by Jimmy G.
While Marvel and DC films have dominated our screens both at the theatres, on televisions, and streaming services for the past decade or so, one cannot deny that Japanese anime has recently been experiencing its greatest surge in popularity with Western audiences since the Toonami and Adult Swim era of the late 90s and early 2000s. Though there have been some anime that have managed to catch the attention of non-anime fans in the past, like Cowboy Bebop, Ninja Scroll, or Neon Genesis Evangelion, we decided to put together a list of our picks for the five best superhero themed anime for all the Marvel and DC fans out there to look into if they are in the mood for trying something new.
My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia takes place in a world where approximately 80% of the population are born with some kind of power or ability which are simply referred to as Quirks. These Quirks can manifest themselves as anything from having the ability to move and supersonic speeds to having all of the physical traits, habits, and abilities of an animal.
The story follows our main protagonist, Izuku Midoriya (aka Deku), who is unfortunately born without a Quirk. From a young age, he has always dreamed of becoming a Hero just like his idol, All Might, who happens to be the strongest Hero of them all. So, despite being constantly bullied by others for not having any kind of abilities, Deku still hopes that one day he can become a Hero and help people. After Midoriya is the only one to attempt the rescue of his childhood bully, Katsugi Bakugo, All Might saves them and having witnessed Midoriya’s selfless and heroic deed, he chooses him to be the inheritor of the One For All Quirk, which is the only Quirk that can be passed on to another person.
From there, Midoriya attends the prestigious U.A. High School which trains young people to be the next generation of Heroes. Now Midoriya and his classmates have to balance Hero training, regular school activities, and battling the League Of Villains which is an evil organization formed by All Might’s arch enemy, All For One, that is dedicated to overthrowing the All Might and the other Heroes and replacing it with a tyrannical new order.
There are several reasons why we picked this series. The first being that it is currently the most popular shonen series of the past decade following the conclusion of two of the original Big Three. The second is that the series creator, Kohei Horikoshi is not only an avid manga fan, but, he is a dedicated lover of Western superhero comic books with Superman and Spider-Man being his favourite characters of all time. The third and final reason is because it manages to blend classic tales of heroism with new and fresh ideas that are able to resonate with anyone from both casual and die-hard fans. Be sure to check out My Hero Academia now!
One Punch Man
What would a superhero anime list be without this smash hit series? One Punch Man is arguably one of the best shows to have come out in recent years and while the second season may not have been as visually spectacular as the first season (due to a different studio animating the project), the story is still a great one that provides loads of pulse pounding and adrenaline fuelled action with some of the best comedy that there is.
One Punch Man essentially follows the story of Saitama. He was an ordinary salaryman until one day, after rescuing a kid from a monster, he decides to become a superhero. Despite having no powers or abilities, Saitama trains hard every day to get his body into peak physical condition in preparation for his new calling. However, Saitama winds up becoming so powerful that he can defeat almost any enemy in just one punch. Now, Saitama, being as powerful as he is, has become bored and even when he does save the day, his deeds go by unnoticed. It is only after saving a cyborg known as Genos during a battle with a mosquito monster that Saitama starts to get recognised and the story then follows his journey from joining the Hero Association to eventually becoming recognised as a hero.
The story of One Punch Man is, in essence, a parody of superhero stories and shounen battle anime/manga. The series not only hilariously comedic with a cast of loveable characters, but it is one of the most visually spectacular shows ever produced in anime (especially the first season which was produced by the legendary Studio Madhouse). Plus it has what is arguably one of the most kick ass and memorable theme songs of all time. If you have yet to watch this series, then be sure that you check it out now!
Birdy The Mighty: Decode
Probably the most overlooked series on this list, Birdy The Mighty (aka Tetsuwan Birdy in its native Japan) follows the story of Birdy Cephon Altera. A genetically engineered super soldier who works for the interplanetary organisation known as The Federation. While in pursuit of two wanted criminals from her home planet, who are now in hiding on Earth, Birdy continues her investigation under the guise of popular teen supermodel, Shion Arita.
However, during an encounter with one of the criminals, she accidentally injures a young human boy named Tsutomu Senkawa in the battle. She saves Tsutomu by transferring his consciousness into her own body until such a time that his body can be reconstructed. Now forced to share one body, Tsutomu now has to balance his daily school life along with Birdy’s duties and obligations as a Federation officer.
We picked this series because out of all the shows on this list, this one feels the closest to any of the iconic DC animated series from the 90s and 2000s mixed with all the fun storytelling tropes and elements that we have come to expect from anime. Despite its minimalist and simplistic art style, the show is bright, colourful, fun, extremely well directed with lots of action and a brilliant story spanning across 24 episodes plus a bonus OVA episode that links the two seasons together.
The show is so influential that Zack Snyder, the director of Man Of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice mirrored many of the show’s iconic fights in the final battle between Superman and Zodd in Man Of Steel. We also recommend that you check out the original 4 episode OVA from 1996 which was directed by the legendary Yoshiaki Kawajiri of Wicked City, Ninja Scroll, and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust fame.
This particular anime was created and written by non-other than the legendary Stan Lee himself. Lee was a huge fan of Japanese animation and if it weren’t for him (and a few other celebrity figures like Rob Zombie) anime probably wouldn’t have gained any kind of exposure outside of Japan.
Heroman follows the story of Joey, an orphan who lives with his grandmother and works part time at a restaurant in Centre City (which is based on Los Angeles) while attending school. When he hears of a new line of toy robots called the Heybo, he thinks that if he gets one it will make his life better and make him become a hero in order to protect his friends, family, and the city. Though he cannot afford to buy one with his petty salary, he happens to pick one up after it was abandoned by a school bully.
Joey takes it home and while attempting to repair it he renames it Heroman. While he is unsuccessful at getting it to work, it does somehow manage to transform itself into a giant robot after being struck by lightning and it saves his friend Lina from an impending danger just in the nick of time. Now Joey and Heroman must fight crime and, while doing so, they discover that the Earth is actually being invaded by an alien race known as the Skrugg who were accidentally summoned by Joey’s science teacher.
Now, Heroman is not the first or the only anime (or anime related) project that Stan has either created or had a hand in production. But, Heroman is arguably one of his better works, despite its somewhat corny premise, and it is a genuinely entertaining watch. It has some great character designs, amazing action, and is just an overall fun experience.
Tiger & Bunny
Tiger & Bunny is a show that takes a more ‘reality TV’ style approach to the typical superhero story while combining it with the buddy cop elements of series like Starsky & Hutch.
The story of Tiger & Bunny takes place in an alternate version of New York called Stern Bild City where an incident that took place 45 years ago resulted in the appearance of beings known as NEXT (Noted Entities with eXtraordinary Talents), most of which became superheroes. The city’s most popular heroes work for various companies who sponsor them and their heroic deeds are broadcasted on a television network known as Hero TV. In this ‘reality show’, the heroes are then rewarded with points for each feat that is completed (arresting criminals, saving citizens, performing public service, etc.) and the hero with the most amount of points gets to be crowned ‘The King Of Heroes’.
However, the story mainly focuses on the duo of Tiger & Bunny. Kotetsu T. Kaburagi (aka Wild Tiger) is a veteran hero who is suddenly paired up with a younger man known as Barnaby Brooks, Jr. Kotetsu and Barnaby don’t exactly get along and have opposing views on what it means to be a real hero. So, they have to learn to work together in order to solve the murder of Barnaby’s parents. At the same time, the arrival of a homicidal vigilante known as Lunatic causes chaos with the public as he begins to make the question the necessity for heroes in the city.
While the series is done predominately in 3D, it still has plenty of cool visual elements and the story alone is worth checking this series out even if you, like myself, aren’t a typical fan of 3D animated anime. The chemistry between the two characters works extremely well and it can tackle a variety of mature themes while still having a lot of fun.