Popular Manga Explained: My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi

Have you ever wondered what the heck people are talking about when they rave about a series of manga (Japanese comics read from right-to-left) or anime (Japanese animation)? So have I – and luckily for you I have made it my mission to educate myself about things I never seem to stop hearing about. My latest escapade was into the wildly popular My Hero Academia manga series, which is also a smash hit anime available on DVD. Here’s my breakdown of what it’s all about, my reading experience and why all lovers of superhero stories and high school dramas should give it a try.

My Hero Academia is like The Karate Kid meets The X-Men. It imagines a world where 80% of people are born with a unique superpower, or Quirk, that sets them up for a life of superhero stardom or villainy (depending on their preference). In a world where amazing superheroes are commonplace, a boy named Midoriya (also called Deku) is their biggest fan and a dedicated memorizer of superhero trivia. He wants nothing more than to be a hero himself one day, but unfortunately for his dreams he was born without a Quirk – a fact his bully Bakugo (also called Kacchan) never lets him forget. Then one day, a chance encounter with All Might, the most legendary superhero of all, changes his fate and plunges him into the cutthroat world of the city’s best superhero training academy. Deku finds himself making new friends and enemies, meeting unusual classroom demands, AND struggling to master his new abilities without revealing how he got them. Action, hilarity, and inspiring determination ensue.

Personally, my main struggle with manga is getting into the right headspace – as translated works they have an entirely different culture built in which takes some getting used to when you start reading. Most obviously, you start at the opposite end of the book from where Western books begin, and you read from the right side of the page to the left. If you can make that switch, there’s Japanese names to master and a very dramatic art style. However, once I get my brain in the right gear, I love manga’s big-scale action and even bigger-scale emotions, not to mention the wildly creative character design. My Hero Academia in particular is the ultimate underdog story, filled with a wildly diverse set of characters, each with a very unique superpower to set them apart. I quickly got hooked and wanted more of Deku’s unending perseverance. Bonus: if you’re not into the different reading style, you can watch the anime to get the same story in color.

If you like teen dramas, superheroes, mutants, and/or underdogs, this may be a story for you. And the library has all the manga volumes AND anime seasons, so it’s never too late to jump in and experience the phenomenon.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

“This is what it means to be a feminist. Not a humanist or an equalist or whatever. But a feminist. It’s not a bad word. After today it might be my favorite word. Because really all it is is girls supporting each other and wanting to be treated like human beings in a world that’s always finding ways to tell them they’re not.” – Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu is a young adult novel about a teenager starting a feminist revolution in her Texas high school. The administration’s, as well as the student body’s, responses to this revolution play a very large part in this book.

Vivian Carter is annoyed. It may have taken her a while to want to do anything about it, but she is fed up. The football team can do no wrong and it has to stop. The boys on the football team are getting away with rampant sexual harassment of the girls in the school while the administration sits by and does nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. Instead of punishing the boys, the administration has instead ramped up sexist dress code enforcements: pulling girls out of class and forcing them to wear giant gym uniforms. There doesn’t seem to be an actual dress code that they are following, but the girls are bearing the brunt of the blame. In addition to the increased number of dress code checks, the guys in the school are also harassing the girls in the hallway with violating games they make up. Combined with disgusting, gross, and degrading comments made by the guys during class that the teachers don’t punish and Vivian is done. The guys have been getting away for too much for too long. It’s time for a change.

Needing to blow off steam, but not wanting to get in trouble, Vivian remembers the box of zines that her mother has in her closet. Her mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s. She was tough and didn’t put up with bad behavior from anyone. Drawing from the strength she finds in her mother’s memory box, Viv creates a feminist zine that she distributes to her classmates, anonymously of course. This zine was just meant as a way for her to vent her anger, but other girls start responding to it. The more popular the zine becomes, the more the girls of her high school band together across cliques and popularity. It gains traction throughout the school and soon Moxie Girls are planning events and protests of their own. If the administration won’t take action, the Moxie Girls will demand it.

After all, MOXIE GIRLS FIGHT BACK!

This book has also been made into a movie on Netflix directed by Amy Poehler.