Just when you thought that you have seen it all in comics, there was the runaway success of "Attack On Titan” that was a departure from the zombie genre. It is an extinction-level story about what was left of humanity trying to survive the attacks of a race of human-eating giants. While the live action film was universally panned, the manga remains popular and is a cross-over hit across the oceans.
To paraphrase Brad Pitt’s Achilles in the film “Troy” — Is there any story left? Any genre or topic left to explore?
Yes, there are! There are a couple of manga that have been massive hits in Japan and have been received very well by Western audiences. Both are of the superhero genre -- Yusuke Murata’s "One Punch Man," and Kohei Horikoshi’s "My Hero Academia” yet offer somewhat different takes.
"One Punch Man"
Tells the adventures of Saitama whose dream is to become a hero. In this world over-run by monsters and super-powered villains, heroes register with the Heroes Association and are ranked in terms of their battles won and popularity in social media. Saitama with this country bumpkin type of innocence and attitude goes about vanquishing foes with one punch! Yes, one punch. Along the way, he picks up a disciple in Genos, a cyborg with dreams of glory but whose perspective on the hero business and life is drastically changed by the simplistic and bald-headed Saitama.
The genius behind "One Punch Man" is the absurdness of how Saitama goes through life and his hilarious take. Imagine Forrest with super strength.
There is no super soldier formula that has made him strong and near impervious to harm. He fights for fun and eating udon and spends his free time reading manga!
As great as the manga is, the animated version — incredibly faithful to the original story and art — is even better and infinitely more hilarious.
The series thus far, encompassing 104 chapters, has been collected into 10 tankobon or volumes; four of which have been translated and printed in English by Viz Media.
"My Hero Academia"
This is ongoing series is probably closer to its Western superhero cousins than any other story out in Japanese manga today.
Unlike "One Punch Man’s" Saitama who worked hard for his powers, Izuku Midoriya has no powers. He is is a generic anomaly in a world filled with people who have “quirks” or powers (80% of the world’s population are superhuman). Along with the explosion of powers came the rise in crime, hence the need for heroes who can not only earn pay while doing good deeds but can win fame and glory.
For his being normal, he is oft bullied until one such time when the world’s mightiest hero, All Might, witnesses Izuku’s courage and bestows upon him a fraction of his power. Now Izuku can enrol in the world’s superhero academy, UA Academy, to learn how best to utilize his newfound powers.
A school for heroes isn’t new. There is famously, Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in "The Uncanny-X-Men." More recently, there’s King’s Dominion High School for the Deadly Arts that trains future assassins in the surprise indie hit, "Deadly Class" from Image Comics.
In “My Hero Academia,” Izuku not only doesn’t have a full grasp of his powers but he struggles to belong at UA Academy. It’s like a young Peter Parker in a Japanese setting.
Thus far, there are six tankobons released with four versions translated and published in English by Viz Media.
If you like the superhero fare in comic books, check out “One Punch Man” and “My Hero Academia” for Japan’s take on this classic American invention.
"One Punch Man" and "My Hero Academia" are available at local comic book stores and places like Fullybooked that carry a large number of manga.