I suppose it was only a matter of time before My Hero Academia began to spawn imitators. One of Weekly Shonen Champion’s latest series, Bukimi Miki’s SHY, enjoys many similarities with the international multimedia Weekly Shonen Jump hit. But calling it a rip-off would be doing it a disservice – this rising manga star has qualities unto its own that deserve special attention and praise.
My Hero Academia and SHY
It is true that SHY shares many elements with My Hero Academia, at least in terms of setting. The series follows the story of Shy, a Japanese high school hero who inhabits a superpowered world. Her reserved personality is also not unlike how Midoriya Izuku was at the beginning of that series, more than four years ago. But that is where the similarities mostly end.
For starters, the world of SHY is not superpowered to the same extent as My Hero Academia’s world is. Instead of 90% of the population having some sort of special power, it is instead only a select few, who are then chosen to represent their country on the international hero circuit as a sort of superpowered figurehead.
This system came about as a way to prevent war, which oddly reminds me a lot of Ciconia When They Cry – but Ryukishi’s new story is much more dystopian and cynical than Bukimi Miki’s. In any case, since that conflict has since ceased and peace has returned to the world, these heroes are now often nothing more than figureheads and are instead tasked with general, day-to-day tasks – saving citizens from fires and car crashes, rescuing cats from trees, stage events. You know, that sort of thing.
But this does not stop the various national heroes from having strong personalities of their own. Each country’s hero is unique in their character design and temperament, from the boisterous Russian hero Spirits to the cold-hearted British hero Stardust (inspired by David Bowie). In this sense, you could say that SHY resembles something closer to Hetalia: Axis Power than My Hero Academia.
Finally, the Weekly Shonen Jump’s series focus on school life is largely absent from the Weekly Shonen Champion newcomer. While the hero Shy – real name Teru Momijiyama – is a high school student, that fact has less to do with her hero activities than it does her everyday life. That’s a breath of fresh air, as I am of the opinion that the Academia part of My Hero Academia can often drag the series and its story potential down.
A Darker Tinge
In that sense, while SHY does enjoy some similarities with My Hero Academia, at least on a basic level, there are several ways in which author Bukimi Miki diverges and makes for a series that is unique in its appeal and character – chief among which, the distinctively darker tone that the series takes in the pages of Weekly Shonen Champion.
Our villain, Sigma, is decidedly darker as they prey upon the darkest parts of the human heart, converting victims into the kind of corrupted monsters that you’d see on a Saturday morning episode of Sailor Moon. That’s not to say that My Hero Academia’s villains aren’t somehow threatening – Horikoshi did an entire arc where he proved that that wasn’t the case – but Sigma is decisively more sinister as their identity and motives remain shrouded in mystery.
But the true darkness of SHY does not come from an existential threat or crisis in the form of a villain. Instead, it comes in the form of very real drama that goes far beyond anything that would be published in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump.
As you might be able to guess from the series’ title, Teru Momijiyama is not exactly outgoing. That’s how she got her hero name in the first place, but that name takes on more serious significance as one of the opening chapters of the series sees Shy the hero fail – and with disastrous consequences.
Shy is called out one day to assist with a rescue at a theme park, where a group of high schoolers are stuck upside down in a roller coaster carriage partway through a loop-de-loop. She manages to save most of them and is on her way back to pick up the last victim before the carriage starts to move and careens back down the loop – sending the victim into a comatose state from which she may very well never wake up.
The effect of this on Shy is, of course, massive. Her own ineptitude as a hero, caused to some extent by her bashful disposition, might now lead to a tangible loss of human life. The majority of the series’ first volume and major arc deals with this very real human drama, the likes of which probably never would be published in Weekly Shonen Jump.
It is only Weekly Shonen Champion that are able to publish this case of heroic failure as it enjoys a slightly older audience within the shonen demographic, from 15 upwards. That is also why such series as BEASTARS and Baki (written by a father-daughter pair) have been able to push the boundaries so much that they have been called, on multiple occasions, seinen.
Some of this darkness is lost a little later on in the manga towards the end of the first volume as the victim of this incident – Iko Koishikawa – survives and ends up transferring to Teru’s school, but even then she acts as a constant reminder to Tery of her own failures and ineptitudes. And when you add in such aspects as the Russian hero Pepesha’s alcoholism, there is still a real dark edge here that is tangible to the reader.
Champion’s Next Champion
Even so, while we’ve been debating whether or not SHY and My Hero Academia are similar – which they are, but not entirely so – it’s hard to shake the sinking feeling that this might have been Akita Shoten’s plan all along.
Given the immense popularity of My Hero Academia, it would make sense for them to push a series that operates within many of the same lines. Fans of Horikoshi Kohei’s series might end up picking up Bukimi Miki’s series on that basis – oh, wait. That’s me, isn’t it?
Unlike with the short gap between the launch of SPY x FAMILY and Mission: Yozakura Family that has me skeptical to the view of some that the latter was launched by Shueisha to capitalize on the success of the former within Weekly Shonen Jump, it’s not hard to imagine that – five years after Midoriya first met All Might – Akita Shoten was thinking of one of Weekly Shonen Jump’s strongest pillars when they approved Bukimi Miki’s proposal. But at this point we’re just being conspiratorial, so let’s stop.
On whatever base it may be, Akita Shoten is certainly betting that SHY is going to be a hit. They’re doing a promotional campaign with various bookstores around the country where you receive a unique card with volume one depending on the chain – a large scale operation that is usually only reserved for series that publishers hope will be a big deal. The publisher also launched a Twitter account for the series very early on.
Whether this has panned out remains to be seen. Volume one just released last week on December 6, so the Oricon sales data hasn’t been updated yet – when it does, I’ll let you know. But I have heard on the grapevine that preorders for the first volume were pretty solid, and buzz surrounding the series from the English-speaking manga community was what turned me on to the series in the first place.
Given all of this, could SHY be the next big thing? I certainly don’t see why not. It has some crossover appeal alongside its own more compelling elements, which are growing even more so with each weekly chapter in Weekly Shonen Champion. The series also has a definite otaku appeal with its character designs – not surprising given that the author, Bukimi Miki, is a former iDOLM@STER and Touhou Project doujin artist (in a strange twist of fate, it turns out that I was actually already following them on Twitter on the basis of their excellent fan art).
If SHY does become a success, it will no doubt join other such series as BEASTARS and Baki that have enjoyed a strong cult following over the years. But it is worth noting that it does suffer from many of the same defects that those two series suffer, in turn – a lack of focus, clarity, and consistency that is most likely caused by Akita Shoten’s more laissez-faire editorial practices.
Nevertheless, if you’d like to jump on a rising star very early on and see how it develops – especially if you’re a My Hero Academia fan – then don’t hesitate to check out volume one of SHY, available now.