It’s hard to miss how My Hero Academia draws inspiration from American superhero comics, whether it’s the use of half-tone screens and visible sound effects, the dazzling array of colorful spandex uniforms and creative super hero aliases, or the sheer existence of All Might himself, a paragon—perhaps even parody—of superheroism, down to being the only character in the show shaded with solid blacks.
But don’t be fooled for a moment, as it’s still a very Japanese show. The main cast attend a superhero school (because of course they do), and our protagonist, Midoriya “Deku” Izuku is set to follow the ever-popular zero-to-hero shounen journey. In a world where 80% of the population is born with a “quirk,” the show’s name for super powers, Deku is forced to face that he, no matter how much he strives to be a super hero like his idol All Might, cannot overcome the immutable fact that he has no quirk to call his own.
Despite this, Deku is so emotionally invested in the concept of the superhero that he constantly assesses every battle he witnesses, detailing countless minutia and cataloging it in his hero notebook. It is with this knowledge that he manages to face a supervillain and attempt to save his childhood friend Bakugo from certain death. Through this selfless bravery, All Might realizes that Midoriya has what it takes to be a superhero and reveals a tremendous secret, that he can pass on his powers—and that he has chosen the green-haired youth to receive them.
Honestly, I was half-disappointed by this. I saw in Midoriya’s first “battle” the potential for something unique, a shounen show that bucked the “blessed golden child with the ultimate power” in favor of Deku, a selfless, caring boy who would somehow make it through by his wits alone, using his encyclopedic knowledge to overcome his lack of a quirk and become a hero despite it all. When All Might passed on a small piece of his power, I crossed my fingers for it to be a sort of Dumbo’s feather.
This was not to be, of course, as Midoriya does in fact inherit All Might’s quirk “One For All,” but the show cleverly manages to accomplish everything I hoped anyway. With the immense power provided by One For All, Deku is grievously injured any time he attempts to use it. While this does provide his character a built-in McGuffin any time the plot calls for it, for the most part Deku has to creatively work around using his quirk as minimally as possible. It spins the usual shounen trope of overcoming obstacles with reckless shows of power and makes every encounter an exercise in careful calculation. Moreover, Deku’s constant sacrifice is just a magnificent tear-jerker every time the show’s excellent musical score swells.
That’s pretty fitting, since I think there’s good argument that Deku did have a quirk: the ability to pour forth obscene amounts of bodily fluids out of his face.
But Deku is just one part of My Hero Academia. I think what is actually one of the most fascinating things about the show is how the main characters work together. Hero teamups—heck, superhero teamups, are hardly a new concept, but whereas it’s typically just a merry-go-round of characters showing off their expertise, My Hero Academia really highlights the students using their quirks in creative ways to overcome each other’s weaknesses and maximize their potential. Whether it’s Yaoyorizu using her “Creation” quirk to create a electric proof barrier so Kaminari can shock the field, or Todoroki cooling off Iida’s overheated engine exhausts so he can wrench out just a little more power, watching these young heroes triumph in the face of adversity is a joy to watch.
If there were a criticism I’d level at My Hero Academia, it’s that there’s some serious body horror going on. Whether it’s Iida’s aforementioned exhaust pipes jutting unnaturally out of his calves, Hanta ejecting tape from his elbows, or just Midoriya’s penchant for flying through the air with multiple limbs broken and flailing, I can’t help but continuously be a little squicked out as I watch.
Yet, it’s hard to complain too much about that, as there’s so many genuinely fascinating quirks being shown off here. There’s standbys like super strength and super speed of course, but then there’s Ochaco’s ability to eliminate gravity for everything she touches, Yaoyorizu’s creation, and yes, even Mineta’s super-sticky hair balls that remind you that My Hero Academia is more than just a nod to the Western super hero, but instead a uniquely awesome thing of its own.
Moreover, despite the fact there are a lot of really weird looking quirks, this is never brought up by any character. There’s no teasing, no horror, no disgust. Everyone’s differences are accepted—embraced really. In the end, the show is a tribute to what we can do together, and that’s a goal that surpasses prejudice and shame. We can all be heroes—we can go beyond. Even if we don’t have a quirk.
My Hero Academia and OVA
Many moons ago, I remember reading on a forum where someone criticized the original edition of OVA as “just a supers game with an anime coat of paint.” I never really saw this as much of a criticism. What is a supers game, after all, if not a system attempting to embrace all possibilities? But hey, I guess that means it’s well-suited for My Hero Academia, right? Let’s take a crack at representing a few of the show’s many unique quirks.
One For All (Midoriya)—Few things compare to the sheer power behind One For All. Wielded by All Might, it’s a strength so powerful that seemingly no enemy can withstand it, and even simple feats like jumping appear more like flying. However, in the hands of an inexperienced youth like Midoriya, it is an unwieldy, dangerous power—one that’s as likely to hurt the user as it is to accomplish its goals. When a character activates One For All, they must make a roll using their One For All dice and compare it a DN based on the Bonus they wish to receive.
- +2 Bonus — 6 DN
- +4 Bonus — 8 DN
- +6 Bonus — 10 DN
- +8 Bonus — 12 DN
- +10 Bonus — 15 DN
This Bonus still goes into effect even if the roll is failed. However, the character will receive an Impairment. If the character attempted a DN of 6 or 8, it will be a –1 Impairment. 10 or 12, –2, and 15, –3.
The Bonus only applies to one action. If the character wishes to apply the Bonus to another, they must again roll on the previous table—and again risk injury.
Characters with more training can take advantage of a more sustainable version of the One For All Quirk. It’s less effective for the same difficulty. However, the bonus may be maintained throughout a single combat. This is called Full Cowling.
- +1 Bonus — 6 DN
- +2 Bonus — 8 DN
- +3 Bonus — 10 DN
- +4 Bonus — 12 DN
- +5 Bonus — 15 DN
Unlike with the more powerful version of One For All, Full-Cowling failure doesn’t injure the character. However, they are Stunned and lose their action. If they want to receive their desired bonus, they must try again next round.
One For All’s Bonus is generally for strength related tasks, though it can also be harnessed for speed and maneuverability when appropriate. The Game Master has the final say on what can and can’t be accomplished with One For All.
Explosion (Bakugo)—The Explosion quirk is a fairly straightforward damage-dealing ability best represented with a suite of attacks, . However, creative use of these explosions can allow for increased Quickness and even something akin to Flight, so including these Abilities would be appropriate.
- Explosion (Affinity: Explosion)
- Howitzer Impact (Area Effect x2; Delayed; 15 Endurance)
- Stun Grenade (No Damage; Blinding; 0 Endurance)
- AP Shot (Armor Piercing, Effective; Inaccurate; 5 Endurance)
Zero Gravity (Uraraka)—Zero Gravity is effectively the Telekinesis Ability with the following limitations: A character must touch the object before it can be manipulated, and any objects of 12 or higher difficulty will cause the user to become nauseated soon afterwards. A character suffering from Zero Gravity induced nausea may take no Actions next turn, not even Defense Rolls, while they recover.
The user may also cancel the effect of Zero Gravity at any time by placing their fingertips together. The resulting falling objects may be quite dangerous themselves. Use the DX chart on page 110 of OVA, and the Distance Fallen chart on page 111 to represent this.
Engine (Iida)—Characters with this Quirk receive a Bonus to all tests of speed equal to their Level in Engine. In addition, through the Recipro Burst maneuver, a character may receive double this Bonus for the next two rounds. However, this comes at the cost of not being able to use the Quirk at all for a significant amount of time. (Usually for the rest of the encounter, but this is ultimately left to the Game Master’s discretion.)
If the exhaust pipes for the Engine are in any way obstructed, the Quirk cannot work. By the same token, if another character can forcibly cool down the overworked Engine from Recipro Burst, the effect may be extended another two rounds.
Hot & Cold (Todoroki)—Whereas most heroes’ quirks tend to be rather focused, Todoroki’s hot and cold halves give him a pretty versatile moveset. At the forefront is the sheer power of his attacks, so giving him high Levels in Attack is a must. (Don’t forget to include Affinities for Hot AND cold!) His ice side can also be creatively used as a Barrier.
Frog Form (Asui)—While it might be tempting to assign a bunch of custom Abilities to represent various frog powers of leaping and tongue swinging, you can really cover both with elevated levels of Agile and Quick. Including an attack with the Paralyzing Perk and Ineffective or No Damage Flaws for more offensive uses of her tongue is also a good idea. And Ranged. Lots and lots of Ranged. Camouflage is easily covered by Art of Invisibility or even full-on Invisibility.
Creation (Yaoyorozu)—The Creation Quirk works similarly to Dimensional Pocket (p. 52 of OVA). However, difficulty—instead of being based on usefulness—is based on the size of the item being created, and instead of rolling against a Difficulty Number, more difficult items simply take longer to create.
- Tiny — 3 Rounds
- Small — 4 Rounds
- Moderate — 5 Rounds
- Sizable — 6 Rounds
- Large — 7 Rounds
- Immense — 8 Rounds
For each Level you have in Creation, reduce the number of Rounds required by 1. If this number is reduced to zero, the item may be created instantaneously. It still requires an Action, but the item is immediately in your possession.
There are a few other limitations to Creation: Only inanimate objects may be created, and objects created require exposed skin to manifest. Larger items require greater surface area in order to successfully complete, making minimal attire preferable when using this quirk.
Hardening (Kirishima)—One’s first impulse may be to represent this quirk with Armored, and that would work fine. But I think using Barrier is a better fit for two reasons: 1) Hardening is almost always shown as completely negating Damage, which only Barrier can do reliably, and 2) Hardening grows less effective over time. This can easily be representing by having less and less Endurance to spend on nullifying damage.
Hardening also seems to impart some bonus to power, so including a few Levels of Strong is also probably a good idea.
Electrification (Kaminari)—Some heavy doses of Area Effect and Effective combined with Cancel (Non-Conductive Objects) and a special Flaw of short-circuiting the brain will result in suitably shocking Ability.
Dark Shadow (Tokoyami)—Dark Shadow is a powerful, versatile quirk that’s not terribly well-defined in what it can and can’t do. In general, a character with this quirk has great offensive and defensive capabilities, and the fact that it is the “Dark Shadow” doing the work can be written off as flavor as opposed to being individually represented as a “power.”
What can be specifically represented is Dark Shadow’s most overt shortcoming—the fact that it is much less powerful in bright light than it is in darkness. The WeaknessSuppressed Power will do the trick nicely. One can also throw in Accidental Transformation to represent the loss of control should Dark Shadow’s own force of will overwhelm the user’s.
Pop Off (Mineta)—Oh Mineta—to be honest, you could probably just handwave all of Mineta’s “powers” since he’s played up almost entirely for comic relief. But if you want, you could make a suite of Attacks using Perks like Impairing and Paralyzingbut the No Damage Flaw. Trap is another great consideration.
And that’s it for My Hero Academia! Of course, there are many, many other students with equally OVA-able quirks—and I haven’t even touched on the faculty or the villains—but it should give you a good start on putting a little PLUS ULTRA in your game. But for the sake of discussion, what is your favorite quirk missing from this list? Tell me in the comments below!