Hero. The word conjures up images of cleft-chinned muscle bound men in capes, leaping tall buildings in a single jump and flying faster than a speeding bullet. Heroes are powerful. Heroes can do what no one else can which is why they rise above the ordinary joe and save the day. That’s the way it works, right? They are made of different stuff than the rest of us. They have extraordinary gifts. That’s why they are “chosen”. If you look at the heroes of the early epics like Odessy, Prose Edda, and most early mythology, heroes leap from the throngs of the normal man, loins girded, and fashioned for immediate greatness. A baby Hercules strangled the serpents Hera had sent to kill him in his little baby fists, immediately telling us that this child is above the rest. It seemed the consensus among our literary ancestors that heroes were intrinsically gifted and that was what made them heroic, even if they did rather un-heroic things (I’m looking at you Odysseus with your lotus eating and your frolicking with every nymph/witch/amazonian that gave you the wink). It was the extraordinary physical and mental traits that set them apart, rather than their morality. Their feats of strength, and guile often superseded their questionable methods of obtaining their goals. We cheer them on because we are told to, because they are the hero, they were chosen.
But what if everyone was intrinsically gifted? What would define a hero then? If everyone is set apart by some gift that makes them extraordinary feats of strength and guile become a bit lackluster. The question then becomes who is the hero when everyone is?
My Hero Academia seeks to answer this question.
I can’t begin to describe how important and necessary this show is. It is masterfully done, and an exceptional story. Those alone would be reasons enough to watch and enjoy it fully. But it is the underlying message that I believe is what sets My Hero Academia apart from many other anime, and I dare say most other super hero shows out there.
The world Midoriya Izuku lives in is exceptional. Set in a future that’s waiting just beyond the horizon of our own, the human population has been gradually developing Quirks. These are superhuman abilities that manifest in childhood and develop into a variety of amazing abilities from healing abilities, super strength, and other incredible mutations that transform an ordinary society into an extraordinary one. For the first time in human history, the idea of super heroes becomes fact not fiction, and it becomes a real profession, with real training, and real-world application as an extraordinary society can breed some extraordinarily bad villains.
But Midoriya Izuku is “quirkless”. Meaning he never developed extraordinary abilities as a young child. You’d think in a society that was extraordinary that the protection of the helpless, or the powerless would be more central, but Midoriya is teased every day and told he is useless because he is ordinary in a world that is extraordinary. Even as his classmates berate him for his uselessness we can see that within Midoriya a spark of greatness. Something that far surpasses the super abilities of his compatriots.
Because within Midoriya beats the heart of a true hero.
Fortitude runs through Midoriya with fervor. A quality that is reiterated again and again as Midoriya’s journey to become the hero his world desperately needs unfolds. Each step he takes underscores not his innate super human abilities, but the hard work, sacrifice and most importantly dedication required to transform oneself from an ordinary person to someone extraordinary. My Hero Academia posits the idea that true heroes are not made from test tubes, lab malfunctions, genetic mutations, chemical accidents, or by the size of their intellect or wallet. Rather, they are formed by an unwavering devotion to an objective and universal standard of good, and an untiring dedication to bettering oneself in order to better serve (and save) those who are defenseless.
It smacks of the nature of sainthood, something that we as Catholics value in those of our spiritual brothers and sisters we consider the superheroes of our faith.
In short, watch My Hero Academia. You will not be disappointed.