Middle school student Izuku Midoriya wants to be a hero more than anything, but he hasn’t got an ounce of power in him. With no chance of ever getting into the prestigious U.A. High School for budding heroes, his life is looking more and more like a dead end. Then an encounter with All Might, the greatest hero of them all, gives him a chance to change his destiny…
Good for what it is, a typical shounen battle manga. It's well comparable to the likes of Bleach, Naruto and Yu Yu Hakusho, but so far it's been more consistently good than any of them. In fact, so far it's only been getting better as it advances. The main character is a pretty typical shounen lead in the sense that he's earnest, hard worker, an unwittingly charismatic idealist, and there's a typical from weak to strong advancement trajectory. The primary difference to most shounen battle manga leads is that he's actually pretty smart. Though he has willpower in spades, and occasionally he's just forced to push through with sheer willpower, sacrificing a limb or two (as in, breaking them, not losing them permanently), but he can formulate a strategy and make use of his friends' unique abilities. That brings me to the second major difference he has to many shounen leads: while his goal is to become the beacon of hope his idol and teacher was before passing on his power to the MC, he realises his limitations and if he has a choice, he never fights alone. He's not fighting to protect his friends, he's fighting with his friends to protect everyone else. That's a refreshing difference from the likes of Negi from Negima, who is also very smart and one of my favourite shounen leads, but has the tendency to try and shoulder everything himself. The other characters are steadily gaining depth as the story progresses. The cast is huge and still expanding, so understandably most of them get limited screen time, but overall I feel that the author is still "in control" of the situation and managing his cast smartly: allocating the central characters plenty of time, giving the secondary characters enough to slowly develop them, and making the tertiary characters mainly just physically distinctive. From the start, there has been one character who stands a head and shoulders above everyone else in the story, including the MC: his childhood "friend" and rival with anger management issues. Bakugou is such a well written, multi-dimensional character, I've rarely seen such in a shounen battle manga. Female characters are typically a weak point in this genre, but IMO, Hero Academia is doing a far better job developing them and making them feminine (without taking away from their strength) than most other shounen battle manga. That said, I still think that they generally fall short of the male characters of comparable importance. The female lead is pretty cute, and has been receiving some steady character development, but I'm still hoping for an arc focusing on her and bringing her character to a new level of interesting. Battles have so far been pretty good... I'd say that at its best, Naruto still has better battles, but the author of Hero Academia is certainly putting enough thought into his battles to pass with flying colours in a shounen battle manga. After reading this far, I'm no longer surprised that this manga is now the second most popular in Shounen Jump, after One Piece, the only one remaining of what we once knew as the "big three". The abilities of the characters, their "quirks", are varied and nicely developing, offering new things to see with each new battle. Some battles are quite exciting and dramatic, and there usually isn't too much blathering between moves. The battles aren't too drawn out, but not too brief either. In terms of smartness and intricacy, they still fall behind the best of Naruto and, say, World Trigger, but they're alright. I hesitate to say this, as it's still nothing amazing, but I think the plot is a tad more intricate than what is typical for this genre. I like how the public opinion of the heroes is actually plot-relevant and a significant focus in the bad guys' plans. Most of the villains are still unfortunately one-dimensional, but I like how the "previous generation last boss" is making a similar attempt to cultivate his successor as the MC's teacher is doing with the MC. You don't often see the future "last boss" developing in parallel with the MC, though in his case, the focus of development seems to be mental, as opposed to the largely physical training that the MC is doing. One thing I consider important is how this author seems to have a clear plan with a defined end point in mind: this will no doubt be a very long manga, I'd say at least 600 chapters, if it's allowed to run its course, but I think, and hope, that the author won't be dragging the story out beyond its natural life span. The art is mostly pretty great. There has been no noticeable drop in quality so far, the backgrounds are as detailed as ever and the character and action art are actually getting better. I have no idea how the author is keeping this up, considering how brutal the deadlines are. I don't like some of the character and especially costume designs, they can get pretty ridiculous, but it's still nothing compared to the utter jokes that some One Piece character designs are. There's nice variety on the designs, every character has their individual look, and I suppose that's ultimately more important in a story with such a huge cast, than making them cool-looking. The female character designs are hardly the sexiest out there, but for the standards of this genre, they're pretty cute. It's not like eye candy is a selling point anyway, although there are occasional attempts at moderate fanservice. All in all, it was a very enjoyable read that effectively hooked me until I reached near the end of the translated chapters (131/137) - I stopped reading with a few chapters left, in order to not risk a cliffhanger. At this time, I'll rate it 8/10. If there won't be a drop in the quality, as is always a risk in long manga stories, I'll be happy to keep reading this.
My current thoughts up to Chapter 294: Will be including SPOILERS cause I like to analyze everything when I review: MHA has been in its longest arc up to date(the liberation war arc), and sadly I can't see myself continuing the series any longer. I'm no stranger to long arcs, I just can't find anything to keep me going at this point. Partly due to the art, cause honestly I feel like some of the character designs are silly to the point where I can't take them seriously. One example being Best Jeanist, he's supposed to be a mentor figure to Bakugo and yet he has a pair of jeans for a turtleneck. He wouldn't have to fight the villains cause they would be too busy laughing at him. Maybe the point of MHA's art is to be goofy sometimes, but that's just not the type of shounen art that I like. And superheros can have really cool designs, like Spider-Man, Batman Beyond, and also Ben 10, cause who doesn't like seeing a ten year old boy turning into all of these cool alien lifeforms. Regarding characters, there has also been a character reveal of Dabi being revealed to be Toya, the son of Endeavor. Which was foreshadowed of course, but I just didn't feel the impact as much as I should have. And I think part of the problem is how much the story jumps around. Its nice that the author is focusing on more than just one character during the story, but I wonder if maybe the author could spend more time on characters. One example being Mirio/Lemillion, since he got back to being a superhero because Eri restored his quirk with her rewind quirk. The author explains it after the fact, and seeing how he got it back so quickly makes his sacrifice in the Overhaul arc feel less meaningful. And one thing I can say for sure is that Midoriya still acts the same way, jumping into the fight with Shigaraki without really thinking of the consequences to himself. I get that he wants to protect the people he cares about, but you can't protect people if you're dead. Its no wonder why Bakugo had to jump in to take a serious injury for Midoriya, Naruto-style. Midoriya has all of these relationships with his teacher and also his rival, but what about the protagonist himself, where is Kohei trying to go with Midoriya? If there is an answer to that question, then I feel too tired at this point to be waiting for it. I get that the author is trying to explore a superhero society, but I feel that the pacing of the story is not to my liking. Pacing will always feel subjective in regards to anime/manga fans and what they want out of a series. What I do know is that I'm tired and I have no intention of starting 2021 while still reading MHA. A college friend of mine originally recommended the series for me, and I think he meant well, but unfortunately I can't see myself reading anymore of MHA.
Right off the bat, I should say that chapter 306 is titled "The Final Act Begins"...which--with my genius-level interpretive skills--I am interpreting to mean that the final act has begun and that the story has entered...its final act. I debated waiting to write this review until the manga fully came to its conclusion, but honestly I could see this arc lasting for quite a while and including a series of sub-boss battles in addition to what'll likely be a very lengthy climactic clash, so I decided to get my current thoughts out now on the majority of the series and then just updating it later with my thoughts on the final arc. The first thing that needs to be mentioned is that the artwork is absolutely gorgeous. The character designs and costumes all look really cool. The basic proportions all look on point and it's easy to distinguish the main characters from each other. The fights look appropriately epic and intense, with the effects and facial expressions all working perfectly. There are some costume adjustments throughout the series, which help to show time progressing as well as just keeping things somewhat fresh. I very much appreciate how injuries will accumulate rather than just disappearing, like with the scars all over Midoriya's arms or Shigaraki's fingers. The biggest flaw with the manga is probably related to it having wa~ay too many characters. Normally, it'll take many years or even decades for a manga to accumulate such a high number of characters, but this manga seemed to be aiming for this result right out the gate. In fact, at some point, the author started basing some of the side characters on fan submissions, because there are just so many named character slots that fe wanted to be filled. On the one hand, it does create the impression that there are actually a lot of people in this world and the manga does a decent job of providing at least brief backstories on many of the characters. But on the other hand, it makes it difficult to get attached to anybody and can make it difficult to remember why such-and-such character was someone that I was supposed to feel a connection toward. There was a rather lengthy section in the middle of the manga where I was finding every plotline to be stale and badly put together (and would've rated the overall manga around 4/10), but I've actually come back around and have started getting riveted and engaged by the plotlines again. I still think the more recent stuff pales in comparison to the beginning, and I'm kinda pessimistic that the ending will be satisfying, but I'm much more interested in seeing what happens next than I was at one point. The school-related stuff (other than at the beginning) is some of the worst stuff. The school aspect should've just been dropped after, like, chapter 90 or so because honestly it starts feeling like the lessons and classes are just superfluous, and I think the only reason they continued coming back to that aspect is because of the manga's title. Just to be a bit more precise, here's a list of the various story arcs in the manga and how I would rate them: Chapters 1-2, Initial Training [10/10] Chapters 3-4, Entrance Exam [10/10] Chapters 5-7, First Day Testing [8/10] Chapters 8-11, Mock Battles [10/10] Chapters 12-21, League of Villains [10/10] Chapters 22-44, Sports Festival [9/10] Chapters 45-57, Internships [6/10] Chapters 58-67, Practical Exams [10/10] Chapters 68-82, Training Camp [10/10] Chapters 83-94, Saving Bakugo [7/10] Chapters 95-99, New Dorms [6/10] Chapters 100-102, Ultimate Moves [4/10] Chapters 103-114, Provisional License Exam [3/10] Chapters 115-121, Duel with Bakugo [6/10] Chapters 122-161, Work Study [9/10] Chapters 162-167, Remedial License Course [2/10] Chapters 168-183, School Festival [1/10] Chapters 184-192, Endeavor and Hawks [2/10] Chapters 193-217, Joint Battle Training [2/10] Chapters 218-240, League vs. Gigantomachia [5/10] Chapters 241-252, Endeavor Work Study [1/10] Chapters 253-257, About Kurogiri [2/10] Chapters 258-296, Storming Enemy Bases [8/10] Chapters 297-306, The Aftermath [8/10] Chapters 307-present, The Final Arc [9/10] [Reviewed at chapter 316]
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