How My Hero Academia Makes Shonen Power-Scaling Exciting Again

My Hero Academia is a series that pays loving tribute to classic shonen manga titles and American comic book heroes alike, embracing the classic themes of both genres such as courage, hope, changing the world for the better and rejecting evil at all costs. This series also takes steps to avoid some of the pitfalls of many shonen combat systems and power levels.

Shonen protagonists follow a basic trajectory: they start off weaker but filled with courage and hope, and must get stronger over time to defeat ever-greater villains. While there's nothing wrong with that concept, it's too easy for shonen series to handle it clumsily. My Hero Academia fixes this problem.

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How Does Do Shonen Heroes Power-Up?

Ultra Instinct Goku Punch

Many shonen series have thrilling and satisfying moments when the main character powers up and defeats the villain, but not all of these scenes are truly earned. The Dragon Ball franchise almost single-handedly created the mold for shonen action stories, including the concept of power levels, and the likes of Yu Yu Hakusho, Naruto, Bleach, One Piece and more followed suit. In some ways, shonen heroes' efforts to grow stronger and overcome their enemies mirror real people's endeavors.

A person may go to school and college and apply themselves to gain vital skills and knowledge, then work hard to improve their abilities and get a good job and become worthy of raises and promotions. Real people power up and enhance themselves, through the "combat system" that is college and the workforce, and everything is earned through hard work and diligence. How do shonen stories stack up?

For the most part, they stack up well. But there are times when the protagonist "cheats" a little or receives help from the author that borders on deus ex machina territory. An example would be Ichigo Kurosaki, the hero of Bleach. He earned his progress when he trained with Kisuke Urahara and gained his new zanpakuto, but later on, he was easily defeated by an enemy, Kenpachi Zaraki, and actually thought to himself: "I want to win!" Inexplicably, this gave Ichigo the power to not just get back up, but narrowly defeat his vastly superior foe in one last exchange of blows. No in-universe explanation is nearly enough to explain how Ichigo overcame what looked like a 1:100 power ratio.

Then, he conveniently had a special training dummy placed before him, one that allowed him to achieve bankai mode in just three days' time, as opposed to the regular 10-year training period. Ichigo trained hard during that time, but still, it's wildly convenient that such an accelerant was provided so he could cheat his way to power. And don't forget how he was born with a powerful Hollow inside him, a power he didn't earn.

Then there's Naruto Uzumaki, who's in many ways a model for Izuku. To Naruto's credit, he put in a lot of hard work to learn new jutsu and become strong enough to defeat villains such as Pain/Nagato and the rest of the Akatsuki. But while he was advertised as "the boy who started from zero," Naruto was born with the immense power of the nine-tailed fox, giving him a huge edge. Even without training, Naruto could overwhelm his enemies, such as when his Biju powers activated and he turned the tables on Haku. Later, it was revealed that Naruto was the incarnation of Ashura, Hagoromo Otsutsuki's son, while Sasuke was the incarnation of Indra. Suddenly, Naruto was very special, chosen by destiny to reshape the ninja world. He didn't work hard to earn it; he was born that way.

The Way Izuku Midoriya Powers-Up Is Better Than the Norm

Unlike Naruto and Ichigo, who were born with special powers inside them, Izuku truly started with nothing. He was born Quirkless in a Quirk-centric world. As a young boy, this crushed his spirits, but before long, Izuku turned this around. He learned to carefully study the Quirks and fighting styles of heroes and villains alike, and he puts this knowledge to good use. More importantly, there's the matter of One For All, the ultimate Quirk.

While Naruto and Ichigo had to merely tame the power inside them, Izuku had to earn the right to receive that power from an outside party. He had the guts, courage and smarts to be a proper hero, and All Might recognized that. Izuku trained hard under All Might's tutelage to gain a much stronger body. It nearly broke him, but after a year, Izuku earned the right to receive One For All at last, and he made the most of that Quirk. Rather than coasting on the "power of friendship," Izuku sought out partners and mentors who could hone his skills further, and he turned to Gran Torino to learn more about One For All and its application.

Later still, Izuku joined Mirio Togata at the Nighteye agency, proving that Izuku needs practical friends who can further his skills, not just a pal to hang out with. Compared to other shonen heroes, all of Izuku's abilities truly feel like they were earned the hard way.

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