My Hero Academia has become an international sensation in recent years, partly because of the near-global appeal of the superhero and action genres. In the series, many characters and scenes pay tribute to classic American comic book heroes and beloved shonen titles of yesteryear -- everything is rooted in the idea of heroism, even the name of U.A. High School.
A new fan of My Hero Academia might wonder what "U.A." actually stands for, especially as it's not immediately obvious in English or outright explained. It can easily come off as an English phrase, given how characters say "U.A." even in the original Japanese dub, but it's actually a bit more than that. Keeping in the grand tradition of shonen gag names, U.A.'s name is a multi-layered pun of international proportions.
The Bilingual Pun Of U.A.'s Name
There's long been a bit of confusion among some My Hero Academia fans over what U.A.'s name is supposed to mean in the original Japanese, but the answer is clear if you know what to look for: series creator Kohei Horikoshi was simply having fun with double meanings, and not just in his native language. In fact, a blog posted by KansaiChick spells it all out -- the secret behind U.A.'s name lies in what the school is actually for -- heroes.
The full name of Deku and co.'s school in Japanese is "雄英高等学校 (Yuuei High School)." Those first two kanji at the beginning of the school's name, "雄英," are spoken as "yuuei," which conveniently sounds like "U.A." This is clearer in Japanese, but the word for "hero" uses the same kanji: "英雄,” which reads as "eiyuu." This means that "U.A." is the word hero backward! To top the pun off, Horikoshi gave all this a dash of international flair, though it's often mistaken for a translation error.
The School's Letters Are Impossible To Mistake
At first glance, it may seem that translators took "yuuei" too literally, and mistakenly thought that the characters were saying the English letters "U" and "A." But this was no error. It's clear from the manga and anime's art that the letters U.A. really are a part of all this, creating a bilingual double meaning. The original Japanese kanji meanings are preserved, but at the same time, Horikoshi realized that "yuuei" sounds like "U.A.," and he took advantage of that. The English letters appear in everything from official merch to the shape of the school itself.
The P.E. uniforms of U.A. especially show this off, as the blocky letters "U" and "A" clearly appear front and center on the outfits. The "U" forms around the uniform's neckline and the A extends from the mid-chest to the legs. Read from top to bottom, the letters are indeed "U.A." This gym uniform was widely seen during the U.A. sports festival and during the Season 3 scene where Mirio Togata fought most of class 1-A by himself and won.
While the joke isn't readily apparent in English, it's still fairly easy to understand. Many anime and manga series tend to have puns that get lost in translation, but it's nice to see that, while "U.A. High School" could've been one of them, this neat little gag instead opened the door to a moment of cultural exchange for many fans. It makes one wonder what other puns are hiding in plain sight across popular anime.