It's not everyday you make an account on a site you lurk just to post a review, but here I am.
Over-the-top entertainment, really easy to get into, great artwork, fun and likable characters. It’s no surprise this manga series is as popular as it is. Reading the author’s note on the first volume, it’s clear the author, Kohei Horikoshi, just wanted to create something fun and enjoyable, and he succeeded in doing so, at least in my opinion.
So why the 4? Well, you see, this review focuses on the writing in this manga series, and I'm going to be as brutally honest as
I can be about it. It seems weird to do so, since this manga isn’t trying to be anything more than it is. But you often hear so much about how great the writing in this manga is compared to other shounen manga series. God knows how many times I was told this before I decided to give it a read. But the reality is quite different.
If I could compare the story to in this manga to something similar, it would be the Pokemon series. In every Pokemon saga prior to Sun & Moon, Ash will travel to a new region, run into some girl that decides to travel with him, meet a new rival that kicks his ass in almost if not all their encounters, gather all the badges in the region and assemble a Pokemon team, enter the Pokemon League where he finally bests his rival once and for all, ultimately lose the Pokemon League, and then it's back to square one with him traveling to another new region, where he runs into some girl, and you know the rest...
In My Hero Academia's case, once Deku is accepted into U.A. High School, in order to become the greatest superhero, each arc starts to follow a pattern of Deku going to school, learning a new technique or gaining a new equipment, taking part in a test/exam with little to no consequences, a villain appears, a villain’s arrested, Deku goes back to school, learns a new technique, and well, you know the rest...
The reason why I specifically chose the Pokemon series even though a lot of stories tend to have a set structure, is because no matter what events occurs, things always returns to the “status quo” with little to no impact on the world or the characters.
Speaking on the world first, 80% of the population has superpowers (They call them 'quirks') and yet, such a phenomenon doesn't seem to have effected the world of MHA much. Only significant change is that being a superhero is now an occupation, other than that, the world is still so “normal”. Even then, we simply just don't know much about its world as a whole at all, and as such, this manga has one of the most vapid and shallow settings I have ever come across within the medium.
I can only think of two locals, that being U.A. High School and Shiketsu High, the latter is by name only as it hasn't been touched on at all. I can't even be optimistic about it ever being explored in the future because U.A., which has been the only setting of importance in this manga so far, is barely expanded on as well.
The author doesn't need to dive deep on every region in Japan or every country in the world but he can't even expand on the school that's the story's main environment and is also apparently a big deal within it's world?
And because not much is known or seen about the world, it doesn't seem like anything that happens actually matters. Spoilers: later in the story, Japan's greatest hero loses his powers. They make a huge deal about it, saying there's panic among civilians, villains have started to emerge from the underground, and that other countries are in shock about the situation. But none of that is every felt. There's panic among civilians? Then why is every panel filled people just going on about their lives like nothing happened? Villains are coming back to the scene? Well, where are they? There’s only been one, and he got dealt with the same arc he’s introduced. "America’s in uproar"? Why would anyone reading this care when we don’t know the relationship between the US and Japan? The only place we ever see this news have any effect is U.A. High School, with the students having to move to the dorms, but this doesn't shake the "status quo" as the students are still just going about their days as if nothing happened.
Also, at times, some of these effects and rules within its society don’t make any sense. There's a character known as the Hero Killer who is attacking and killing heroes, and due to this, the cities he has visited in Japan have experienced a drop in the crime rate....I'm sorry but, what? He is actively preventing people from stopping crime and that somehow leads to a decrease in crime? But at the same time, his actions also lead to an uprising of villains? It's contradictory and doesn't make a lick of sense. And then when the students put him down, they are scolded for using their powers to defend themselves and to save a life, all because they don’t have a license? ....Again, what? Another issue with this is, where was this rule when the students were freely using their powers to defend themselves against a horde of goons earlier in the story?
World building seems like a lost cause in this manga. There’s barely any, and when it does try, it ends up being nonsensical or contradicted later on within the story.
Regarding the characters, a lot of them have two things going for them, that being their characters designs and their likable personalities. Outside of that, we still don't know much about most of them. Not only that but majority of them don't seem to serve any purpose to the story.
There are a lot of characters in this manga but the story seems to mainly revolve around Deku, Bakugo and Todoroki. And out of those three, I only find Bakugo interesting. Deku is already a model hero, in fact, I would argue he was already one from the beginning, only lacking confidence, which he's gained now. All he has to do now is gain full control of his god tier quirk, "One for All", and he'd be unstoppable, literally. Todoroki's whole character is about his daddy issues, which I've simply grown tired off because each time he's the main focus, it's the same story being retold each time about him having problems with his father and accepting his fire ability.
There are a few side characters that are really fleshed out like Endeavor & Mirio, for example. But looking at majority of the characters there’s not much that can be said about them. I'll be focusing mainly on the students in Class 1-A. Many people will tell you that, in this class of 20, majority if not all of them are well fleshed out. If I asked someone to list just 5 things about Tokoyami, Jiro, Mineta, Kaminari, Ashido, Ojiro, Sato, Koda, Shoji, Sero, or Hagakure's character? Could they actually? Because I really doubt they could. Even then, for the characters that do get anything, those moments are very few. Momo's only had one, that being the time where she lost her confidence. Same with Iida's during the Hero Killer incident, and Ochako's during the Sports Festival.
The argument to this is "we'll learn more about them in the future". And I mean, yeah, we might very well learn more about them later on, but I'm writing this in the present, based on what I've been told about them in the present. I'm not saying every character needs to have equal development and characterization, that’s impossible. But we just don't know much about majority of the characters in this manga, and the author keeps adding more and more characters each arc, who we learn little to nothing about, and ultimately don't do anything.
Regarding the villains, the main ones are known as the "League of Villains". It's a similar case with Class 1-A where I doubt anyone can list 5 things about each of their characters. Add that in with how incompetent and weak they are and I feel like I'm just reading about an edgier Team Rocket.
Two other villains I want to write on are the Hero Killer and Overhaul. The Hero Killer, called Stain, believes that heroes nowadays have a corrupt view and wants to change that, how? By going out and killing heroes. First of all, where are these corrupt heroes? They flat out don’t exist within the setting. Oh but well, Stain's definition of a corrupt hero includes people who get paid for it. Going by his logic, military soldiers, who risk their lives to protect their country, are corrupt because they get paid. How one could form such a ridiculous ideology, I don't know.
Also, he has such an "awe-inspiring" ideology but doesn't bother voicing it to the public and instead believes serial killing is the best way to get across his message, as if anyone would ever see the difference between him and a normal serial killer. Another issue with this is, how was this ever going to change his society? What results did he expect to get from just going around and murdering heroes? I mean, the heroes aren’t just going to stop being heroes because of one guy. Soon or later, he was going to be put down, and he was, by students in training even.
And on Overhaul, the easier way to describe him would be to call him a combination of the League of Villains and the Hero Killer. By that I mean, he's incompetent, stupidly putting so much trust in a group that he not only just met but also killed one of their members a few moments ago, and he also has a contradictory and nonsensical motivation where he creates quirk erasing bullets because he see them as a disease that must be cured, but also makes a serum that restores quirks, going against his ideology.
Not to mention that unlike the Hero Killer, Overhaul is treated like a punching bag at almost every point, and after the manga just went on about how strong he was 4 chapters prior. Imagine if after all that hype, the Z-Fighters dealt with Vegeta and Nappa long before Goku arrived at the scene, or if Orochimaru was defeated by Team 7 when they first meet in the Forest of Death, or if Luffy beat Crocodile on his first try. That’s Overhaul.
When it comes to the fights in this manga, they tell you more about the characters, it’s a way to learn more about them and also where their development takes place. That’s about the only positive thing I can say about them. Other than that, the fights are underwhelming for two of reasons: One, they don’t follow any logic and just have the characters constantly breaking rules previous set by the story itself or receiving a deus ex machina to resolve the battle. And two, the superpowers suck.
A lot of the superpowers in this manga are bizarre which is actually a plus in my book. I mean, Sero is able to shoot tapes from his body, that's wacky and is something that I haven't seen elsewhere. But a lot of quirks are way too restricted rendered them useless. As I said, Sero can shoot tapes from his body, but actually he can only shoot tapes from his elbows, and as such, there's not much he can do with it. His quirk isn’t practical for battle and as such, he was one shotted so casually by Todoroki who just used him as a means to vent his frustration. And now that I think about it, why would anyone choose to have someone who shoots tape from his elbows protect them, when a pistol would easily outdo him?
Another thing about the powers is that while they’re bizarre, it doesn’t mean anything if they aren’t or can't be used in a creative or bizarre way, which is the case with nearly every ability in this manga. Sero is one example of a character who's very limited in what he can do. Aoyama’s quirk is that he can shoot a laser from his stomach, it’s no surprise that he doesn’t get much action, and that the one fight he was in, he lost. Koda’s quirk is too situational, unless there just happens to be a lion running around the city nearby, he’s not going to be of any use at all. On the other hand, Todoroki’s quirk allows him to create ice from half his body, and fire from the other half, but watching him fight is always mundane because his moveset consists of just blasting ice from one side and/or fire from the other side. Iida has like two kicking techniques, the other just a faster version than the first. Kirishima can harden his body, and can, well, harden himself even more. Almost everyone uses their powers so one dimensionally because majority of the superpowers are heavily restricted despite being super basic, and thus fights are generally dull to read.
In conclusion, while this manga is fun to read, I would be lying if I told you the writing is anything more than just barely competent, I mean it was already contradicting itself as early as the second chapter and that's a sign for what to expect from the writing in this manga. You could call it an average shounen but I've read Bleach and that one bothered to flesh out its setting and characters a little. Almost nothing in this manga is fleshed out, it’s all surface level and incredibly bland, so contrary to what people tell you, if you’re looking for a well fleshed out story, this isn't it.