Ever since the manga for Naruto ended in November 2014, fans have been anticipating the eventual end of the anime. Therefore, when the manga ended, the search for the next great anime series began. Naruto provided us with a character that we could believe in, no pun intended. We rooted for Naruto, laughed at each corny joke, took pleasure in each fight sequence, and cried when characters died. It is safe to say that Naruto joined the likes of DragonBall Z and Pokemon as great anime that permeated into other cultures and became television staples around the world.
So what was next? Devoted followers spent the past year supplementing their time with other anime, but none of those alternatives had the draw of series like Naruto. Attack on Titan looked like it was going to be a strong replacement, but the producers have yet to release the second season. Anime fans were lost and in stasis, all in anticipation of the next, great anime.
Then, all of a sudden, a new anime series called Boku no Hero Academia (My Hero Academia) emerged, creating buzz among fans and critics. Created by Kohei Horikoshi, the manga is ranked in the top 30 best-selling manga of 2015. The anime was scheduled for release in April 2016. Before it came out, a picture was being passed around the internet comparing it to Naruto and One Piece.
From episode one, the show’s audience felt an instant connection with the protagonist, Izuku Midoriya. Midoriya is a young boy who is born without superpowers in a society where powers are the norm. These powers are called “quirks” and some people use these quirks to become superheroes. Midoriya is infatuated with superheroes and it becomes his life goal to become one, regardless of his not having a quirk.
Midoriya’s kind-hearted nature and determination reminded me of the feelings I first felt while watching anime like Naruto and One Piece. These anime are mainly coming of age stories which involve the main character attempting to achieve their often extravagant dream. It’s a common anime trope, but it works. This theme is most effective in breaking across cultural barriers because most people understand what it is like to chase after some childhood goal. Because these characters start off as children, we are able to grow with them and see their development. We empathize with their struggle and the dynamic creates a powerful story that audiences will tune in weekly to watch.
At the same time, Boku no Hero Academia sets itself apart from other anime because unlike Naruto or Luffy from One Piece, Midoriya is not a confident main character. He is reserved because he understands that he is not inherently strong like many of the other characters on the show. His shyness becomes his most powerful characteristic because, when he does something amazing, both the characters on the show and the audience are equally stunned.
It makes us giddy to see him perform amazing feats and although we know that he is destined for greatness, he does not see greatness in himself. It humanizes Midoriya in a way that other stories do not. Because we can sometimes sell ourselves short in the same way, we see ourselves in Midoriya and are able to connect to him in a way that other anime fail to accomplish.
Boku no Hero Academia has since received stellar ratings on IGN Entertainment. The story is compelling, beautiful, and reminds the audience of the feelings we may have had watching cartoons on a Saturday morning. Sadly, the first season will soon come to an end. Hopefully, the producers will not take two years to come out with the second season, and yes, that was a shot at Attack on Titan.