My Hero Academia – 09

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As the press bangs on the door of U.A. High, anting the scoop on All Might, Midoriya’s class finally gets to do a normal school thing: elect a class rep. Everyone ends up tied with one vote except for Momo, with two, and Midoriya with three, all thanks to Ochako and Iida.

I guess no other groups of friends have emerged to the point they would align their votes around one guy, huh? Also, I’m curious who voted for Momo.

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In the middle of lunch, Midoriya faces his first test as leader, when an intruder alert and evacuation order are sounded. He fails spectacularly, getting lost in the crush of panicking students.

It’s Iida, not Midoriya, who has the presence of mind to use Ochako’s antigrav quirk to get to a place of prominence so he can calm the crowd. For that, Midoriya picks Iida as class rep (sorry Momo!), and Iida gains the nickname “Emergency Exit Iida”, since he looked just like the little guy in the sign.

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The cause for alarm? Press broke in. But the question is, who helped them by destroying the barriers? We saw a guy with blue hair behind them as they were complaining about not getting access. After the class is handed off to the famous Thirteen for rescue training at Universal Studios Japan (USJ), we see that guy again, covered in hands and emerging from a vortex with dozens of other villains.

It’s a nice change of pace: what seemed like yet another training session for the kids suddenly and unexpectedly turns into a far more hazardous situation. Who are these villains? Why are they attacking UA students? What’s with all the hands on that guy?

I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to finding out, and meanwhile, All Might is presently tapped out after having to do numerous heroic deeds on his way to school. So Aizawa, Thirteen, and the students will have to be enough to deal with the baddies. Oh yeah, on the bus trip, Frog Girl Tsuyu of all people made Midoriya blush, while Bakugo, serial teaser, got a taste of his own medicine as everyone came to the consensus his personality sucks.

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My Hero Academia – 08

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After Deku and Kacchan’s impressive first match in the hero-v-villain training sessions, everyone else wants to step up their game and show what they’re made of, too. Unfortunately Midoriya doesn’t get to see any of the matches that follow, as he’s carted off to the nurse’s office with his injuries.

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We, meanwhile, are treated to a montage that paints a quick and incomplete picture of Midoriya’s classmates, led by the capable know-it-all Momo. In some matches the great gap between elite and ordinary students is exposed, but that’s why this is training: everyone has a chance to see exactly where they fit in the pecking order, so to speak, without serious risk to their health.

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Midoriya ends up the only one injured in the exercise, and when he wakes up in a hospital bed, late for his next class, he feels pretty down. So he’s shocked when upon entering the class he’s not met by glares, but adoring smiles. Everyone respects him for fighting on Bakugo’s level, if only briefly, and the pink girl Mina even seems a little smitten due to his dodging abilities, of all things.

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The only one absent from class is Bakugo, whom Midoriya chases down as he’s leaving for the day to explain a little better what his situation is. The thing is, none of Midoriya’s excuses (e.g. his powers were recently given to him) matter to Kacchan. All that matters to Kacchan is that he was beaten, by Deku, and that has to be corrected.

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Deku may think he can approach or surpasss Kacchan, but Kacchan isn’t going to stop moving and wait for that to happen. Thus begins, as Ochako cutely puts it, a “fated battle between men”, for which she’s no more willing to accept qualifiers than Kacchan.

This is all a good thing for UA High. Judging from the villains’ awareness of All Might’s semi-retirement and move to education, the organization is going to need a fresh infusion of heroes. These kids may have to grow up fast.

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My Hero Academia – 07

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We get it: Deku isn’t trying to “trick” or “underestimate” Kacchan. He simply has to believe he can surpass someone as amazing as Kacchan if he’s ever going to develop into reliable hero. So while the trial is supposed to be about heroes and villains, Kacchan makes it into a duel of nemeses, and Deku has to choice but to play along, while trusting Ochako to handle the bomb retrieval.

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Deku’s notebook knowledge serves him well against an unfocused and increasingly angry Kacchan, but as he gets worn down from all the dodging, and Kacchan gets angrier stalking through the halls, remembering all the times Deku proved himself useless when they were little kids, Kacchan devises more and more subtle yet devastating attacks.

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Mind you, that’s after he blasts a hole in his own “villain stronghold”, leading All Might to warn him if he causes that much destruction again, he’ll forfeit the match.

But he and Deku both know Kacchan doesn’t give a shit about the outcome of the match. He wants Deku to know his place. And All Might knows Deku won’t make any progress getting through to Kacchan if he suspends the match.

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The duel culminates in the two driving their fists at each other, Kacchan with his explosive power and Deku with All For One—but Deku isn’t going for Kacchan, he’s going for the ceiling.

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By blasting numerous holes in the building, he creates a diversion, as well as ammo, for Ochako to wield her antigrav powers and make contact with the bomb, flummoxing Iida, who had tried so hard to play the role of mustache-twirling villain.

As time runs out and the Hero team wins, Kacchan is still playing the same refrain: “Don’t underestimate me. I’m better than you.” 

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Well, talent and strength, especially in the quantities he possesses, certainly are great to have. But that alone doesn’t make a hero. Kacchan seemed constantly driven by hatred for that which he always thought was weaker than him, but day by day is being proven wrong, making him question his own worth deep inside.

Add to that nitroglycerin palm sweat (how the hell did he not accidentally burn his house down nine thousand times as a kid?), and you have a volatile combination. But when Deku tells Kacchan can’t use his quirk lest it destroy his body, and  Kacchan sees the damage to prove it, his scowl of contempt softens into something resembling pity, maybe even understanding and regret for what he’s put Deku through.

Because I feel like a lot of his anger has to do with the fact that Deku never once deserved the shitty treatment Kacchan dumped on him. Quite the opposite, whenever Kacchan even looked like he was in trouble, Deku and only Deku rushed out to help him. Just as Deku needs to strengthen his body and master his quirk to have a future as a hero, Kacchan will have to resolve his various emotional issues.

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My Hero Academia – 06

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Plus Ultra to you on this fine Mother’s Day (USA)! I shall be covering Hero this week in Hannah’s place. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu! After Midoriya successfully gets a hero-like number on the ball throw, a furious Kacchan rushes him before being stopped by Aizawa-sensei.

Kacchan of all people simply can’t understand how his childhood friend could have a quirk all of a sudden, and the ‘my own effort’ explanation he gets from Iida second-hand isn’t satisfactory. Deku is pissing all over his moment, and he doesn’t like it! Boo-hoo.

Despite placing last in total test points, Midoriya moves on, because as Aizawa says to All Might, his potential is “not zero”. Midoriya settles into a cozy group of budding friends in the earnest-to-a-fault Iida and the adorable, friendly Ochako, who re-purposes the insulting nickname “Deku-kun” to something cool, because it reminds her of “Ganbatte”.

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Once the class starts hero training with their new teacher All Might (whom almost everyone is in awe of), he unveils that the superhero costumes they requested are ready. Due to various clerical hiccups, Midoriya gets his by another channel – his adorable mom saw the design in his notebook and had it made in secret, as an apology for giving up on him when he never did.

The new costumes really give a sense of pomp and occasion to this upcoming test that the PE uniforms lacked. It also makes everyone far more distinctive and reveals some things about their tastes and personalities. Class ace Yaoyorozu, for instance, isn’t afraid to show a little sideboob, while Ochako didn’t put in any preference and ended up in a tasteful skintight jumpsuit that, if anything, only amplifies her cuteness.

(Speaking of big groups of superheroes taking the stage: I’d just caught Captain America: Civil War Friday night, one of the climactic scenes of which was also bursting with cool costumes.)

As for “Deku’s” suit, it borrows a few details from All Might but has a totally different vibe to it; more Sonic the Hedgehog than Superman; I like it. I’m not as big a fan as Iida’s rather boring suit of armor or Kacchan’s tacky suit that makes him look like a fireworks point-of-purchase. Still, it’s clear from many outfits that they started out as crude pencil sketches.

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The next exercise involves two pairs of students facing off as heroes and villains, with the former having to either capture the latter or the latter keeping their nuke out of the former’s hands. Deku and Ochako are paired up again, to Ochako’s delight.

In the dark, close confines of the test building, Kacchan again breaks the rules to take it to Deku by staging a surprise attack…only to find Deku a far more challenging opponent than he expected, and not because of Deku’s strength, either.

The hero notebook Deku meticulously prepared included notes on his childhood friend, so Deku knows how he fights and how to fight back. This fight should be interesting, assuming Deku doesn’t slip up and get char-broiled before Ochako can step in with her zero-grav assistance.

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My Hero Academia – 03

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What is All Might’s quirk? It has been debated exhaustively on- and offline, and remains one of the world’s greatest mysteries. While the vast majority of those with quirks get them from birth, All Might’s is different: he inherited his powers of super speed and strength from his predecessor. And now that he knows the kind of heart and heroic drive Midoriya possesses, he’s ready to transfer his power to him. His quirk, then, is power transfer…One For All.

But it’s not that simple: Midoriya’s heartmay be ready to be a superhero, but his body is sorely lacking. All Might knows all about fitness regimes, and so sets up a comprehensive “American Dream Plan” to transform Midoriya’s body into something his to-be-inherited powers can work with. AM admits it’s a hard plan, but Midoriya does not waver in agreeing to it…then going above and beyond.

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His first mission as a hero is to clear a beach of washed-up and illegally-dumped trash—most of it quite heavy—as an act of selfless service, of the kind heroes used to do before so many villains showed up to keep them busy. So begins Midoriya’s ten months of hell, presented in Rocky-style montage form.

At first, Midoriya can’t do much of anything, but he keeps going…pushing more, pulling more, running more, eating more, and enduring the physical toll. At the same time, he has to keep his grades up to keep his hopes of enrolling at UA alive.

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Seven months in, All Might notices Midoriya has simply hit a wall, but not because the plan is too tough: Midoriya has been going far beyond the proscribed plan, and falling victim to overwork. AM adjusts the plan accordingly to allow for a little overachievement without burning out.

On the dawn of the day he’s to report to UA for his entrance exam, Midoriya stands on the tiny pile of wreckage that is all that’s left on an otherwise gorgeous, spotless, beach, and roars at the sunrise. Moved by this sight, AM suddenly transforms into this public visage to exclaim “Oh My Goodness!” (much like Franklin often does at the RABUJOI main office).

He also makes sure that on the eve of achieving hero-hood, Midoriya understands there’s a difference between being lucky to receive something (i.e. AM’s powers) and being given those powers as recognition of his hard work. And he has worked hard.

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Now all he has to do is eat one of AM’s hairs (gross) and the real hard part begins: getting into UA. While on his way in, he crosses paths with Kacchan, who he’s noticed has not bullyed him once since the incident with the sludge monster. He also encounters a cute retro girl who saves him from tripping on his feet with her anti-grav quirk.

After an uneventful orientation, the examinees are split up into groups and sent to various walled-off model urban battle centers, in which they will engage in a mock battle to see who can amass the most points from destroying simulated villains.

It’s pretty much a video game, only using their real abilities. And interacting with or harming fellow examinees is prohibited, though I’m reasonably sure there will be interactions in there. Midoriya has come a long way in a short ten months; I look forward to seeing how he fares—and what bonds he’ll forge—in that battle center.

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My Hero Academia – 02

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While on their brief flight through the city, the bottles containing the goop villain fall out of All Might’s pockets, and Kocchan kicks one of them, releasing the monster in a shopping district. Meanwhile, just as Izuku is hoping for inspiring words about how he can become a hero even without a Quirk, All Might deflates into a grotesque husk of his usual public self.

Turns out, this is his true form—more heroin than hero—the result of a near-fatal injury sustained in a battle years ago that limits him to three hours of heroic duty a day. Like the doctors and mother who told him about his limits, Izuku gets another grim dose of reality from All Might, who can’t simply say he can be a hero.

Kocchan, being tougher than Midoriya, is able to stay alive far longer in the villain’s clutches, but he can’t defeat the thing, and none of the heroes who show up have to proper skill sets to defeat it either.

I love the practical snags that result from the super-specialization of these heroes, be it the guy who only shoots water, the tree guy who can’t be near fire, or Mt. Lady, who doesn’t have enough room to work.

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When Izuku and the emaciated All Might arrive (seperately) at the scene, things are bad; everyone is waiting for someone to show up and save the day. Then, something happens to Izuku that apparently happens to a lot of heroes early in their lives: he moves without thinking, after seeing fear in Kocchan’s eyes and what he thinks is a wordless cry for help.

There’s very little Izuku can do besides run at the monster, scream, and throw his effects at it, but it doesn’t matter, it’s his heroic gesture that inspires All Might to pump himself back up, rescue Izuku, and knock the villain out with a right fist so hard he creates a pocket of precipitation above the city.

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Afterwards, All Might gets all the credit, Kocchan is praised for hanging in there…and Izuku is scolded by the other heroes for acting so recklessly. But both Kocchan and All Might know who is really responsible for saving the day, and it’s Izuku.

Kocchan may not have been trying to look desperate, but he did, and All Might wouldn’t have acted had Izuku not acted first. He doesn’t thank Kocchan, but you can tell he’s pissed about Izuku being more than just talk and kiddy dreams. That being said, All Might can’t keep this up much longer, so the obvious thing to do is to train Izuku to be his successor.

There are no guarantees, as Izuku still has no Quirk of his own, but he’s gotta try, and if nothing else, Izuku’s crazy actions proved to All Might that he can be a hero, with a little help. And then, as a little surprise, Izuku’s voiceover informs us this is actually the story of how he became the greatest hero. So he won’t be weak and unheralded for long.

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My Hero Academia – 01 (First Impressions)

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A world where humans develop superpowers and a government-sanctioned hero industry that battle villains? With a comedic bent? We’ve seen this premise before. We’ve even seen this art style applied to this premise before, with One Punch Man, a bona-fide future classic covered by Zane last Fall.

Of course, that might be a dumb statement: most premises of new anime are premises we’ve seen before. Anime’s been around a while, and there are some premises that endure and continue to be relevant as long as there are talented people to put a new twist or their personal touch to them.

Does the well-worn familiarity hamper the freshness of My Hero Academia a little? Yes; that’s unavoidable. But if it doesn’t contribute anything new or groundbreaking, is it at least diverting entertainment? Most assuredly; and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

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We’ve seen weird heroes fighting weird villains before (and heroes fighting each other for the credit). But we haven’t seen these weird heroes and villains, vying for attention through the use of brute strength, speed and maneeuverability, or plain ol’ sex appeal.

The most “conventional” superhero also happens to be the top hero in the business, All Might, an amusingly grotesque Superman caricature who is blonde, burly, and perpetually grinning from ear to ear. This is the guy who inspires our protagonist, the pint-sized, “quirkless” Midoriya”Deku” Izuku.

He wants to be like All Might. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the genes. A third-year in middle school, he still has no powers, and doctors have told him not to hold his breath. Still, he takes careful notes of all hero/villain clashes and studies hard in hopes that he can enroll at the prodigious U.A. High (which no longer prohibits quirkless).

Izuku doesn’t just have his lack of powers to contend with, but also the universal general awfulness and cruelty of his peers, chief among them Bakugo Katsuki. Your typical bully with his corps of toadies, Katsuki wants to be the only one from his school to get into U.A. High, so threatens Izuku to forget about following him.

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That’s a nakedly petty position that is sure to set up a scenario in which Izuku somehow ends up with the power to oppose/surpass his Katsuki (or possibly lead to the two developing a grudging friendship).

The first brick in the foundation of Izuku’s rise is laid by an unexpected (and thoroughly disbelief-suspending) encounter with All Might himself. Izuku is wobbly-kneed in his presence, but is still able to grab on for dear life as Might flies away to his next gig.

Here, we see All Might cough up some blood, suggesting A.) his heroing days may be numbered and B.) Izuku is uniquely positioned to possibly succeed him. We must be content with this first brick, for My Hero Academia chose not to convert its loser MC to hero status in the first episode. But it’s a very promising first brick in what looks to be a fun Spring romp.

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Blood Lad – 01

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Charlie Staz Blood is a territory leader in the Demon World descended from vampires who loves manga, anime, and games from the human world. When a human girl, Yanagi Fuyumi, stumbles into his territory, he has his lieutenant Deku send her to him at once, and showers her with attention, even shrugging off an enemy challenge. When Yanagi herself suggests he deal with the enemy, he realizes he likes her and will do anything for her. After defeating the enemy, he returns to find she’s been eaten by a plant, with only her uniform and a skeleton remaining.

Just then, Yanagi appears naked in his bed, marked as a ghost. Staz vows to bring her back to life, and searches manga for the answer. She suggests they visit the spot where she first crossed over, a “black curtain” that leads to the human world. After sending her to Mamejirou and Saty to clear her for travel, and hires Mimic Yoshida, who can assume the form of anyone, to serve as his body double while he’s gone, Staz and Yanagi prepare to cross over to the human world.

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Soul Eater. Ao no Exorcist. Accel World. All deal with other worlds and are all big, bold, and showy, and so is Blood Lad. It’s animation is really nothing special but the colors are fantastic; it’s a vivid, fun thing to watch and that goes a long way for us. But of all those series we listed, it’s also the least serious, at least so far. The nearly constant levity could have been jarring, but isn’t. It indirectly spoofs those more serious series while surging along with its story very swiftly and confidently.

Staz is not the brightest bulb but he’s neither bland not boring. As for the girl, while we can understand her novelty from Staz’s perspective, she came off as pretty weak, helpless, and passive. That said, both the OP and ED (and a short moment in the episode) show a girl who may well be her opposite in every way; perhaps they’ll complement each other later on. We’ll also see whether Staz can really restore her life, or if her current situation becomes the new normal, and the demon world her new home.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)