What They Say:
It’s an exciting age of heroes, where most people develop supernatural abilities known as Quirks. Bright-eyed kids like Izuku Midoriya—Deku for short—dream of the day they become champions of the people. There’s just one little problem standing in Deku’s way. In a world full of heroes, he’s Quirkless. Crushed, but not down for the count, this superhero-fanboy dedicates his time to studying the pros in hopes that he, too, can join a prestigious high school for heroes. In the face of despair, Deku’s courage catches the eye of his ultimate idol, the symbol of justice known as All Might! With special training from the big guy himself, Deku and the talented first-years of the academy may finally have a shot at achieving their dreams. But these amateurs are put to the test of a lifetime when routine training becomes a battle against real villains!
The audio presentation for this series is a pretty strong one overall as we get the original Japanese language in stereo while the English language dub is in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The series is one that has a strong amount of action and activity overall combined with a variety of powers that are put into effect and make for a busy mix. The stereo mix works well in keeping things moving across the forward soundstage so that everything feels like it’s where it should be and the bigger scenes have some impact. The 5.1 mix takes all of that and raises the volume a bit and has a bigger sound and bass to it, causing the fights to feel a bit deeper and richer. Both mixes hit a good sweet spot in delivering an engaging show on the audio front and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second, which also has several extras there. Animated by Bones, My Hero Academia is a show that has a solid budget behind it with plenty of payoff in the animation. While it has its quieter scenes with some standing around to keep things done right there are a lot of very big and active scenes and a lot of creativity with powers throughout. The color work for this really gives it a great feeling as it’s bold and strong without becoming garish and problematic. The backgrounds have a great amount of detail which character animation is solid and the high action sequences step things up wonderfully. It’s a quality production through and through and the encoding brings it all to life in a very strong way that will please fans of the series.
The packaging for this limited edition release brings us a heavy chipboard box that holds two Blu-ray cases and two books so that it’s a bit wider than normal. The box is a slick looking piece with some embossing that helps that key visual that we know to stand out all the more with the character artwork and logo getting the extra pop. It uses familiar old school comic elements to it so that it hints at the superhero side nicely as well.The back of the box goes for a simple non-embossed piece with a full All Might visual and some amusing Superman style logo material along the bottom to further reinforce things. The two Blu-ray cases hold the separate formats nicely with different artwork for each, one with Izuku and the other with All Might so that our primary characters are there. It has the familiar action effects in the background and nods towards other character in shadowed form that works well. The back covers are kept simple with more leading characters getting their moment in the spotlight as well as a breakdown of the episodes by number and title and the extras. There are no inserts of note with the releases but we do get some artwork on the reverse side that’s without any character material but fits into the overall visual design.
The big things included in the set are the two separate books alongside the cases. The first is the student notebook that is just that, an empty notebook in the standard design but with the logo on it that you can use. The bigger one is the hardcover limited edition art book. This is filled with a ton of character sketches that look great and show the way the designs are broken down and brought to life. It’s got some solid paper stock to it and the hardcover element really adds some great weight to it.
The menu design for this release is one that plays simple with some bold colors, such as the pinkish stripe along the bottom with the navigation, and the colorful logo through the middle that takes up a big chunk of real estate. Everything else works the familiar series of action and character clips that keeps it all moving in a fun way with lots of areas that catch your attention. The navigation strip works smoothly and without problems in navigating but the sheer amount of extras, notably on the second disc, makes the layout a little more complex and I wish it had more real estate to work with so that it wasn’t so squished with so much text. Submenus load quickly and everything is problem free during both playback and and as the top level menu.
The extras for this release are pretty stacked and make up a good chunk of time to dig into depending on your interests. The familiar pieces are certainly here with the clean opening and closing and we also get the local trailers, including the simuldub ones. The fun comes with all the original material that was produced during various convention visits, such as an extended piece with the English voice actors and a host of a dozen or so short clips produced ahead of the debut of the dub for this season. The 2016 Anime Expo panel for the series that had a couple of the Japanese guests included is provided with expected cuts for footage that was shown and that clocks in at almost forty minutes. But we also get time from AnimeFest 2016 where we see artist sketches, some AX 2016 interviews with Japanese voice actors, and some production team interviews from the same con. The extras are spread across the second show disc and a third disc with just a few of the extras so there is a whole lot to dig into if you’re a dub fan but also if you want to see the Japanese creative side involved.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I love superheroes.
I grew up reading them. I was bullied for reading them. I learned a whole lot from them when morality plays were stronger in them. I’ve watched as a good chunk of the world has embraced it in a new way with all the live-action movies and TV series. I love the variety that exists in terms of storytelling and characters and I view them as essentially tales of modern gods, ones that through trends dating back to the late 80’s has had them fairly well corrupted by complex world realities. When Japan does superheroes it’s pretty hit or miss. Well, it’s mostly a matter of average to mostly miss as even the good ones are far too “Japanese” in a way owing to the structure of where they come from, such as My Hero Academia and its Weekly Shonen Jump roots.
After the unsuccessful run on the Barrage manga, Kohei Horikoshi came back to the magazine with this series in the summer of 2014 and has produced thirteen compiled volumes as of this writing. It also got a second season that’s now currently streaming and set for a two-cour run, a rarity for many properties these days that just makes it clear how well this has connected for many. Watching this season box set of the original thirteen episode run was my first experience with it as I haven’t read the manga nor watched the simulcasts, allowing me to go into it with a look at it in full and without much of the hype since it’s been a bit since it first came out. I also admittedly went into it with a bit of skepticism because of its Weekly Shonen Jump origins and that my own experience with superhero anime has been so mixed. Thankfully, this season from Bones under Kenji Nagasaki’s guidance as director, has brought out a pretty fun show that hits all the right marks that it needs to and in some ways keeps its ‘Japanese-ness” down more than a lot of other ones do.
The premise is simple enough in that this familiar world we have a time where some four generations worth of humanity have been revealed to have Quirks, abilities that surface during childhood. Approximately eighty percent of people have them while the remainder find solid lives and employment in a range of operations, including the police, that lets them be productive members of society. That doesn’t mean there isn’t ostracization of those known as the Quirkless but it’s also going to be heavier among kids and among those that are more prone to bullying because of their own issues that whittle away at their confidence. The show focuses on the Quirkless junior high student Izuku Midoriya, an earnest kid who wants to go to the U.A. high school where he can become a hero even without abilities. That’s near impossible, of course, and the majority of kids don’t go to these kinds of specialized schools either because their powers don’t warrant it or their personalities don’t.
The first few episodes delve into his junior high life and the struggle he faces there, notably from a childhood classmate named Bakugo that’s pretty much his bully due to Izuku’s lack of ability and Bakugo’s need to be superior. What works about all of this is that it takes it in a relaxed way. Izuku doesn’t suddenly gain a power and Bakugo doesn’t suddenly become a good kid as they move to the high school acceptance period. In fact, Bakugo, who I suspect will ease on things over time, pretty much spends most of this season being close to a villain and taking on that role regularly and with anger in order to push back against Izuku and others, especially as Izuku ends up getting further than anyone expected and gaining a lot of friends because of his easy personality. That makes for a predictable final act over the last few episodes where the comically named League of Villains show up and cause trouble and we see some good payoff to all the bonding.
But where does Izuku go from these early powerless stages to someone that has the potential to be the best of the best? Interestingly, it comes from the best known hero known as All Might. He’s the hero of peace and is your overpowered Superman type. But what’s neat about him, even as they find a clunky way to bring him into the school that works better once it gets settled, is that his ability is unlike anyone else’s. The idea that his power is one that is given to others, he being the third in a line of people take on the ability, is an intriguing one. It’s an element where each wielder of it has to find a worthy successor in order to continue the journey and grow that ability through different people. Known as One For All, well, it’s a classically idealized power that clicks in some intriguing ways.
There are a lot of familiar themes here to comic book fans and comic film fans. A lot of what drives characters in anime leaves me cool at best, particularly male characters. Izuku hits a certain familiar sweet spot for me as he’s like a Steve Rogers at junior high level where he can’t not act when he sees things going bad, regardless of ability. This is what draws All Might to him (and his normal self, which is creepy but intriguing as hell). The training side of this reinforces what Izuku is all about in being the right choice to carry on the role that All Might is phasing himself out of for story reasons I hope are expanded upon. Izuku’s personality is what also draws more of his classmates to him as time goes on because he is that earnest and good kid that will do anything he can for anyone for all the right reasons. It’s classic Peter Parker mixed with Captain America and Thor abilities and mindsets along the way. But wrapped up in anime styling without quite so much, at least for this season, fluff that we get or tournament level material that goes on for too long.
I’ll admit a ready wariness going into My Hero Academia. A popular manga, a popular show that spawned a two-cour follow-up quicker than I thought it would, a Weekly Shonen Jump property and a Japanese version of superheroes. The red flags were up for me in what it would be like but it managed to ease almost all of my concerns and draw together a very solid first season that while not complete feels like it could be a good wrap-up in itself. That’s largely because of my wariness of manga that have no real plan or goal with an ending in mind, resulting in series that feel directionless. It’s hard to say if that’s what will happen based on what we get here but this is a strong first entry that delivers on everything that it should with style. Funimation’s brought a lot of great things to the table with this release from encoding, the dub work, the packaging, and collecting some great extras to tie it all together with. Very recommended.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, My Hero Academia: Meet the Characters, Inside the Episodes, AnimeFest 2016: Artist Sketches, Anime Expo 2016: Interview with Kenji Nagasaki & Wakana Okamura, Anime Expo 2016: My Hero Academia Panel, Anime Expo 2016: Interview with Christopher R. Sabat & Justin Briner, Anime Expo 2016: Interview with Masahiko Minami, SimulDub Trailer, and Trailers
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: April 18th, 2017
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.