There are many reasons My Hero Academia is successful, among them a diverse cast of characters, a world of action and discovery, and an overall sense of positivity that can be downright infectious. One aspect of the series that I think cannot be underestimated is the charm and appeal of the main character, Izuku Midoriya, aka Deku. While the notion of a boy who fulfills his latent potential through hard work and a sense of goodness is not uncommon in shounen manga, Deku’s appeal also comes from how his character stands at a crossroads of both shounen protagonist and superhero archetypes.
In the world of My Hero Academia, All Might is the hero among heroes, beloved by nearly everyone. One of the recurring themes of My Hero Academia is the unique burden that comes with being All Might: the premier symbol of hope and peace. Being in such a visible position means that people from all walks of life see the spotlight on All Might. As a result, characters like Bakugo, Todoroki, and Midoriya view All Might and the values he represents in different lights, which transforms the ways in which they imitate or emulate the #1 hero.
While the Japanese equivalents of superheroes have been common in anime and manga for decades, more recently we have seen titles that draw direct inspiration from the American ‘”spandex and capes” aesthetic. Titles such as Tiger & Bunny, One Punch Man, Don’t Meddle in My Daughter (NSFW), and currently My Hero Academia refer to their good guys as “heroes,” their bad guys as “villains,” and just overall show the impact of both Marvel and DC’s superhero films on Japanese pop culture. If One Punch Man and its hero Saitama can be thought of as a take on Superman through the lens of manga, then My Hero Academia can be considered a Japanese cultural translation of Captain America.