I feel like I am the millionth person to ever gush about My Hero Academia, but that’s because I am completely in love with it almost like everyone else is. This is partially because it’s characters, story, and action scenes are great, but because I am and always will be a shonen battle junkie. I may love mecha anime more than them, but after mecha and cyber punk anime, battle shonen is my third favorite genre/type/thing of anime. It’s always been there since the beginning of my fandom and despite learning to love other types of shows, battle shonen just has a huge sway with me. This was reinforced last night when the new Ushio and Tora blu-ray set appeared in the mail on Monday. As much I loved a lot of anime from 2016, I think that Ushio and Tora would easily count as my favorite. Its looks like a similar thing is happening to me with My Hero Academia this year. As much as I love Acca-13, Rakugo, Scum’s Wish, and Sakura Quest from this year, My Hero Academia is my favorite so far and I don’t know if that will change anytime soon. I’m just being true to myself.
My love for battle shonen started with this little series called Yu Yu Hakusho. Even right now after watching so many other battle shonen series, it still is. I know that many other prefer something like the Dragon Ball franchise from their beginning years or even Rurouni Kenshin (which is also great during its first two seasons), but there was a lot of elements that captured my attention. For starters, all the characters are great and such a wonderful chemistry with each other. Then there are the villains who are also incredibly well developed and interesting characters in their own right. There are also the arcs that each have a different feeling and setting to them that makes the battle shonen formula feel fresh. Each character also has a unique ability that are used fully to their potential and that’s great because not every battle series does that. I know that Hunter x Hunter is from the same creator (Togashi) and is more refined and everything, and there is a lot of JoJo’s influence in the show, but no series has really captured my imagination and heart like this one has until My Hero Academia showed up.
My Hero Academia is a different kind of series then Yu Yu Hakusho in a lot of ways. For example, Yu Yu is a 90’s tournament style anime which each of it arcs being in the style of one, despite only having three of its arcs actually being set in actual tournament stadiums. With a few exceptions, many of its fights are one on one, which allow the most character drama possible between the two opponents. Always defeating the opponent to get to the next one. Even with its tournament arc, My Hero Academia is something different. It’s more about team work and character growth then actual combat. Yes, actual combat does take place, but it’s more for the sake of fulfilling their arcs then anything. Even when characters lose, they use that loss to figure out what they need to do next to achieve their goals. In Hakusho, the characters decided upon defeat that the main characters goals are more important and fall in line instead of trying to seek out their own purpose still. That doesn’t demean the series at all, but it robs the side characters of their identities in a lot of ways.
The differences between My Hero Academia and Yu Yu Hakusho can be easier explained by comparing their main characters, because each one of them is the living and breathing heart of their series. Yusuke Yurameshi from Yu Yu Hakusho, starts as a street punk who never lost a fight and was forced into the position of being Spirit Detective due to a premature and unplanned death (I would say spoilers, but this literally happens in the first episode). As the series goes on and he masters his powers and fights villains, he matures out of his punk stages and becomes more mature and sincere. This is the standard “growing of age” kind of story. Izuku Midoriya is a different kind of character. He was the kid that was always bullied on and was born quirkless in a world in which everyone else has quirks. This doesn’t stop him from trying to become a hero at all though. Midoriya is already a mature character because he is emotionally sincere with himself and what he wants to become. So far, the series is about him understanding the ability that he was given and become the hero that he wants to be. I love both of these main characters. Not only because they are fleshed out and interesting, but because both of them show how to do a shonen battle series protagonist right.
From an action perspective, I consider both of these series to be equal. I mean seriously. You can put something like the Bui vs Hiei fight right next to the Izuku vs Todoroki fight and despite having decades between them, the quality is almost the same. How crazy is that? With the technology change from cell animation to today’s digital animation, that makes this even crazier. There are also the wide variety of abilities that each side character has. The amount of variety is amazing and adds a lot to each of the shows from a visual perspective. The only difference to each of these series is that My Hero Academia seems to have a power ceiling while Yu Yu doesn’t. Because of this fact, My Hero Academia is so much more grounded then Yu Yu Hakusho ever can hope to be.
Taking away Yu Yu Hakusho from the discussion, My Hero Academia looks and sounds like a standard shonen series. What makes My Hero Academia different from everything is its emotional sincerity, how dedicated the show is to making every single member of the cast developed and important, and how realistic the world is represented. I’m sure you have heard those first two aspects before, but the last one is something only appeared in the Internship Arc. While All Might is the hero that Izuku and almost every young hero is influenced by, there really is an undercurrent here that shows not every hero is a hero just to be one. It’s more of an opportunity of employment and livelihood or fame and fortune then anything else. There is also a legal system that discourages people from being heroic. Guys, I think the real story and conflict of this series has just been revealed. I can’t wait for more.
I don’t think that I would be able to choose which one of these is my favorite shonen battle series. Yu Yu Hakusho and My Hero Academia set out to do different things. My Hero Academia has revealed that there is one solid villain and a lot of different side elements and plots to make the story feel real and complete. Yu Yu Hakusho never had a main villain, but has great arc based villains, and the anime is held together by telling the tale of Yusuke. Both of these shows are great ways of how to write a shonen story and are at the cream of the crop in my eyes. If you haven’t, give each of these a watch because both of them are great. Out of all the battle shonen that I watched, I would put both of them on their own pillars as representations of what this type of anime can do. I know that I can be incredibly picky about the shows that I watch, but if I see a shonen battle anime airing, then I at least need to try it out. I need to see what it does that makes it unique and interesting.