My Hero Academia is not your typical shounen. Some would disagree with me but there is several things that makes My Hero Academia special.
For starters, a lot of shounen and I mean A LOT of shounen typically hammer out the idea that friendship is their source of power like Tea Gardner somehow came in and shot everyone with bullets of friendship.
But the characters in this anime don’t rely on something so abstract. They’re warriors that all have dreams they want to achieve off their own power! That isn’t to say they don’t care about their friends. They interact like any other friends but what makes that endearing is how different they are as people and how they learn from each other like Bakugo has been learning from Midoriya and Uraraka recently. By the way, Bakugo is smartening up and that’s super dangerous! Contain this man!
My Hero Academia is also very character driven. It’s one of those shows that doesn’t need a fast- paced narrative simply due to the fact that almost all the characters are so nuanced and heart- warming that it’s exciting just to get to know them. Other shounens do have many good characters but typically their character grows along with the narrative that is presented to us. Like, Nami in the Arlong Park arc which, to be fair, is one of my favorites but the arc just happened to be tailored to develop Nami and her relationship with the other pirates. It was a major sub- plot but a sub- plot nonetheless. The core point was always to continue the journey and to One Piece’s praise, it just so happens to be really good at tailoring arcs for characters to develop along the journey.
My Hero Academia also isn’t as predictable as you might think. And this is probably because of the focus on the many different characters, it feels like you can follow any one of them and get a good view as to where this story is progressing. But you don’t automatically think that any one person is gonna win a fight because everyone almost feels very equal and if it is even remotely predictable then it’s probably for good reason.
My favorite fight in the series so far, Uraraka vs Bakugo, is a good example: Because Uraraka has hardly been built up as a fighter, a lot might’ve assumed Bakugo was going to win. And they weren’t wrong. But the show capitalizes on that direction and builds on Uraraka’s character. Detailing how she’s learned from Midoriya and shows us how much she really wants to win and, dare I say, she almost did! But by this point, Bakugo was starting to understand this thing called “strategy” which was so foreign to him before fighting Midoriya and in a manner of speaking, Bakugo won because of Midoriya and Bakugo recognized Uraraka as an equal. And I couldn’t have been happier with the result of that fight given how atypical it was.
My Hero Academia also doesn’t feel like it’s going down a single road. I think my main issue with most shounen is how linear their stories felt a lot of the time. Most notably, Bleach felt like it was the same thing every arc: villain shows up with a bunch of henchmen, slams Ichigo or steals potential love interest to hold them hostage and then Ichigo and crew would have to chase after them and beat their ass, generally with some crazy power- up each arc and that’d be the end of that. There’s hardly any nuance to the show because nothing really happens in- between encounters. They just talk about how they have to fight the bad guys and discuss how they’ll get to their desired destination. My Hero Academia can seemingly do anything with where they’re at and it shows that it has so much potential to do so many different things. And ‘potential’ is always awesome.
It’s also worth noting that, visually, the anime feels so “different”. The visuals doesn’t feel like it has any 1 tone, rather, a constant changing of tones that perfectly escalate to one another while still maintaining that vibrant coloring that makes My Hero Academia so iconic. This is something a lot of other shounens struggle with because it’s really difficult to get such dynamically changing tones. I think the only other shows that managed to do this well was One Piece and Naruto when it felt appropriate (i.e. certain character deaths and major fights).
I think I’ve already hammered the point that the characters are great, but let me give you another reason: the characters are animated in a way that just feels special to them. Many examples of this like Lida constantly moving his hands while he’s talking, Bakugo hiding his hands in his pocket to accentuate that he’s a bad motherfucker, Jiro playing with her earjacks, Tsuyu just in how she stands and Tokoyami always having his arms crossed which tells me he moves his arms a lot when his shadow is out, so, he likes to rest his arms outside of combat. I can keep going but the animation given to these characters really feels special and makes every new scene with them interesting, I look forward just to seeing each character move! That’s when you know that’s great animation right there.
My Hero Academia doesn’t have any tropes, really. A lot of shounen have common tropes but this show doesn’t have any that’s super stereotypical. The anime feels like it treats it’s characters like genuine human beings and doesn’t fall into any specific category, rather, they are constantly evolving into better and stronger characters who have their own goals. In other words, you won’t see Uraraka running late to school with bread in her mouth like every slice of life anime in existence.
These may be a handful of ‘small things’ that My Hero Academia does well but, a lot of times, ‘small things’ can make a series special in a way that’s unique only to itself and I wholeheartedly say that My Hero Academia has achieved that and ultimately that’s what makes My Hero Academia so special.