Ever since Naruto ended after a fifteen year run back in November of 2014, a lot of people were wondering what the next big thing would be. After all, it wasn’t uncommon for Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece to be at the top of the charts both in Japan and North America. One Piece is still going strong, and if comments from the editor of the series are anything to go by, it will be for a while. Bleach and Naruto, however, are a different story. While the latter recently wrapped up, the former is now in the final arc, which means it won’t be long before that wraps up as well.
It’s interesting seeing the generation that introduced a lot of people to anime and manga conclude after well over a decade. Those are series that a generation of people grew up with and came to know and love, but they weren’t the first, and they won’t be the last. It makes sense then that people would be looking toward the future to find the next big thing. There’s a lot of talk about what that will be, but the series that I’ve heard about most is My Hero Academia, which has finally made found its way over to North America and is now running alongside some of those very classics in Shonen Jump.
Naturally I was excited to check it out now that it’s starting to become available by the volume here in North America. Like most series from Shonen Jump, My Hero Academia has been running weekly in the magazine for a while now, but the first volume of the series was only released earlier this month. If you have a subscription to Shonen Jump, you’re probably already familiar with My Hero Academia. But, as someone who traditionally reads their manga by the volume, I was excited to dig in as my friends had been telling me about how great the series is for months. As I’d later find out, they weren’t wrong.
From the outside looking in, you can already see that My Hero Academia channels the superhero theme that is so prevalent in western comics. While traditional superheroes dominate the comic book market here in North America, they’re not very common when it comes to manga, particularly in the case of shonen. In a genre typically filled with tropes and cliches, it’s a welcome change of setting. That isn’t to say that you won’t find hallmarks of the genre here and there, but it’s different enough to make it stand out in a genre that’s frankly a bit too comfortable with the norm. When I started reading the series I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as I finished up the first volume I realized that My Hero Academia was something special.
While a lot of manga focuses on Japanese culture, My Hero Academia seems to do the opposite. The art might be similar to what you’re used to, but when it comes to the writing, Kohei Horikoshi isn’t afraid to throw out a reference to American culture here and there. McDonald’s is mentioned in the first volume, for example, and one of the characters in the main cast who just so happens to be a teacher at the superhero high school U.A. is named Eraser Head, which I can only assume is a reference to the cult classic film from the brilliant and equally weird David Lynch. It’s those references that make the inspiration for My Hero Academia clear, and it’s something that I think will help the series do well here in North America.
It’s all very well written, down to the characters and their personalities. Even the main character, Izuku Midoriya is a little bit different. The story paints him as someone who isn’t very special, despite the fact that he has a lot of ambition to become the next great superhero. Unlike most people who are born with powers, he isn’t, and he spends a lot of the first volume coming to terms with that. In a world where majority of the population has super powers, he is the exception. But in typical shonen fashion, that doesn’t stop him from wanting to achieve his goals. My Hero Academia does a great job of mixing western comic books with manga, and if you’re one of the people that hasn’t gotten a chance to read it yet, you’re definitely missing out.
Translation/English Adaptation: Caleb Cook
Touch-Up Art/Lettering: John Hunt
Designer: Shawn Carrico
Editor: Mike Montesa
Disclaimer: A copy of My Hero Academia Volume 1 was provided to BentoByte by the publisher for the purpose of review.Tweet