Opinion: My Hero Academia Has Been a Six-Season Long Buildup

Looking forward to the Final arc.
Published On October 15, 2023

My Hero Academia is moving towards ending the war between the heroes and the “League of Villains,” with every season now making more sense.  Photo: Studio Bones

Kōhei Horikoshi’s “My Hero Academia” is well into its final arc, with an anime season soon to follow. It’s been a decent watch throughout its previous six seasons, but the show doesn’t leave much of an impression — even as it aspires to go “Plus Ultra.” There are slick fight animations throughout, some ingenious superhero abilities, and even moments that show the dark side of hero business even before “The Boys” came along. Even as the anime catches you questioning the justice regime of such a world, it leaves you wondering whether this uninterested feeling is an aftermath of superhero fatigue.

My Hero Academia is an homage to American comic books — something the creator itself has acknowledged. And the influence talks through pretty clearly: even the greatest single blow thrown in the series is called “United States of Smash.” However, the anime sets itself apart in a distinct manner.

This is a world where heroes and villains come by the bunch — as an unexplained phenomenon eventually led to 80 percent of humanity gaining some sort of superpower. It could be something as rudimentary as increased strength, while others have gone to shape and oversee society. With the Earth beaming with these “Quirks” left and right, how would the protagonist set himself apart, you may wonder. The answer: by being Quirkless, of course.

Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot at the 2016 SDCC for "Wonder Woman."

Pivotal to the story is the theme of succession. How the powerless inherit the greatest superpower there is — one centered around collectivism and the idea of “One for All.”

Photo via Studio Bones

The show quickly pivots towards the power of emotions — a concurrent theme in anime. It’s the driving force that makes the (initially) Quirkless “Deku” the greatest hero that ever lived. The show progressively adopts features of Japanese culture, an emphasis on collectivism, and a young sense of justice. Such themes have been the bread and butter of Shōnen anime, but they didn’t appeal much to the growing Western audience.

The origin story seems reminiscent of Captain America’s, and the plot eventually gets littered with deuteragonists and tritagonists. It makes for some fun classroom feuds, but nothing truly threatening to the stagnating society shows up during its initial run.

Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot at the 2016 SDCC for "Wonder Woman."
Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot at the 2016 SDCC for "Wonder Woman."

Deku’s character is one struggling with inner turmoil, which eventually leads to the hero following the path of a vigilante — his appearance taking some obvious cues from Batman.

Photos via Studio Bones

Things remained largely the same for some five seasons or so: each did barely enough to capture your interest, but wasn’t nearly as even the absurd slugfests in “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.” However, the story held out much of its darker aspects towards its latter arcs — portraying themes of corruption, child abuse, discrimination, and twisted ideologies.

The sixth season is where things started to shift rapidly: the villains aren’t just threatening from the shadows. They’ve acquired the means of widespread, untethered destruction. My Hero Academia gets increasingly vocal about death, with not every hero coming out unscarred. Society has been bruised, battered, and cornered, and the heroes become the nucleus of hate.

The darker undertone brings some sense of realism — gone is the protagonist’s idealism of succeeding as the beacon of justice. It’s heroes against the villains, an “Avengers Assemble” moment if you will. This change is truly manifested when the narrating protagonist foreshadows the final arc — one where “everyone became the greatest heroes.”