In today’s world, there’s so much violence and hatred that it gets to be a chore to even bring yourself to want to go outside. I have to admit that there are a lot of days where I struggle to leave the house because I don’t know if I’ll make it back. It was hard enough when there was a possibility that I could be robbed or shot by another civilian but now there’s an even greater fear because videos of police violence and this feeling of not knowing how to prevent that from happening to me.
It is because of this that I find so much comfort in shounen manga and the subsequent anime shows, most recently My Hero Academia. One thing about the characters in shounen manga and anime that resonates with me that I can’t seem to find or haven’t been able to find in Western Comics is fear. A lot of heroes just seem to have a cool head or they show momentary doubts, but they do not get crippled by fear. In many of the anime and manga that I’ve watched when the protagonists go through frightening situations, they are visibly frightened. At least it’s a fear I can relate to (shaking, perhaps on the verge of tears, etc). Still, they all find a way to eventually overcome that fear in a way that is usually more satisfying than what I see in mainstream Western comics and helps me overcome my own fears. This has only become that much more apparent in my watching of My Hero Academia.
In My Hero Academia, the protagonist Izuku is a person in a world of heroes. People have powers called quirks and in this world, almost everyone has a quirk. The kids at his school have quirks, his mom has quirks, his dad has a quirk, everyone has one. Izuku looks forward to having his own work so that he can become a hero like his idol All-Might. Unfortunately, he learns he has a condition that means that he will never develop a quirk which ultimately means that he can’t become a hero. But despite everyone (including All-Might himself) telling him that he can’t, he still wants to be a hero.
The thing that sticks with me about My Hero Academia is the fact that Izuku is unsure of himself. He mumbles, he’s a bit of a hero otaku, and for the most part he’s kind of sad. Yet in the first episode when his biggest tormentor is being held hostage by a villain and no one knows what to do, Izuku runs to save him. He’s shaking and he’s afraid but out of a crowd of heroes, the kid with no powers runs to save the guy who’s been a dick to him forever. The quiet kid who they’ve nicknamed Deku (which means nothing) runs head-on into danger when he has no powers. And he’s not cool about it or dropping one-liners, he’s actually in tears as he runs forward. But the fact that he runs forward with tears in his eyes resonated with me and made me want to watch more of the show. I’ll be honest, I teared up a little because I could somehow find myself relating to that more than anything I’ve seen in mainstream Comics or in mainstream comic films.
As a black person in the United States, there are times where I find myself terrified to leave the house. When people are sharing videos of people who look like you getting brutally shot over small offenses, it doesn’t exactly feel safe. Add to that the general dismissal by the majority of people which make me feel as if my life doesn’t matter and it’s only amplified. If I were to get shot reaching for my wallet or for having my black cell phone in the cup holder (something I tend to do), I can’t help but feel like there are people who will find an excuse as to why it is my fault. There are many times when it feels like this country (and often the world) wants me dead but despite my fears, I find myself wanting to be like Izuku and face my fear head-on. Sometimes I think that’s a part of why Japanese comics in Japanese animation resonate with so many black youth. There are so many times were the protagonist strikes out to overcome world that hates them. They are treated as less and they are often afraid, but they move forward and eventually overcome. I can’t speak for every black person but that resonates with me more then a bunch of superheroes with quips and smirking in the face of danger. It resonates with me a lot.
if you haven’t seen My Hero Academia, I highly recommend it. The show has a lot of heart and I find that the protagonist is much less obnoxious as some of the protagonists in these type of shows can be. The entire first season is currently on Hulu and if it doesn’t follow One Punch Man to Toonami, I will be very surprised.
But to all the people like me who see the news and struggle when it’s time to leave the safety of your house, go beyond. Because no matter what happens, the fact that you kept going in the face of all that is happening makes you a hero. At least to me.