An Informal Praise of My Hero Academia

My Hero Academia is the only long-running Shonen anime that I have watched since its beginning and that I’ve kept up with since. Most other shonen are too long for me to get past the barrier to entry, so getting in on the ground floor was a great feeling. It helped that Bones was producing it and that its premise was so appealing.

80% of the world’s population has superpowers except for our protagonist? And we’re promised that – somehow, despite that – he will become the world’s greatest hero? It’s a great premise with a classic long-term promise of what’s to come. Funnily enough, despite that premise not being entirely accurate, it captured people’s attention in no time. By 2017, it was one of the biggest anime in the world.

… And for some reason I’ve never formally reviewed it until now. And with each passing season, the prospect of rewatching previous seasons to go over them seemed rather ambitious given my already inconsistent binging capabilities. So I had resigned myself to never reviewing the series. But now, five seasons and two movies strong, with the third film in theaters at the time of writing, I find myself tempted to say “screw it” and do it anyway.

So here is my review of all of My Hero Academia before the new movie comes out!

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‘The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf’ is the Best Entry Since ‘Witcher 3’

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played. A rich yet depressive fantasy epic spanning multiple nations plagued by monsters and war. It’s a story about prejudice and choosing between greater and lesser evils. Amidst all of that, it remains a world that players couldn’t help but get lost in.

After the release of the live-action Witcher series on Netflix, the game saw a resurgence in interest from fans new and old. I should know, I was replaying it too. It was a quirky and often epic show that had its highs and lows, but despite it all, I loved it. News of new spinoffs and films were only natural, but was the franchise biting off more than it could chew?

If I had any concerns, they were minor, because Nightmare of the Wolf, the first of these spinoffs, was a film I highly anticipated. It came from Studio Mir, the studio behind Legend of Korra. Everything looked in place for this to be an enjoyable prequel centered around Vesemir, Geralt’s mentor.

And somehow, this film surpassed every expectation I had.

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Shukou Murase’s Visual Masterpiece | Gundam: Hathaway

Seldom is a movie so addicting that I find myself rewatching it within a day. Even most good films hit the spot just right that I can give it at least a while before a second watch. But some movies, whether they’re short or just incredibly well-paced, get me coming back almost instantly. The kind of film varies, but they have something in common: spectacles that I can’t get out of my head.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway is one such movie. Director Shukou Murase, the man behind Gangsta, Ergo Proxy, and Genocidal Organ – among others – brings this story to life, from novel to film. It’s the first of a planned trilogy from Studio Sunrise, and it might just be the most gorgeous film to look at in 2021.

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Trigger’s Greatest Achievement Yet | SSSS.DYNAZENON

The more that time passes, the more that I look back fondly on 2018’s SSSS.GRIDMAN. At first, it was strange, but then again, a lot of the shows that I love are strange from the outset. Perhaps my threshold for weird is expanding but more likely, I just need something obtuse to keep me on my toes these days; something to truly surprise me.

Gridman was a show about Yuuta Hibiki, a boy with amnesia, finding himself embroiled in a mission to save his city from kaiju with the help of his friends. The catch was that every time the kaiju was defeated, the world was reset the next day. The buildings were rebuilt and anyone who died suddenly had their histories rewritten so that they died of unrelated causes. Only the main characters remembered anything.

There was a mystery. There was also a tangible sense of realism to the way characters talked, especially the high-school protagonists. In an interview with SakugaBlog, director Akira Amemiya confessed that schools were visited to collect data for the show’s production, yet there wasn’t much conscious thought put into making the dialogue more realistic. That almost makes it more impressive that it came off so natural.

CG robots and monsters were used to create a disparity between the character-driven story and the spectacle, similar to how miniature cities and actors in costumes are used in tokusatsu. The villain was complex and one of the best written I’ve seen in years. The reveals were shocking and the scale of the show ended up much larger than it first seemed. And little did we know all that would only be the beginning of a new universe.

From returning director Akira Amemiya and writer Keiichi Hasegawa comes the sequel to 2018’s SSSS.GRIDMAN, SSSS.DYNAZENON.

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The Bloody, Beautiful End; Castlevania’s Final Season

Castlevania Season Four.

Holy. Shit.

I won’t lie. I mean, I wouldn’t be a good critic if I ever did lie, but especially in this instance, I can’t pretend that I wasn’t worried. Season three took some bold leaps to make a story much bigger than just Dracula. For the most part, it paid off. But the finale was mixed. It could feel jarring, and not every story was particularly captivating.

Then came the official trailer for season four, along with the big reveal: this would be the last season. How in god’s name were they going to bring together all of the separate stories together into one 10-episode season? After watching it, it begs questioning why I ever doubted them.

It was a fucking home run.

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Is the Demon Slayer Movie Worth All the Broken Records?

Does the title seem too cynical? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I was absolutely delighted to hear that the new Demon Slayer did well at the box office. But then it kept doing well, and then it broke record after record at the Japanese box office. Now it’s in the US with a wide release by Funimation Films, this time with a big Sony logo emblazoned on the front (clearly the big companies are catching onto how much money anime makes). It also has an official R rating by the MPAA, whereas most limited anime releases stay unrated.

This film has the potential to do pretty damn well in the west and to stay in theaters for a while, at a time where it’s feeling safer to go to theaters, even if at half-capacity. It’s the continuation of a major hit series getting the proper cinematic treatment from Ufotable, a studio more than capable of producing hit films, with localization from a major film studio finally ready to attach its name to these anime releases. This could be huge.

But is the movie good?

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Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is Probably Better Than We Give It Credit For

Imagine: It’s 2013. You’re Tetsurou Araki, the famed director behind Death Note and Highschool of the Dead. Now, you and WIT Studio, the offspring of Production I.G., have blown the minds of anime fans new and old with an adaptation of Hajime Isayama’s manga, Attack on Titan.

The problem: You adapted too much of what was already written and there’s not nearly enough content to make a second season immediately. People are frothing at the mouth for more and you want to give it to them. That’s when a script by Ichirou Ookouchi and Hiroshi Seko catches your eye.

It’s similar to Attack on Titan, but only on the most surface level. It’s about humans surviving in walled cities against a horde of monsters with a specific weak spot. However, the setting, technology, aesthetic, and philosophy behind the action are a beast of their own. There’s something here. An opportunity to do what Attack on Titan did, with the same people, unconstrained by the wait for source material.

From director Tetsurou Araki and WIT Studio, with music by Hiroyuki Sawano, this is Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, the anime that was meant to surpass Attack on Titan.

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‘Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?’; The Best Series You Didn’t Give A Chance

How many shows have you passed on because you figured they “weren’t worth your time?” What were the factors that contributed to that impression? Was it a lack of interesting marketing? Was it the style? Or did you buy into the narrative being thrown around that a show was “trashy”?

In 2015, I watched YouTuber Demolition D+’s video on the Spring 2015 anime season and delighted in his humorous appraisal of that quarter’s entertainment. The headliner for the video was Is It Okay to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, or, DanMachi as it would come to be abridged. Demo called it an SAO clone and I didn’t so much as bat an eye because I was laughing so much.

But then the second season aired in 2019 and friends who watched it told me about the show’s world and how it was actually pretty fun and that I should give it a chance. By this point, I’d already accepted that SAO wasn’t as bad as we all thought it was, so who was I to turn down an opportunity to prove my misconceptions wrong.

After watching all three seasons of DanMachi, not only am I shocked as to how anyone could have compared this to SAO beyond the leads sharing the same VA, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka. The art styles aren’t even that similar. More than anything, I’m angry that I didn’t watch this sooner.

This is DanMachi, my new favorite fantasy anime.

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Beyond The Boundary | Kyoto Animation Unleashed

My heart has belonged to Kyoto Animation for a long time. And their shows have always looked good – that’s not even a faintly nuanced observation. The 2010s was the advent of an in-house style that helped forge their identity without ever feeling like a stagnant or limiting trait of the production house. Be it the character work by Miku Kadowaki, Futoshi Nishiya, or others, the character art is something that hasn’t quite been matched by another studio.

Even before their in-house style became synonymous with their identity, their artwork was rarely a sore spot in the final product. However, how well do we regard the actual “animation” of Kyo Ani’s works?

Pretty well as a matter of fact. Consistently. From Liz and the Blue Bird to Silent Voice, I’ve praised the subtle character movements and facial twitches that create the small reveries of human pathos. Occasionally, these dramas or slice-of-life comedies might even present an action scene. Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid had ridiculously bombastic action and even Clannad had a pretty dope fight scene. However, I get the feeling that when people say that Kyoto Animation has great animation, they actually mean “great artwork.” It’s worth distinguishing between the two.

I don’t think any show from the studio has consistently reminded me of how great their animation talent is more than one particular show. If you would permit the generalization, the average viewer may not stray close to offering a critique of actual animation outside of shows or genres that incentivize consistent motion in their presentation. Hence why most people, regardless of their inclination to media criticism, often praise the animation of the hottest shonen/action series.

Following that line of logic, this week’s review is an action show with plenty to gush over. Beyond the Boundary – Taichi Ishidate’s directorial debut – is one of my favorite works by Kyoto Animation, and what I believe to be their best-looking show. Or rather, it is the most consistently upfront with what the studio is capable of, both in TV and film.

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