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MY HERO ACADEMIA is the Perfect Anime for American Comic Book Fans

Though many anime stories revolve around specifics in Japanese culture that may not translate seamlessly to audiences outside the country, one new series has managed to marry elements from the East and West to appeal to readers all over the world. At the forefront, My Hero Academia is a traditional shonen action manga, but it’s also a traditional Western superhero comic with tributes to the heroes that American fans will surely know and love.

My Hero Academia centers on a boy named Izuku who lives the life of the nerd and gets bullied for his weakness. In a world where 80% of the population has a superpower, he is constantly ridiculed for having none. Izuku’s only dream is to become a great hero like his favorite, All Might. Through twisted circumstances and a turn of fate, Izuku gains a power of his own and is set off on a journey to become the greatest hero there ever was. Together with his friends and teachers, he will stop at nothing to rescue those in need—even if it costs him his life.

midorya look up

Sound familiar? It should, since all of the ingredients to your favorite superheroes in the west are there. Nerdy kid? Check. Bullied for being different? Check. Gains power and becomes a hero? Check. Honestly, we could just as easily be talking about Peter Parker instead of Izuku. And this is no accident, since Kōhei Horikoshi, the creator of My Hero Academia, is a well-known Spider-Man fan.

Though American comic books are not as popular in the East due to the lack of translated material, Horikoshi became a comic book reader and merged his love of Western comics into his love of manga. He became acquainted with Spider-Man and fell in love with the portrayal of Western heroics after seeing Sam Raimi’s first movie in 2002.

In an interview with Shonen Jump, Horikoshi explained his affection for the web-slinger: “To me … he is the only hero that I think of, that defines the title. The concept of [My Hero Academia] is built around that hero in mind, a hero to me is somebody that helps and brings reassurance to others. In Spider-Man’s case the first experience I had with this character was the movie, in which there were a lot of scenes with him rescuing people, which I felt that was really cool.”

detroit smash

That said, My Hero Academia embraces analogs of other famous American comic book characters. Horikoshi’s creation All Might represents every aspect of the pure heroic ideal in the same way that the Silver Age Superman did. In fact, most of Horikoshi’s characters adhere to the same black-and-white morality that the Silver Age of comics embodied. All Might always fights to the bitter end while never giving up, and he’s willing to throw his life on the line for innocents with a smile on his face. As an extra nod to American heroes, each of All Might’s attacks are named after major American cities and states, like his “Detroit Smash” and “Carolina Smash.”

On the other side of the same coin, My Hero Academia‘s villain Stain is a direct nod to every ’90s villain/anti-hero that Todd McFarlane ever drew. He’s got the crazy hair, the wild posture, tattered rags that are almost alive, and thousands of pouches for blades all over. Other characters have similar powers to American heroes or similar designs, and all of these little details help bring a sense of cultural familiarity for western audiences.

My Hero Academia does a lot to lure American readers in, but what makes it astounding is how much it remains true to its Eastern influences as well. The story takes place in Japan and the shonen ideas of perseverance, a strong will, a sense of justice, and a pure heart are ever present in each chapter. Every page is full of dynamic expressions and epic effects that are the backbone of the Japanese illustration style.

Throughout the story, obstacles are overcome with deep feelings and epic battles, and that’s where the true beauty lies. Both American superhero and Japanese Shonen comics are the same types of stories where individuals overcome unstoppable odds with the help of their allies in order to save the general public and the people they love. They are stories that inspire us to feel more and push harder than we ever knew we could. And whether it’s in a traditional inked piece full of speed lines or one of Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia covers where he blends that style with Western digital coloring, the story still touches the hearts of those who know what it’s like to be marginalized, but still persevere for the sake of others.


My Hero Academia is the best blend of everything great in both mediums. If you’ve ever liked American comics, then this is your best gateway into the manga scene. My Hero Academia is currently published in Weekly Shonen Jump and you can find English volumes in your local bookstores today. The anime is currently airing its second season on CrunchyRoll and Hulu. You can find the first season in English on Hulu.

Images: Studio Bones and Weekly Shonen Jump

Alex Tisdale is a writer and illustrator who runs on coffee and pop culture. You can find him covered in ink and rambling on his website or on Twitter.

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