Though My Hero Academia fans will wage war over which opening theme is the best (and most meme-worthy), careful analysis of all three reveals they're equally necessary in telling a secret narrative about Deku's evolution.
My Hero Academia, or Boku no Hero Academia in Japan, is the latest Shonen Jump hit anime and manga series following juggernauts like Dragon Ball Z, One Piece and Naruto. By tapping into the superhero stories of Western culture and blending them with more Eastern storytelling conventions, the series has become somewhat of an international sensation.
The show is often celebrated for its exceptional character development, but one hidden arc has gone unnoticed by many: the developing relationship between the greatest hero in the series, All Might, and his young successor, Izuku "Deku" Midoriya, depicted beautifully across all three anime openings.
As pointed out by YouTube user TazerLad, each opening commences with two very specific characters: All Might and Deku. How their faces, body language, proximity and location change across all three openings subtly tells the story of Deku's journey toward becoming the greatest hero that ever lived. Check it out:
Opening 1: The Dream
In Opening 1, Deku stands behind a silhouette of All Might, reaching for, but unable to touch, whom he considers to be heroism personified. Deku's face is scared and unsure, while All Might offers him only a quick glance before the scene cuts away. Also note the background — a dream-like setting of dazzling lights, as if we're in a fantasy of Deku's.
Between the beginning of Season 1 and the start of Season 2, Deku goes through a lot. Born without a quirk (or super power), Deku inherits the strength of the greatest hero in the world, and is accepted into the most prestigious school for superheroes. Alongside his classmates, he went toe-to-toe with the mysterious League of Villains during their invasion of the academy and left relatively unharmed (thanks, Recovery Girl!).
Opening 2: The Real World
Opening 2 again begins with a focus on All Might and Deku. This time, however, Deku stands on a rooftop in a real-world locale as opposed to the fantasy background of Opening 1.
The visible doubt and fear seen on Deku's face in Opening 1 is completely wiped away, replaced with confidence, determination and a smile. This is key, as All Might's greatest trademark is the smile he wears into every battle. It's something Deku has mentioned wanting to replicate on more than one occasion.
This time, All Might is seen leaping through the skies with a full side profile visible to Deku as opposed to just his back. All Might and young Midoriya now exist in the same playing field, and Deku's facial expression is less astonished and more full of respect for a friend. The two heroes aren't yet equals, but they supply each other strength.
Opening 3: The Day Has Come
Following the epic and emotionally charged sports tournament arc, Opening 3 takes the biggest leap in terms of Deku's development. The first shot sees Deku reach out to the sky before turning around in a combat-ready pose, only to be greeted by none other than All Might.
This is key, as for the first time it's All Might who comes to Deku, not Deku who reaches out or admires him from a distance. Deku has gone from seeing All Might from behind, from the side, to now head-on. It's also worth nothing that if Deku didn't turn around to face him, All Might would be staring at Deku from behind in a mirror of Opening 1.
While that in itself feels thematically complete, things don't stop there. Next, Deku and All Might smile at each other with complete confidence before reaching out for an embrace. No longer is Deku grasping at an idealized fantasy All Might is within reach, and his power flows through Deku's very being.
The background is now real instead of dreamy; the colors green not golden; All Might coming to Deku; Deku finally reaching All Might. Viewed in succession, Openings 1 to 3 offer an elegant and touching abridged version of Izuku "Deku" Midoriya's journey throughout the series. Deku grows out of his icon's shadow and truly becomes a hero in his own right.
Deku still has a long way to go before mastering both the power and charm of heroes before him, but his bravery and growing independence have him well on his way to becoming the next symbol of peace. Now, if only he could stop breaking his own bones.
Where do you predict Deku and All Might's relationship going next?