It was 2014, me a nerd was living through a hey day with super hero movies, Marvel was part way through the second act of its monumentally successful cinematic universe while others were starting their attempts to emulate them with mixed to terrible results. Naruto the long running Manga series starring ninjas had just come to an end, and while browsing through fan art, I found a picture, of a frog like girl in a green suit.
Now I loved the concept of super heroes as a child, but then I grew up in the 90s, born in the 80s. I saw the rise of Power Rangers at a young age and even remember on the radio people talking about the death of a character I knew little of but understood his importance, a man called, Superman.
At a very young age I grew up with Transformers and once you get your head around robots that transform into things fighting you can accept a lot of strange concepts, but as I grew the 90s began to hit, and some shows began to catch my eye, Marvel at this time started to have a string of cartoon series based on its properties, Spiderman and the Xmen were the best, but you also had Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Fantastic 4 etc. I loved these shows, to the point I used to joke about people drowning in the number of super heroes, and why shouldn’t I had no idea these came from comic books at the time the only comics I read had been the Beano and Transformers, I had no idea Marvel and DC were comic companies and the shows always seemed to contain them in a bubble, but as the shows went on they themselves began to hint at a larger world so the notion became less silly to me.
As the years went on a new show also caught my eye Batman the animated series. This show was amazing, the character had no powers and was basically a skilled detective in a fancy outfit facing some of the darkest yet most complex villains I had ever seen, that series then spun off into Superman who by this time I knew who he was and finally Justice League, and while I’m not too fond of the Superman cartoon because I didn’t really watch it, Justice League was amazing, and while Marvel had wound down its super hero cartoons DC’s were setting a new standard.
But sadly this wasn’t the case with the films I had to endure the dark age of 90s super hero films like Batman and Robin. But then something else new happened, something foreign, a little show called Pokémon was being talked about, mainly because it caused a whole lot of kids to have seizures but it got people talking, and when that show hit, it brought more. I had seen the odd studio Ghibli film and noted its unusual animation but now I knew where it came from, Japan. Next came Dragonball Z and I was hooked, amazing colourful characters and fights and one of my all time favourite villains clashing in ways that those super hero cartoons as a child couldn’t even comprehend.
Thanks to a momentary surge in super hero films like Spiderman and Xmen the concept got off the ground, but it felt, very grounded, I had by this time seen the cartoons and seen a few of the comics, these looked like they tried to compromise, and these were the good ones, this for me ultimately hit with turning Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds, commonly seen as a giant in armour, into a cloud.
I had gained access to the internet by this point and was keeping up with nerd news, had my hopes raised by Transformers film adaptions and then caused my first ever nerd rage with Dark of the Moon. Thanks to my brother I had found a few new anime such as Naruto, and even started reading it online, but my attention drifted over the years, keeping up with it more out of obligation and interest only peaking when it was nearing its end but that’s for later.
Thanks to the internet I found more anime and manga, shows like Soul Eater and Fairy Tale, I purchased DVDs and the manga and enjoyed them, yet my interest in more western shows was diminishing, I saw them as just dull, compromising rather than expanding and exploring, often refusing to have fun and those that supposedly were – just came off as lazy and insulting.
One day I was talking to some friends online or in real life it was a while ago, and we were talking about the new Iron Man film, and they said something that would change modern films. This was part of a shared universe which would lead up to an Avenger’s film! Please note I also watch omnibuses of Dr Who and the new series had started by now but that didn’t fit into these events well – so just saying. These films were different, these weren’t people brooding or being unnecessarily dark, plus it was embracing the madness, though they grounded it slightly when it came to the mystical to say it was aliens, IT HAD ALIENS!
It was at this time I had been keeping up with many of the big manga or anime series, and finally Naruto was approaching its ending. I kept intrigued wanting to know if the right people ended up together by the end. I just didn’t care as much about the western media now as it felt bland to me, I was spoiled by all the inventiveness and shows, even like Dr Who, were beginning to grate on me as Moffat’s seasons all felt, overly samey and being unnecessarily dark continually. I saw this was also hitting films, though the Dark Knight had been good thanks to the Joker, its sequel felt a massive let down, Sony’s attempt at copying Marvel with Amazing Spiderman had enraged me as it was looking like a crappy cash grab to keep Spiderman with them rather than meet the Avengers. And it wasn’t that dark couldn’t do well, I had just seen Winter Soldier which still remembered heroes were meant to be cheered for, I sniggered as the symbol of America was basically saying what America had been doing post WW2 was wrong.
Finally Naruto ended, it had been something I had known about for a decade by now and I even made a funny comic about someone happy with the ending 5 minutes later desperately trying to find a replacement and I went about my life as normal, I had a job now, life had its ups and downs so I was loving this new age of heroes yet knowing well people could do it so wrong and with the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy I noted even Marvel tended to compromise. But I also saw DC step into the ring and make Man of Steel, I thought it was ok but flawed, they clearly could only try and do the dark and brooding Batman style stories yet I had seen Justice League, I knew that wasn’t Superman, where were all the colours? It even looked bad for Xmen, no colours there too. Then something happened.
I was browsing fan art online when I saw a number of pictures, now last time I noted something like this I found the series Horizon in the middle of nowhere, but these were new, very new, brand new. It was a girl, with features that gave her a frog feel, and she wore a green bodysuit, I was curious, who was this girl?
I looked at the name of the series, Boku No Hero Academia. Odd there was very little about this show, I looked at some of the fan translation sites, only around 5 chapters so far and the dates were right up to now, this had just come out. And so I started reading, The blurb had said the lead had no super powers but could dream, so I knew this was about super heroes, but what appeared before me, blew me away, A vibrant world, full of colour and amazement, super heroes were normal in this world, they didn’t brood they were up there with all the craziness.
I saw a young boy who loved heroes like I once did but more, and yet given the worst handicap this world could throw at him, yet still push on. I saw him succeeded even at the cost of great pain by showing what a hero should be, not a brooding man speaking of vengeance but of helping people, no great personal tragedy to show this is what he should do, but just know this is what he should do.
But that wasn’t all, this wasn’t just an insane look at all the crazy stuff ride, we saw that right away that this looked at super heroes more indepth than even the best of Marvel and DC. It was a world where powers were normal yet seeing Midoriya absolutely crushed, learning he would never have powers of his own, yet still watching All Might saving people, it breaks your heart. All Might even talked about his own responsibilities, saying how he had to help people even though his time was running out. It showed both the wonder I had seen growing up with the cartoons, but also delved deeper into the reality of the situation more than the movies that had worked so hard to ground it in reality, and yet here was a manga, from across the world telling it better than the country that invented it.
When Midoriya went to his first day of class I got a full look at the characters, I could see that the frog girl Tsuyu was there but she wasn’t a focus, she wasn’t the main girl, and yet there she was, the character that brought me to this show, I quickly ran out of chapters to read and hadn’t seen the green suit she wore so I knew there was more, they just hadn’t gotten round to translating them yet, I knew I would get the manga, whenever I found a show or manga I liked I always supported it, but I also knew I had to tell people about this!
I’m sure you all have tales on how you first found something you now love, like seeing a repeat of classic Dr Who as a child and not knowing what it was, or being told by a friend that this was the big thing now, well I had just found a brand new series and I had to tell people this was the start! I was telling them this was great and they just ignored me and they continued to do so until shortly after a year an anime adaption was announced. When it hit everyone suddenly realized why I had been going on about this show for over a year, why I said to check it out, sure they made excuses why they didn’t do so, but deep down you know they should have listened.
When the anime hit, it hit big, sure maybe not as insane as the hype over Sword Art online or Attack on Titan but it proved its worth and a dub was soon broadcast on legal streaming. It was only 13 episodes, but during that you saw Midoriya receive his powers, his enrolment into UA, a small bit about the others, the moments that really made me fall for Tsuyu the frog girl’s personality and abilities as well as our first real scene of villainy in the universe. Finally the announcement more was to come.
I began to wonder, why did I love this series so much, and once again Tsuyu gave me the answer, here was a character that had the abilities of a frog, yet X-Men had Toad, exact same idea yet he was considered weak. But with Tsuyu they showed more than that. They explored what she could do. The more I looked in the more it delved. Ideas that would be considered weak were analyzed and did far more with them, Not only was it doing the analysis of the darker elements of this world better, but it was doing the bright better. It knew better the concept of that which inspired it and not once did it fall on the now sad state where heroes are fighting heroes, (well outside of the sports fest tournament, but that was a exhibition and not people suddenly fighting to the death for poorly thought out reasons while a villain stands around ignored). The show really delved not only into what makes a hero a hero, but also what powers can do, we saw some people not wished to be defined by their power and resenting that people thought it was the kind of thing a villain would have.
I have seen many of my beloved shows have their highs and crushing lows. I saw my love for Transformers given to a man who made repeated awful movies that for some reason are making a profit. I saw Dr Who return from the dead, then after David Tennant left it’s given to a man who before Beloved, could only do the same story and soon I saw through the cracks in his style destroying the magic, and with Pokémon I realized that anime failed to grasp what I loved about the games and saw a repeated cycle of failure. Even in the comics that originated the heroes I saw misteps, the New 52 from DC and Civil War from Marvel.
I know My Hero Academia won’t last forever, the Author has mentioned how far the show is, but I don’t want it to last forever. Those cartoons of heroes I saw, they all ended, some just fizzled out due to lack of interest and some came to natural ends Justice League had not only an end to itself but to the animated DCuniverse that is still to this day praised. Spiderman ended with the character crossing dimensions to meet Stan Lee, it wasn’t as rounded an end as Justice league had been, but it was satisfying.
This anime reminded me of why I loved super hero shows, but also expanded on that, I now see snobbery of people talking about the Marvel films wanting the super hero genera to die so whatever artsy fartsy crap that they can gush over for a week before it’s forgotten to time. So I ask any nerd, anyone who has seen a super hero, to watch this show, maybe you too have started to forget what makes a hero a hero, been disenfranchised by Batman v Superman or the blatant attempts to stop Marvel from getting their heroes back. Watch this show, feel Midoryia’s love for heroes like maybe you too once felt. Feel why they lift you up, not beat you down for being normal and maybe you too may one day find a little picture online that leads you to discovering something great like Tsuyu helped me.
What a great insight into the world of nerds, I struggled over whether to use the word nerds, but as you call yourself it frequently I did not think you’d be offended.I thoroughly enjoyed learning what these characters mean and in turn what they they should mean to people being absorbed in their world. Thank you.