Go Beyond! Plus Ultra! Restart Your Blog! All quotes from My Hero Academia, I believe.
I am hooked on this show with its colorful characters and surprising emotional depth. With the second season currently airing on Crunchyroll, I decided to pick up the first season Blu-ray from Funimation and rewatch it to remind myself why I love this show so much. It’s simple really: the central character Deku embarks on a quest to become the ultimate superhero, which is a ‘zero to hero’ plot done well in that it doesn’t shirk the idea of working hard and using your intelligence to achieve your dreams.
Born powerless in a world where 80% of the population has a ‘quirk’ that gives them superhero-like powers, Izuku Midoryia wants nothing more than to be the ultimate hero, like his idol All Might. Dubbed “Deku” or “useless” by the neighborhood bully Kacchan, and always in awe of those more powerful than him, Deku keeps copious notes on hero tactics in the event that he can one day become a hero too. When he meets All Might during a chance encounter, the notion of Deku becoming a superhero are dismissed outright. However, when Deku rushes to save his rival Kacchan from a villain despite having no power of his own, All Might recognizes in him the bravery required to inherit his power, dubbed One For All, which is passed down from recipient to recipient.
The real genius of this show is the focus on Deku’s slow rise to becoming a hero. He inherits an impressive power, but his transformation is not instantaneous; he has to work hard to become worthy of and control that power, and that involves carefully thinking out his strategy and tactics. There is also an exploration of confidence, as Deku has long thought of himself as worthless, and only through his trials and the making of new friends does he find his self-worth. Here are three lessons I took away from the first season that are inspiring to me, that I hope you’ll take them heart to “Go Beyond!”
Lesson 1: Success takes time, hard work, and humility
Though Deku is deemed worthy to inherit One For All, he needs to become a proper vessel. With only 10 months till the entry exam for U.A., the top hero school in the country, Deku has to prepare his body to inherit the power. He trains by clearing away all the garbage on the local beach, which is also a lesson in the work of “everyday” heroes that All Might insists is the basis for any superhero to take to heart. In the nick of time, he manages to finish this task, and even smash All Might’s expectations by clearing more than what he was asked to do.
Before he can even become a hero, Deku needs to internalize the idea that becoming successful takes time, that even little tasks that help people are acts of heroism, and nothing comes easily. Although this transition is accomplished in a short montage in the span of the show, the lesson remains that power and recognition aren’t handed to you, but are earned. Even once he has the power, the road to mastery is long and difficult.
Lesson 2: Strength comes as much from the mind as the body
When Deku first takes on the power of One For All, he can’t properly control it, so much so that when he uses it, he is in danger of breaking his limbs. He is either at 0% or 100%, and though he needs to take advantage of his power to get into U.A., he can’t attack anybody with it directly or he would instantly kill them, and damaging his own body would immediately take him out of any fight.
So when he has to use his quirk to throw a ball and is threatened with expulsion if he puts himself out of commission, he thinks it through and manages to focus the power into his pointer finger in order to save the rest of his hand. When All Might sees this, it’s the first time he realizes he made the right choice for his successor. Throughout the series, Deku gets backed into a corner, where everything seems hopeless. He can’t simply punch his way out, so he comes up with unorthodox ways of using his power that don’t actually involve hitting people directly. He can use his massive power to punch through an entire building, or start a massive whirlpool, incapacitating his enemies without destroying them.
This focus on a measure of intelligence being required to become a hero in an anime is refreshing, and makes Deku more relatable than your everyday Super Saiyan.
Lesson 3: Have confidence in yourself
Having been picked on since being young and used to being powerless, Deku is definitely a crybaby: he cries when he’s scared, anxious, or even overjoyed. As a child he took the name “Deku” or “useless” to heart, always wanting to be a hero but never truly believing he could.
During the entry exam for U.A., Deku saves Ochaco instead of trying to earn points for himself by beating up robots. She asks the professors to give some of her points to Deku, a fact which when Deku finds out about causes a cascade of grateful tears – of course, she doesn’t need to give him the points, because he won a bunch through the secret grading system for heroic acts. It’s Ochaco who later says that “Deku” also sounds similar to the Japanese for “You can do it!”
As he begins to succeed at all the challenges thrown his way, he takes that phrase to heart, not bowing down to intimidation from Kacchan, or anybody else. Though he still feels weak from time to time and often feels discouraged in a pinch, he uses the encouragement of his newfound friends and confidence in his abilities to turn his thinking around and come up with a solution to save the day.