mt. Lady, a new hero on the scene, and in the OP we get to see a quick little montage shot of all of Midoriya’s notebooks. Even if nobody thinks he can be a hero, he’s still doing everything he can to be one, and largely in spite of himself.
Our other two mains are Bakugo and All Might. All Might doesn’t get to do much this episode because he’s only in it for the last few minutes, but, in those minutes, he definitely makes his presence known, taking out a villain by punching at him and blowing him away with the sheer pressure of his punch. Bakugo is also not in much of the episode, but, like All Might, he does make an impression. It’s just not as strong as the impression he left in the manga.
From the very beginning of the manga, Bakugo felt straight up insane to me. He is always threatening Midoriya with some kind of physical violence, and I’m always thinking in the back of my mind that he is actively disgusted by Midoriya and wants to murder him. In the anime, though, he comes off more as a typical bully than a legitimate threat to Midoriya’s life. It’s some combination of the soundtrack and the animation that makes Bakugo feel a lot more restrained than he does in the manga, but we can get into that a bit later.
Anyway, the manga art style manages to make the transition into anime fairly unscathed. The two action scenes in the episode are incredibly well done, with lots of detail and energy in both the environments and in the character designs, which, again, look almost identical to how they look in the manga. Speaking of environments, the world has this cool textured look to everything that helped the characters pop out a bit more, seeing as how they all look very clean and smooth. The texturing also helps the world look fairly unique, giving it an almost rotoscoped look in some shots.
The animation also looks very layered, with a lot of objects in the environment and characters looking like they’re on different planes. There’s a shot in the episode before the OP plays that really took me back when I first saw it. I’m not even entirely sure why I like it. There a few moments in the episode where things moving at different speeds on different layers don’t look quite right, where one thing looks like it’s sliding along and not really moving properly.
Speaking of not looking quite right, I mentioned that the manga’s art style didn’t translate perfectly to the anime. Overall, the show does look pretty good, which of course it does, it’s Bones. But every now and again, something will pop up that just looks off. There’s an instance near the end of the episode that’s like nightmare fuel for me. What’s weird about that, though, is that it’s a moment that’s drawn almost verbatim from the manga. Similar levels of detail, similar expressions, all of it looks like it does in the manga. But once it gets moving, it just looks wrong.
The anime also seems to be pushing the comedic side of things a bit too hard for the show’s own good. When there is supposed to be a fairly serious moment, like a Bakugo telling Midoriya to kill himself then threatening him with explosions or Midoriya realizing that his dreams are basically dead, either the soundtrack undercuts it with stock comedy sound effects and music or the animation itself undercuts it by having character looking too clean or too ridiculous to get the proper emotion in the scene across.
Then again, I could be horrendously biased and everything could be fine. I don’t fucking know.
The first episode of My Hero Academia is a decently strong start to this series that I love. It tells you all information you need very quickly, then gives you time to get to know our main character and see his place in the world. With a couple of exceptions, it's animated very well by Bones, and manages to capture the look of the manga. But it never fully grasps the feel of the manga, with Bakugo feeling watered down and some things that were taken straight from the manga looking off in the anime. It's not perfect, but it gets enough of what I love about the manga for me to still like the show.