My Hero Academia: True Heroics in a Quirky World
It’s a bit strange that the main character in a blockbuster anime series is a freckle-faced boy with curly green hair who cries a lot. Strange, yes, and yet My Hero Academia is simply one of the more compelling stories around today.
My Hero Academia is set in the present day, but with one difference from the real world: quirks. At the time the story begins, 80 percent of the world’s population has some form of quirk, something like a genetic mutation that makes them different from the formerly normal, quirkless people, giving them special abilities or changing them physically.
Midoriya Izuku, a young boy not yet in high school, is one of that decreasing number of people born quirkless. This has been a major obstacle in the way of his dream of becoming a superhero like his idol, All Might, Japan’s number one hero. But when All Might sees Midoriya’s heroic heart in action, despite Midoriya being quirkless, he tells the boy a secret; All Might himself was born quirkless, but was given a special quirk, one that can be passed along from one person to another, and All Might has decided that Midoriya will be the person to whom All Might will pass the quirk.
Midoriya enrolls in UA, Japan’s most prestigious high school designed to train heroes and those who support them. But school life for heroes in training isn’t just about hitting the books. Midoriya and his classmates are not just tested by school events, but also in serious ways in the real world as they learn more and more about what being a true hero really means.
The story of the fight
I’ll sometimes find a story, usually a movie, with lots of action and conflict but that still feels flat. There may be lots of gunfire, chase scenes, aliens shooting lasers, people about to fall to their deaths, and so on. But as a viewer, none of this seems to matter.
Maybe I’m being unfair, but it’s rather as if the conflicts are inserted into the story simply because that’s what the formula calls for.
My Hero Academia is a story with no shortage of fight scenes. But one thing the author does well, and which is well translated into the anime, is that almost every fight serves to develop some or all of the characters involved.
For example, one significant battle early in the series occurs during the UA Sports Festival, a match between Midoriya and his classmate Todoroki. The story focuses on Todoroki, a boy whose powerful quirk combines the quirks of both his parents. But he grew up in a family shattered by his father’s bitterness and ambitions, so he has decided to not use the part of his quirk he inherited from his father. His internal conflict plays a big part in his fight with Midoriya, and the match reveals a lot about both characters.
What is a hero?
So far, My Hero Academia has focused on the question: What is a hero?
Midoriya sees All Might as the ideal to follow. All Might is a hero who saves people while always wearing a smile, and who inspires hope in those he helps and in everyone who sees him. But at UA, Midoriya has met other heroes with very different personalities. Teese include Eraserhead, his class’s teacher, who is brooding and sometimes sarcastic, but who will fight his hardest when he thinks his students are in danger; Endeavor, an angry and sullen man whose ambitions have left his family a wreck; and the Wild Wild Pussycats, a group that focuses on rescuing people who get in trouble in the forest.
Although the series focuses mainly on battles–either between students or between heroes and criminals–it also emphasizes the less glamorous but still important aspect of rescuing people after disasters, and treats those rescue heroes respectfully.
But this world of heroes also has its questionable side. Since heroism is a career, heroes have to think about how to make a living being a hero. So their society places a lot of stress on popularity polls and public perception. To some extent, this theme stays constant in the series, but it becomes the biggest source of conflict in the brief but intense arc involving Hero Killer Stain.
Stain wages a one-man crusade to clean up hero society. His views can be summed up in his own words from episode 28:
“Hero is a title given only to those who have accomplished great deeds. There are too many … too many who act like heroes but are really money-worshippers.”
Stain targets heroes he considers to be unworthy of the name. When Midoriya and a couple of his classmates face off against Stain, the conflict is as much about questions of how heroes should act as it is the physical combat.
The only real hero
Hero-worship is something that is common, but is also very much a problem. There’s an old Christian rock classic, Steve Taylor’s Hero, that does well in telling us the problem:
Heroes died when the squealers bought ’em off
Died when the dealers got ’em off
Welcome to the “in it for the money as an idol” show
When they ain’t as big as life
When they ditch their second wife
Where’s the boy to go?1
There are things we can say about Christ that, while they may be true, they can be said in ways that make them shallow and vacuous. To say that “Jesus is my hero” is one of those things. It is true, but left to itself it’s just trite, an empty phrase that appears spiritual but says nothing, and can be about as silly as Sonseed singing “Jesus is a Friend of Mine.”
It’s only if a person takes that phrase, and fills it in with the reasons why it is true, that the phrase becomes more than a bit of thoughtless nonsense.
We were in serious trouble, we were dead in our sins, we were enemies of God, we were hopeless, and we were unable to do anything to help ourselves. We had broken every command God had given to us, we had sinned time and time again.
At the right time, God the Father sent Jesus, God the Son, into the world, born of a virgin. Jesus lived his life perfectly, sinlessly keeping all of God’s laws. His death was the atoning sacrifice for our sins, a sacrificial death he died even when we were still sinners. What we could not do for ourselves, make ourselves clean from our sins and save ourselves from the just judgment of Hell, Christ has done of us and offers to us freely, as a gift.
This is how we can take the triteness out of the phrase, “Jesus is my hero,” and see the great and serious aspects of it. Jesus is our Savior, he is our Lord, he is our salvation, he is our redeemer and rescuer. In the grand story of the world’s history, a story that paints in blindingly bold colors the realities of original sin and man’s fallenness, Jesus is the only hero.
Although My Hero Academia does at times slip in some not-so-good stuff, like occasional fanservice, this story has turned out to be an excellent series. The story showcases a good mix of humor and light moments, while also able to bring sufficient weight when the story calls for it. The manga is well ahead of the anime series, and since the anime is on a bit of a pause for a few months to prepare for the next season, it’s likely the anime will continue for quite a while longer. I’ll give it a very strong recommendation.
- Lyrics from the website Sock Heaven. ↩
Interesting article on an interesting sounding anime. Thanks for sharing! I totally agree, that phrase can be so vapid (the “Jesus is my hero” phrase). And yeah, thinking of what he really did for us does put it into perspective better. To go on, I think it does the Gospel a disservice to stop at Jesus redeeming us. Because the best part of the message of the Gospel is not that he saved us from Hell, but that he saved us TO himself, to press us into himself, so that we would be unified with him, to obliterate our desires to sin and replace them with a desire for him (which is more pleasurable and intimate an experience than any other). Not saying I walk perfectly in that, but boy, my life is completely different because of the intimacy I’ve experienced through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (that “sense” of God’s presence–the emotional connection we have to God–I can’t walk morally for very long without it, but when I have that sense of God’s presence, I don’t even want to sin, and I believe that’s what Jesus is talking about when he says, “My yoke is easy, my burden is light.”). I think what makes the phrase “Jesus is my hero” so vapid at times is that when people say it, they tend to say it for political reasons, not because they’re actually so overflowing with love and affection for Christ that it just bubbles out of them. It feels canned-fake-because we see a lack of emotional connection to Christ in their lives, and a lack of fruit. We see it as proof of dishonesty. “Jesus is my hero (but not really).”
Jesus definitely is my hero… most of the time. Here’s to living a life of joy and intimacy with him, where he’s our hero ALL the time. I’ve been going through an extended period of chronic anxiety (the “jump out of your skin” variety–and when that goes on for very long, you get so exhausted that you become depressed). It’s made me more aware than ever of my weakness and need for him. But it’s also proved time and again that the greatest comfort in the world, the greatest source of joy and happiness and excitement, and the source of what allows us to continue enjoying life, is intimacy with Christ. Without him, especially in this period I’m in, life freaking sucks. With him, I can enjoy eating, and seeing beautiful sights. He hasn’t taken emotional pain away. But he comforts me in my pain. That’s the Gospel. That he’s here with us. That we are in him.
I know, probably a dramatic sounding, overly-long comment. But cheers to anyone else feeling in a dark place today. Let’s rest in him, and let him be our hero. Our comfort and protection. I know I need it. Thanks Audie!
Vapid, that’s probably a better world than the “trite” I used a few times.
While politics of some sort or another may play a part in it, there are many reason people may make such a statement seem vapid–they think it makes them appear spiritual, they think Christians should feel and act and speak that way, it’s a part of their job.
There are times when feelings may be helpful, but if my faith depends on my feelings, I for one am in real trouble. Yet Jesus is still my hero, and perhaps no more so than the times I don’t feel like it.
That’s why the gospel is for Christians, too, and not just for the unbelievers. We Christians still need to hear about it, to be reminded of it. I know that, for myself, when I reach a Sunday and go to a church service, I’m tired, I’m worn down, I’ve been through a week of work and annoyances and problems, and I’m wrung out. It’s not that there is no place in a service for correction and reproof, I need that too, but I also need to know that being a Christian is about what Christ has done for me, and from there loving God and loving the people around me.
Right, our faith doesn’t depend on our emotions. It’s the other way around, our emotions are dependent on our faith. Our feelings (when we’re physically healthy) are a barometer of our dependence on Christ. If we lack feelings for Christ, we probably lack faith and haven’t spent time in prayer/worship (though many times our emotions are fickle, and there can be physical issues like mental illness that make emotions impossible to manage–my brother has bi-polar mood disorder, for example, and it’s tough to know where exactly to put that in Christianity, but we are body mind and spirit, and the body and mind can fall apart without any current sin being involved). I think we do well to remember the first and greatest commandment is a commandment to love, to feel emotion, for God. And the fruits of the spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Some of them ARE emotions. And Jesus said that any vine that does not bear fruit (fruit of the spirit, for example), will be cut off. So, in a way, though our faith doesn’t depend on our emotions, if we never have emotions for Christ, yet we’re reasonably physically (mentally) healthy, we might have no faith, and if we have no faith and no fruit, we’re cut off and thrown into the fire. We should be suspicious of any self-proclaimed Christian who doesn’t ever obviously love (feel affection/emotion) for Jesus. This is a complicated convo not suited for a comment section (and one I still have a lot of murky thoughts on), but though our emotions aren’t everything, Scripture certainly claims that they’re important, and that they’re impacted by our faith in Christ. “The righteous shall live by faith.” The good news of the gospel is a real, intimate, transformative relationship with God through the Holy Spirit now — which means we feel all the emotions you would normally feel in a healthy intimate relationship. Part of the gospel promise is to feel emotions toward God and from God. His comfort, his love, etc. It’s not transactional. It’s not substitutionary atonement only. It’s transformational. It’s relational, and the substitutionary atonement was for the purpose of winning our love and restoring intimacy. Probably going overboard but I just think that those elements (the relational and emotional promises) are part of what make Jesus… an actual hero. That he sets us free from the desire to sin, that he instills in us emotion for him, that he comforts us, etc. That’s what makes it so dang good, and he gives us all this just because we have faith in him and his promises. If we tell people, “Jesus saves,” but never explain to what he saves us to (himself–and all the promises he’s given us), it just sounds lame. Because without all of him, it certainly is lame.
It’s nice to know that this has more substance than a lot of shounen anime, but honestly I’m tired of shounen and I have no real interest in watching this. My pick for this season is Skullfaced Bookseller Honda-san (since I work in retail it’s VERY relatable for me). I heard recommendations for Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai and the sport/club animes Run With The Wind and Tsurune, which I have on my queue but haven’t gotten around to watching much of, because I’m in retail and it’s the holiday season and I am constantly exhausted on both a physical and existential level.
Have you seen A Silent Voice/Koe No Katachi yet?
The movie? Nope. It hasn’t come to my streaming services yet. I hear good things about the director, and I want to see more of her work.
Yeah…I saw it on Youtube, partly because I don’t even know what streaming service it’s going to be coming to. It was a pretty good movie, though I had some minor nitpicks here and there with it.
It’s kind of nice to see movies that are actually good, though, since I haven’t seen a lot of particularly amazing movies lately. Kinda makes me want to read the manga for it now, too, even though I don’t read manga often.
I will strongly recommend the manga for A Silent Voice. The movie is very good, but the manga is better–there are things in the manga that simply could fit in the movie, and more depth is given to a few scenes. Also, the movie is returning to theaters again, in January. https://www.fathomevents.com/events/a-silent-voice?date=2019-01-28%2000:00:00.000
I’d love to see it in theaters(and drag my family along), though I have a feeling my home city isn’t big enough to have a showing of it.
I absolutely love this show. Second only to One Punch Man, and certainly has better morals. I look forward to the day when I can watch it with my son!