Friday’s Feature: Appreciating the Transformative Journey of All Might’s Character

I’ve been wanting to write a bit more about My Hero Academia for awhile now but have been tossing up how to approach it. The last time I explored this issue I looked at the idea’s characters such as All Might and Stain represented within the context of My Hero Academia in Friday’s Feature: Not a Character, an Idea.

And after much contemplation I’ve returned to All Might, because as of episode 15 in season 3, the main theme that continues to capture my attention in My Hero Academia is this idea of what happens when a society is built around a single pillar and that pillar cracks or falls.

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In my previous post I looked at the fact that All Might’s deteriorating condition was ultimately worse than if he took a fatal hit. While dying in the line of duty would be tragic for All Might and those close to him, for the world it would leave a lasting symbol that could not be tarnished by reality. However, season three chooses to push further with the idea of revealing to the world the very human weakness of All Might and his final moments as a hero are put on display in the most public of ways.

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This serves multiple purposes outside of just being another plot point on the road to Midoriya rising as a hero.

Firstly, the audience is already aware of All Might’s condition the consequences of him using his power the way he does in the fight with All For one. The audience, and Midoriya, have been in on this secret for two and half seasons and finally all of the characters inside the My Hero Academia world are in on it too. And their reactions are interesting.

For the police and law enforcement it immediately becomes a crisis of how to keep things standing when the central pillar has been removed. We see the awareness that they now have that the way their society was structured, around a single individual held up as a larger than life symbol, was inherently flawed. Something that should have been obvious from the beginning given even All Might had admitted he couldn’t save everyone because he couldn’t get to everyone, and yet the basic premise of this society is that All Might’s mere existence kept villains in check.

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The reaction of the public initially was more positive than anticipated, mostly because of the feat All Might had just pulled off and the fact that the public weren’t yet aware that All Might wouldn’t be fighting again. However, the ongoing reaction to this change in the world has yet to be seen, though if My Hero Academia’s history can be counted on, I’m certain that we’ll eventually see this idea explored further.

For the students with their ambitions to be heroes it brought home the reality they were entering into. While Midoriya was already aware of All Might’s secret, the sheer weight that fell on his shoulders in All Might’s final moments was phenomenal and while the other characters in the series may not be fully aware of the implications of All Might’s ambiguous message, Midoriya certainly was.

My Hero Academia - Your Turn 2

My Hero Academia - Your Turn

And let’s consider that message. All Might wasn’t just talking to Midoriya, even though his message to Midoriya was clear. For his whole life, All Might has lived as a symbol, and even at the end he passed the torch of preserving the peace not just to Midoriya, but to everyone who was watching and everyone who had ever been inspired by him. He made a call to action to uphold the justice he had protected for so long and he made it in one of the most dramatic ways possible on the battlefield with the dust barely settled.

Now, All Might’s survival at this point contradicts the basic idea of passing the torch and the like in that as a mentor you would think his role was pretty much done and in most shonen or fantasy stories it would be. He had found his successor who had that one quality he was seeking. He had set that student on their path. While the student wasn’t yet ready, All Might’s death would definitely have stirred Midoriya to greater heights and levels of determination and it would have been a nice clean break.

We should have known My Hero Academia would take the general mentor archetype and push it that little bit further. Because what do you do with a living legend who has outlived their use as a symbol? What do you do with someone who was once the greatest who is now essentially without a quirk and weak?

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In the follow up episodes to All Might’s chilling victory, we see that he himself is working to find a new place in the world for himself. He isn’t just passing a torch to Midoriya and checking out. He is aware of how far the road still is for the young student and he is determined to help him all the way. And it isn’t just Midoriya. Again we see that All Might really does have a wide view of people and it is all of the students that All Might has turned his attention to, even while he does still work to see Midoriya master his quirk.

One of the very nice touches amidst training episodes was when All Might visited the training centre and spoke with each student. He didn’t give direct answers but used his vast experience as a hero to guide each student in small ways to an answer. This by itself was a great moment as it showed us exactly what All Might does have still to offer in this world: knowledge of what it is like to be a hero. However, once again My Hero Academia didn’t leave this moment at just this, it then showed us through Aizawa that All Might had a book in his back pocket about teaching.

It is a small detail and a very small scene in a much larger narrative and yet it speaks volumes. All Might himself is at a loss after a lifetime of being a hero. He knows what he wants to do now and that is to prepare these kids for a future that is looking bleaker by the minute, but it is a different skill set to the one he is used to using. But All Might isn’t afraid to look at his own weaknesses and work to overcome them. While he may now be physically weak (and I’m still guessing that at some point he is going to pass on) his mental fortitude and resilience are top notch. He’s finding other ways to contribute and to meet his goals.

Despite that, very soon after Bakugo unleashes an attack that sends a rock hurtling toward All Might. While he is defended by Midoriya, the reality that he is now someone who people feel the need to protect hits home. We see a very small All Might standing alone as this realisation really sinks in. While he doesn’t see himself as weak, he realises that this is how he is now viewed and while he doesn’t resent being rescued, it is a hard mental shift to make.

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All Might’s fate is something that I’m watching very closely because I really am curious to see how this world will react to their fallen symbol in the long-term. I’m curious as to whether All Might can maintain his optimism and continue to focus on the future without succumbing to bitterness at what he has lost. I’m curious as to how his colleagues will react to him as he is a living reminder of their own human frailty.

All Might’s character journey has so far been one of the truly stand out things about My Hero Academia. While a shallow glance at this character might make him seem like a Superman rip-off there’s some complexities to his character that make him truly interesting. However the best thing about All Might is that even when he was the symbol of peace, the audience was always in on his hidden secret and that made him always seem very human. And it is the human aspect of his character, rather than the heroic ones, that make him memorable as he continues on his journey however long or brief that journey may be (no spoilers if you’ve read the source).

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What do you think of All Might’s journey as a character over the two and a half seasons of My Hero Academia?


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Karandi James

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My Hero Academia Series Review

This is a re-post. All reviews from the 2nd of July until the 7th of July will be reruns. New episode and series reviews will resume on the 8th of July.

Overview:

In a world where almost everyone has a quirk (superpower), Midoriya finds he is the exception. That doesn’t stop him from dreaming big and working toward his goal of being a hero. Along the way, he meets his idol (All Might) and through demonstrating heroic spirit convinces All Might to assist him in achieving his goal and is ‘given’ a quirk. From there we transfer to a school for heroes and meet a cast of interesting characters with interesting quirks and begin the journey forward.


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Review:

My Hero Academia is as cliché as they come and yet proves, once again, you don’t need to be original to be interesting. Rather than worrying about amazing plot twists or unconventional story-telling, My Hero Academia works to its strengths. The first few episodes deal with Midoriya working toward his goals and how he gains a quirk (as well as his relationship with Bakugou which is clearly going to be an ongoing thing) and then we shift to the school.

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The thing about moving into a high school setting is that the story for a while feels even more contained than it was. We meet the strict teacher and get the threat of expulsion if you don’t score well, and the usual rivalries between students, and it all seems pretty safe because as if the teachers are going to let it go too far. The third act however, brings in an outside threat and really ramps up the action for the series end.


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All and all, this show kind of understands pacing and realises that most of us don’t have all that much of an attention span so points are introduced, developed over an episode or two, and then we move to the next set piece. It isn’t deep story telling by any means but it keeps it fun. And the movement forward is always logical. We don’t have a whip-lash effect as we jump all over the place but rather we progress to what might logically happen next to a wannabe hero.

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I’m not going into an in-depth analysis of this. I started it late because I’m not that in to superhero stories and thought I’d hate this. Instead, I’ve smiled and pleasantly enjoyed episode after episode, but I haven’t really thought about it or tried to analyse it. I’ve just watched (something that future seasons of the show would address as I started to get more and more drawn into this world and realised how carefully crafted the setting really has been).

So the strengths and weaknesses are the same. It is an old story but it’s told well. We have an interesting cast, but few of them get enough time to really develop in any meaningful capacity. We have some great action, with more or less predictable results. There are some super cool powers in this show, but again with such a large cast very few of these ever get a chance to really be explored (with the exception of All Might and Midoriya).

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It’s bright and colourful and the music works.  If you are generally into super-heroes or kids with powers or just like action sequences, you will probably enjoy this. If you are in the mood for something fun and pleasant that you don’t have to think too hard about, you will probably enjoy it. If you’re over the good guys are good for the sake of it or are wanting a bit more of a commentary on the hero genre, this one is probably not for you.


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Karandi James

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My Hero Academia Season 2 Series Review: Shining the Light on Heroes and Villains

Overview:

There’s no denying that season 1 of this show made me sit up and take notice when I picked it up mid-season after reading many positive reviews. The second season continues Midoriya’s journey (as well as the rest of the students’ journies) to becoming a hero.

Earlier I covered some of the ideas in this series in Friday’s Feature: Not a Character, an Idea.

Review:

With the exception of Bleach (which even I’ll admit isn’t all that great when you break down the story) I’ve never been much for straight shonen action shows. I can’t stand the shouting, the long drawn out fight, the pointless arcs where a villain is built up to be beaten down, the random hero power ups, and all the other silliness that tends to infect those kinds of shows. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good action story, I just prefer something a little less aimed at teenage males. Surprisingly, My Hero Academia kind of has all of the qualities of a shonen story that usually annoy me and yet, much like Bleach before it, instead of turning me away it kind of manages to draw me in a little bit more with every ridiculous fight sequence.

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The first season was utterly charming and just plain fun to watch, and season 2, despite launching into firstly a tournament arc, and then a training/power up sequence, before going into an exam sequence (all of which should have killed any fun or momentum for me) managed to not alone maintain that sense of fun, it also fleshed out a very real and meaningful dialogue around the nature of heroes and villains. All of this while characters continued to grow and develop and come to a greater understanding of themselves.

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Now, there is nothing new to be found in My Hero Academia. We have seen each of these characters before and asking the question of what makes a hero is pretty much story-telling from cave-man days. So it isn’t the novel content that is keeping me fixated. It is all about the delivery.

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This world and these characters are bright and larger than life. Their actions, their ideals, their emotions, everything is heightened unapologetically and then dropped into a world is becoming more and more real with every point we learn about it. While we don’t have Quirks in the real world (or at least not that I’ve noticed), there is something extremely relatable about this social media, popularity focused society that has taken a noble calling (being a hero) and made it a vocation. One that is highly sought due to monetary rewards and social recognition. All of this makes for a very grand and highly energetic narrative even when not a lot is actually happening with the main characters. I’m pretty sure these students could make catching a bus entertaining at this point.

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Part of this is because of the sheer number of characters and their diverse personalities. While some of the less important classmates are still pretty one-note, a lot of these characters have had their moment in the spot light and have started to become far more interesting as the series has progressed. My Hero Academia is very big on giving characters clear motivations for their behaviours and attitudes and ensuring the audience understands these. That way, when a character begins to change or grow, or even just acts out of character, it is immediately apparent and the impact is even greater because we’ve understood why that trait was significant in the first place.

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It also helps that the characters are just fun to spend time with. Even Bakugo, the overly angry and shouty one, is always great fun on the screen. If he could learn to focus some of that rage he could be a truly awesome asset in the future, though at the moment he’s more of comic relief and occasional bringer of tension to an otherwise fairly happy group of kids.

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This season saw Todoroki and Uraraka both gain ground as characters. Each had a number of moments to shine throughout the series and learned from their own actions and the actions of others to progress toward their goals. Seeing the these two characters finding their way and seeing how that changed their relationships with other characters in the story, felt very rewarding. Both kind of gained ground in terms of being my favourite characters from this show by mid-season.

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However, the real spot-light this season needs to go on All Might and Midoriya’s relationship. If growth along a journey was the theme for the season, Midoriya truly personified this as he fought hard to gain control of his ability and also really considered why he wanted to become a hero. Early in the season he loses a fight in the tournament to Todoroki, not necessarily because he couldn’t win (although arguably at the time he couldn’t) but because he needed to help Todoroki. Midoriya chose a tournament loss to ensure a greater victory, helping a friend. And that more or less defined who he was. But, there are greater dangers coming and All Might is trying to prepare Midoriya for those. We see the greatest change in Midoriya, spurred on by Bakugo, when he actually strikes All Might during the exam. Season 1 Midoriya couldn’t have even tried to strike All Might. This transition from idolising All Might, to working to surpass him as a symbol of justice, is just another step on the road for Midoriya though for the audience, there’s the added tension of kind of suspecting All Might’s time is more limited than Midoriya knows. All Might is definitely holding back from telling Midoriya everything so that is one puzzle piece we’ll all be waiting for in the next season.

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Turning our attention to the villains, we see the Hero Killer rise up during this season and his impact on both the narrative and the characters is enormous. Even other villains are launched into renewed vigour because of the Hero Killer’s actions. For me, this part of the season was by far the strongest and most interesting. Mostly because the rest of the season focused on the growth of the future heroes but didn’t really give them a real world challenge to face. Though, the final episode this season leaves little doubt as to where the story is going.

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To begin bringing things to a close, I wasn’t overly thrilled with the openings this season. They worked and they definitely grew on me after several episodes, but initially I was kind of underwhelmed by them. Also, some of the fights in both the tournament and the exam arcs just felt like they were there for the sake of completion rather than for adding anything into the story. But these are minor complaints when considering the season as a whole.

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Season 2 gave me more of what I loved about season 1, and continued to grow both the world and characters in an  immensely satisfying manner. While I would have liked a little bit more from the narrative as we seem to be moving very slowly forward, this is a minor nit-pick to what is a fun series to get into.

I’d love to know your thoughts on My Hero Academia so be sure to leave me a comment below.


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My Hero Academia Episode 38: Setting The Stage

Review:

It is odd where I don’t mind a final episode that so clearly is nothing but set up for future engagements, but with a future series already announced and knowing it is very likely to actually be delivered I found myself pretty hooked by this story. So far, the visible leader of the villains has been individually unimpressive and his taking steps this week to find some conviction really does up the tension a notch in the series.

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Midoriya’s face after he realises he may have just insulted someone who can disintigrate him.

Once again this story questions the idea of heroes, villains, morals and justice and it does it in a fairly non-preachy manner that seems to just make this universe far richer and more believable. However, the episode itself doesn’t really deliver anything. It is a transition with the students finishing their first semester at UA (all of this and we’re only one semester along) and preparing for the training camp. But with the villain recruitment underway by the end of the episode it certainly suggests big things are coming.

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this season of My Hero Academia and I’ll be doing a full review soon.


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My Hero Academia Episode 37: Those Two Have Got To Work On Their Issues

Review:

I know they put Midoriya and Bakugo together because their communication was dreadful, but that just seemed needlessly unfair. Midoriya was trying, kind of, to work with Bakugo and he is an absolute jerk. I still can’t believe we’re actually supposed to see him as a future hero and not a villain. Though in a world where Endeavor is technically a hero (the number 2 hero) even though he’s also a jerk I guess we’ll just have to accept that hostility and violence are apparently not disqualifying characteristics.

This fight was as explosive as you would suspect with Bakugo in the mix, but I think All Might was the surprise this episode. He really plays the role of a villain well (even if he did provide multiple openings for the students – it wouldn’t really be a test if they couldn’t have done anything). He’s actually pretty scary when you realise that once he doesn’t care whether the city gets destroyed his power is even more dangerous.

And in the midst of getting crushed, Bakugo and Midoriya kind of come to an understanding even if they still don’t like each other and still can’t really work as a team.

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Still, I will exhibit no surprise is Bakugo ever becomes evil. Might be a little judgemental, but the kid is dangerous.

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Overall, a pretty good conclusion to the exam but nothing overly unexpected except perhaps how good All Might is at being a fake villain. Then of course we got the preview for the next episode and it seems we’ll end the season with the return of the villains so something to look forward to.


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My Hero Academia Episode 33: All Might’s Hesitation

Review:

This episode certainly continued with the idea of social media and looking at how Stain’s influence is spreading in the world of heroes, at least those ideas were running around in the background and permeating the set up for what is apparently to come. I’m glad I spent some time on this idea in my last Feature and I’ll hopefully revisit the idea later particularly if it remains a prominent theme here.

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However, My Hero Academia doesn’t like to dwell or hold its narrative hostage to its themes and as a direct result while this idea is still sitting there and bubbling away just waiting to explode onto the centre stage again, our hero students are back in class and training. All Might is also ready to reveal more about the past to Midoriya but this is where things took an unexpected turn.

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Not in the story itself. That was pretty stock standard villain and hero origin material to be honest, though like most of the generic points in this anime it managed to be very enthusiastic and dramatic in the delivery. No, the surprising part was that All Might blinked. That’s the best way to put it. He realised Midoriya still didn’t understand something fairly critical and yet hesitated and then chose not to explain it.

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It will be interesting to see if that omission comes back to bite them in later episodes. So, you can probably gather that I am still very much enjoying this show and hopefully it can continue strongly.


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My Hero Academia Season 2 Episode 14

Overview:

We pick up the story immediately following the attack on the school with investigations into the master mind and arrests aplenty. And in case we forgot anything we spend at least seven minutes flash backing during the first half of this episode so don’t rush to rewatch season 1.

Review:

Things had finally gotten interesting last season. We’d moved away from standard highschool hijinx and petty bullying to a full on attack by villains. So why do we spend what little time this first episode devotes to new material planning for a sports contest? Okay, it’s a sports contest with a twist because they are heroes in training and the competition is a big scouting deal, rah, rah.

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I was almost ready to dismiss this show as another lack luster sequel in 2017 until we got to the final few minutes of this episode. All Might manages to really up the stakes of what seemed like it was going to be mundane filler material and I suddenly got really curious as to what would happen next.

As a first episode of a new season, this one isn’t amazing but it looks like Izuku and friends might be able to pull off another fun season provided there’s some decent danger to face off against.

Though, as a final thought, I might have to point out that the opening song is painfully uninspiring for the content. Not a bad song in and of itself but does nothing to get you pumped for the show.

My Hero Academia is available on Crunchyroll.


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My Hero Academia Series Review

Overview:

In a world where almost everyone has a quirk (superpower), Midoriya finds he is the exception. That doesn’t stop him from dreaming big and working toward his goal of being a hero. Along the way, he meets his idol (All Might) and through demonstrating heroic spirit convinces All Might to assist him in achieving his goal and is ‘given’ a quirk. From there we transfer to a school for heroes and meet a cast of interesting characters with interesting quirks and begin the journey forward.

My week to week review of the show can be found here.

Review:

My Hero Academia is as cliché as they come and yet proves, once again, you don’t need to be original to be interesting. Rather than worrying about amazing plot twists or unconventional story-telling, My Hero Academia works to its strengths. The first few episodes deal with Midoriya working toward his goals and how he gains a quirk (as well as his relationship with Bakugou which is clearly going to be an ongoing thing) and then we shift to the school.

The thing about moving into a high school setting is that the story for a while feels even more contained than it was. We meet the strict teacher and get the threat of expulsion if you don’t score well, and the usual rivalries between students, and it all seems pretty safe because as if the teachers are going to let it go too far. The third act however, brings in an outside threat and really ramps up the action for the series end.

All and all, this show kind of understands pacing and realises that most of us don’t have all that much of an attention span so points are introduced, developed over an episode or two, and then we move to the next set piece. It isn’t deep story telling by any means but it keeps it fun. And the movement forward is always logical. We don’t have a whip-lash effect as we jump all over the place but rather we progress to what might logically happen next to a wannabe hero.

I’m not going into an in-depth analysis of this. I started it late because I’m not that in to superhero stories and thought I’d hate this. Instead, I’ve smiled and pleasantly enjoyed episode after episode, but I haven’t really thought about it or tried to analyse it. I’ve just watched.

So the strengths and weaknesses are the same. It is an old story but it’s told well. We have an interesting cast, but few of them get enough time to really develop in any meaningful capacity. We have some great action, with more or less predictable results. There are some super cool powers in this show, but again with such a large cast very few of these ever get a chance to really be explored (with the exception of All Might and Midoriya).

It’s bright and colourful and the music works.  If you are generally into super-heroes or kids with powers or just like action sequences, you will probably enjoy this. If you are in the mood for something fun and pleasant that you don’t have to think too hard about, you will probably enjoy it. If you’re over the good guys are good for the sake of it or are wanting a bit more of a commentary on the hero genre, this one is probably not for you.

My Hero Academia Episode 12

Review:

At the end of episode 11 All Might showed up and this episode continues directly on. The fight is amazing and given what we know about All Might, full of unexpected tension. That said, the fight is literally the only thing that happens this episode as well as some ramblings from the villain about the basic understanding of what makes an act heroic or villainous but this is quickly shot down by All Might and we kind of just get back to hitting each other really hard. I am optimistic for the final episode and really would like to see Midoriya in action one last time (whether or not I get this remains to be seen).

My Hero Academia is available on AnimeLab.