Breaking the Manga Mold

For many years now I have been reading manga a form of Japanese graphic novel. Compared to American graphic novels, manga is a diverse form of graphics that bring more to the table than a single genre. I can say with confidence that unless actual take the time to read from the multiple genres the glory of what manga is stays below the misconceptions it gains at first glance.

These graphic novels can go from the magic girl, shoujo (genre meant girls in their preteen and early teenage years) to down right disturbing in the seinen ( genre meant for teen boys or men that are eighteen and up) and physiological. Before reading it is always a good thing to look at the genre it falls into, or else you might be finding something you really had not been wanting to read. With this in mind manga actually can appeal to a lot of audiences once they are use to reading the right to left panels when looking at the translations.


From the manga Snow White with Red Hair
From the manga Snow White with Red Hair
From Attack on Titain
From the manga Attack on Titan








Unlike some american graphic novels, manga is not usually episodic, meaning it stays along with the characters through each step of their story and no major jump to lose sight of what is going on. As much as manga parallels with many actual novels in its narrative I want to focus on a specific manga that has been breaking many of the stereotypes and tropes within manga as well as other forms of graphic novels. This manga is called Boku no Hero Academia, or in the English tittle My Hero Academia. If you couldn’t guess some spoilers for the series a head.

Cover of the First Volume of My Hero Academia
Cover of the First Volume of My Hero Academia by Horikoshi Kouhei


This graphic novel has been coming out for two years now, and has been gaining a growing fan base since. This was actual inspired by Spider-man in its creation, but also makes its own way in a superhero inspired universe. The manga itself is based in a universe where about 90% of people develop powers at the age of four known as “quirks”. There is only one character meant to have the American hero design and that is the man in red and blue with spied blonde hair known as “All Might”. In this manga that is where most of common stereotypes and tropes start to fall short.

The main character is Izuku Midoriya, also known as Deku, he is actually one of the few individuals that does not have a quirk, but he is still determined to become a hero. The narrative in this story is unlike many others in its genre of shounen (meant for teenage boys)/ action and the few other it fits into. His mother is alive and actual cares about his physical being, they actual learn things when they go to school, and the main character actual has a brain as well as strength.

However, the one of the things that stand out the most in this narrative is that Deku has to struggle to earn his quirk and even after that has to master it, and not in an unreasonable amount of time. For a while he even ends up breaking his own body in order to use the quirk he obtained through All Might, shown in the image below in the bottom panel Deku middle finger breaks after using quirk to attack.

Using Quirk One for All in his finger, hurting himself in the process
Using Quirk One for All in his finger, hurting himself in the process.

There is also the concept that the student takes over for the previous hero, which gets pushed along in this series not because All Might wants to retire, but because he physically cannot continue fighting from an injury he received five years before the time of the first chapter.

Apart form the narrative two other aspects of this manga stand out with what we have been discussing in class. These are the actual panels and the sound affects within the work. Manga has an interesting way of fitting what it wants on a page even if that means breaking the barrier that the panels set up. Much of the time the breaks from the frames will lead the eye from one area to the next to guide the reader where to go. It can range from word bubbles to some ones hand or fingers, in the case of the series many of the action shots use this to enhance the scene’s intensity. Nor in manga are all the panels rectangles which seems to fit some scenes better than a standard frame might.

Breaking free from the frame
Breaking free from the frame.

The background sounds this manga are interesting in the way that there is no separate bubble for these sound affects. What is done that the artist puts the words in the background where the noise would be. The font changes along with the sound to show its impact and intensity such as shaky bold letters for explosions or small skinny letters for a small swish.

Small sound in the back after All Might Changes back to his real size
Small sound in the back after All Might Changes back to his real size.

With all that in mind this manga is one of the most popular series in recent years. It is breaking through common ideologies that deal with hero and with comics in general. If you would like to read this manga, a online version can be found here.

Leave a Reply