This week, fans of My Hero Academia got a prime showcase of why All Might is the no. 1 guy in the pro hero world. The show's latest episode, "Symbol of Peace", featured the climatic fight between All Might and his nemesis All For One, and it certainly did not disappoint!
All Might's deepest secret (his true form) was revealed to the world, but that moment of weakness didn't stop the Symbol of Peace from living up to his title - if only one last time.
Now that it looks like All Might has used up the last of his power, and will end his career as a pro hero, we're saying something that may be a hot take, but needs to be said all the same: Here's why My Hero Academia's All Might is better than DC's Superman!
The first big divide between Superman and All Might is in the approach to their respective origin stories. Superman is famous for telling the story of an all-powerful alien who is raised on down-home American values; essentially a god who yearns to be more like an average man. All Might's origin takes a more direct approach to proving the value of the human spirit: Toshinori Yagi was an unremarkable young man who wanted to become a symbol of peace mankind could rally behind - and he did just that.
What makes All Might's origin better is that it's firmly rooted in ideals of noble human potential and self-sacrifice - something that any human being can aspire to, without tripping over the more restrictive and fantastical sci-fi elements that come with Superman.prevnext
Once upon a time, Superman was the undisputed symbol of "Truth, Justice, and the American way," but in more recent years, the Man of Steel has struggled to find his place in a changing modern world. Whether it's the controversy of the character's depiction in the DC Films universe, or the several attempts to reboot him on the page, Superman's character and boy scout outlook just don't connect with fans like they used to.
Meanwhile, All Might (being a Superman satire, no less) has managed to genuinely affect fans with his cheesy boy scout musings and classic hero grin. With the latest episode, "Symbol of Peace", we got to see that All Might's strength of character wasn't just an act - he revealed a much more nuanced and complex character behind his public facade, and it's made fans love him all the more for it.prevnext
The biggest issue that most fans have with Superman are undoubtedly his powers. Superman is essentially invincible, and over the years, the guarantee that he can't be hurt or killed (for long) has made things... pretty boring.
All Might, on the other hand, is a Superman-type with some important tweaks. His invincible superpowers come with some key limits - like possibly harming his own body, or the ticking clock of his powers draining away. However, what makes All Might truly different and unique from Superman is that his power, "One For All," can be passed on to suitors who are very different from Toshinori Yagi, meaning that "All Might" is a character who can evolve and change a great deal over time. That's an important edge that the Man of Steel only wishes he had, these days.prevnext
In terms of being a real-world icon, there's no contest: Superman has stood the test of time much longer than All Might ever has. However, both characters are icons of their respective universes, and there is a debate about how effective they each are as modern symbols to the world.
Superman still stands as the paragon of both strength and compassion that any human being can and should aspire to - but deep down, it's always made clear that there is only one Superman in the universe. Any one of us could be All Might, and that's a big difference. All Might comes from the same origin framework as Captain America - i.e., a person whose heroic spirit initially outweighs their ability to affect positive change. However, All Might and his "One For All" quirk are a poignant metaphor, which tap into modern concerns over social justice, and drawing a moral line in the sand. It's no surprise then that the "Symbol of Peace" episode is resonating so strongly with viewers - people need a Symbol of Peace right now, and All Might scratches that itch.prevnext
As Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill pointed out, Superman's "Clark Kent" alter-ego is, in many ways, Superman's critical appraisal of what the average human being is: clumsy, foolish, cowardly, etc. If anything, Clark Kent has been tripping up Superman storytellers for decades now, as the idea of people being fooled by a pair of glasses and slouching posture seems less and less plausible.
Meanwhile, All Might's true identity as Toshinori Yagi is not just a cool twist on the formula, but one that gives the storyline of My Hero Academia added intrigue. From the reveal of Toshinori in the very first episode, to the secret being exposed in this latest episode, the identity of Toshinori / All Might has been a compelling subplot.
More to the point: Toshinori is a much funnier and interesting standalone character than Clark Kent has ever been. The idea of a scrawny schlub being the most impressive hero in the world has paid some great dividends; even without powers, Toshinori is poised to be just as important to the series, going forward. Can anyone claim the same about Mr. Kent?prevnext
Superman's nemesis Lex Luthor has always helped create an interesting "brains vs. brawn" rivalry - but in a changing world, that conflict has struggled to retain its novelty. Many fans weren't impressed with the modern depiction of "brains vs. brawn" Superman / Lex rivalry we saw in Batman v Superman, and even with all the retcons to the Superman vs. Lex story, that central rivalry has given way to other villains like General Zod, Braniac, and Doomsday steadily becoming more common foes Superman must face in big storylines, films, or TV shows.
With All Might, there's sharp focus and dramatic richness built into his rivalry with "All For One," boss of the League of Villains. All For One's power to steal superpowers (or "quirks") and compile them, makes him a formidable threat to All Might both physically and mentally; the fact that he has a Hannibal Lecter-style capacity for mind-screwing both allies and opponents just proves there's much more to him than the usual thin, arch, villainy you see in the genre. Due to the nature of his powers, All For One can also evolve and change a great deal over time, which is good news for the franchise's future.prevnext
This one is easy: phrases like "Save people with a smile," or "Go Beyond! Plus Ultra!" make All-Might a bonafide trend setter. Superman doesn't have any real lasting or iconic quotables, at all.
Do you agree that All Might is a better and more interesting powerhouse superhero than Superman? Or is that claim blaspheme in your book? Let us know in the comments or hit me up @KofiOutlaw
My Hero Academia airs new episodes on Saturday mornings, on streaming sites like Crunchyroll, Funimation and Hulu.prev