What do the best athletes do in their downtime? Perhaps stretch, strategize on their game, sure. But those really looking to level up take a different approach: watching anime.
Or at least that’s what the 19-year-old American tennis sensation Coco Gauff does. Gauff, who qualified for her first U.S. Open singles final on Thursday night by defeating Karolina Muchova, said that her postmatch plans would include watching anime. In particular, Gauff said, she’s a fan of “My Hero Academia.” When asked how she would be spending the rest of her evening, Gauff responded: “Press. Treatment. Watch some anime. No, literally today I watched like four or five episodes of ‘My Hero Academia’ before I played.”
“My Hero Academia” is an adaptation of a popular superhero manga series that started in 2014 and takes place in a world where almost everyone has a “quirk,” or superpower. Quirks range from something of the Marvel variety (like the ability to throw fiery blasts) to the more outlandish (like the power to manipulate denim). Izuku Midoriya, a young superhero fanboy, is one of the rare “quirkless” individuals, though he still dreams of somehow becoming the top hero. When Midoriya is finally gifted with powers, he enrolls in a prestigious academy where the students learn how to become part of the next generation of superheroes.
A buoyant yet tender action-comedy, “M.H.A.” is one of today’s more mainstream anime, with a following that includes both hard-core fans of the genre and the occasional dabblers. (The show’s seventh season is scheduled to drop next year.) Its success isn’t hard to explain: the massive, colorful cast of heroes and the dubious, fantastically powered villains offer a playful new take on the superhero craze. The escalating arcs, and the themes of ambition, friendship and justice, also place “M.H.A.” among the ranks of beloved anime franchises such as “Naruto,” “Bleach” and “One Piece,” all of which have had crossover appeal with American audiences.
“My Hero Academia” is available to stream on Hulu, Crunchyroll and Funimation. The best way to get into this superpowered coming-of-age series is to start from the beginning and follow Midoriya from his muggle days through his development to an exemplary hero-in-training (and even a hero intern).
Midoriya’s journey in particular — in which he must train himself physically, mentally and emotionally to master his new abilities and then face off against villains and his peers on top of classes and exams — may most appeal to those looking to achieve their own heroic feats. After all, the show’s inspirational, if redundant, catchphrase is “Go beyond! Plus ultra.” For “M.H.A.” fans, whether they’re going for a jog around the block or preparing for the biggest matches of their career, going beyond means not just being good, but being extraordinary.