my-hero-academiaIzuku Midoriya is an ordinary middle school student and, in his world, that’s a major disappointment and severe disadvantage. About 80% of the population has manifested extraordinary powers called “quirks”; not only does that mean superheroes and supervillains battle it out on a regular basis, but also, the most prestigious high school, U.A. High, is open only to students with quirks.

Undaunted, Izuku has been studying for the U.A. entrance exam, facing a good deal of ridicule in the process. When he accidentally runs afoul of a supervillain while walking home from school one day, he is rescued by the extremely popular high-profile hero, All Might. As Izuku pesters All Might with questions, asking if his dream of becoming a hero is possible, All Might’s secret is revealed: past injuries are preventing his body from using the full power of his quirkand the problem is worsening.

Meanwhile, the monstrous villain that attacked Izuku has gotten away, and it finds another victim in a bully at Izuku’s school. Izuku sees what is happening, and even though he has no powers, he runs to help his classmate. All Might’s quirk can be passed on to others, and when he sees this heroic, self-sacrificing behavior, he decides that Izuku is a worthy successor. But can Izuku physically handle that much power?

This shonen manga is a fun complement to traditional American superhero comics. Izuku has a young, nerdy personality reminiscent of Spider-Man, and All Might is very much like Superman: almost aggressively American with his huge smile, red, white, and blue suit, and brashly-projected confidence. As metaphors, the two characters are interesting, but neither is truly distinctive from other archetypes and they never fully come to life through the writing. The story is similar to the characterization: fun, but full of time-worn tropes—the need to level up, a training montage, preparing for and passing a huge test only to find even bigger challenges ahead—and not terribly original.

The artwork is serviceable and obeys typical manga conventions. There are a few panels where the artwork is cluttered. One panel towards the middle of the book contains a black and white figure and some text, but I can’t see who or what this figure is, and the text doesn’t help. For the most part, though, it will work fine for readers seeking a light shonen manga story.

Though 95% of the story and artwork is appropriate for all ages, the series is rated T for teen, for two reasons that I could decipher: first is the largely unnecessary presence of a hero called Mt. Lady, whose leotard is drawn in such a way as to focus attention on her butt and make it appear as if she’s not wearing any pants. She poses provocatively on the back cover and in a couple of panels within the first ten pages, and then disappears, never to be seen again. Very mild language is also used in a few instances, but it’s language that might appear in a PG-rated movie.

Middle school readers who are already fans of Gotham Academy might like this manga series because the characters’ heroic aspirations and the simultaneous pressures of school are featured prominently in the plot. Readers who enjoyed Paul Pope’s Battling Boy and Aurora West stories might also want to take a look at this, though the tone of My Hero Academia is much more lighthearted.

My Hero Academia, vol. 1
by Kohei Horikoshi
ISBN: 9781421582696
VIZ Media, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: T for Teen

  • Kristen Lawson

    Past Reviewer

    Kristen Lawson is the Youth Services Department Manager at the Roselle Public Library in Roselle, IL. She has worked with children and teens in public libraries since graduating with her MLS from UIUC in 2006. Now she is working on making more space for kids’ graphic novels, in addition to other duties that fall under “making the library awesome.” Though very picky about movies and music, she has a wide range of reading interests and is constantly on a mission to read all the things.

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