Today let's explore how My Hero Academia uses anime-original content to elevate its story!
It’s a phrase that strikes fear into the heart of countless anime fans, and which has haunted our fandom for years: the dreaded “filler episode.” Though the exact definition of what defines a filler episode varies (some overzealous fans will claim any episode that doesn’t further a show’s main plot is “filler”), their specter looms large over anime, and regularly haunts shonen anime in particular. As a beloved Shonen Jump property with an ongoing anime adaptation, you’d think My Hero Academia would be a prime target for arbitrarily extended anime material, or even totally invented arcs. But so far, I’ve actually been very impressed by how My Hero Academia has avoided “filler” – and how it has turned its anime-original material into a genuine strength.
People dislike what is often described as “filler content” for a variety of understandable reasons. Episodes and arcs that deviate from the source material generally tend to lack in meaningful consequences, since you know they eventually have to realign with a manga that never included them in the first place. These stories also tend to be divorced emotionally from the character arcs of the main story, since, again, nothing in them can ever result in meaningful change for the actual main characters. And yet, in spite of this overall lack of consequence, anime-original material often carries on for entire seasonal arcs, since their actual purpose is to let the manga get meaningfully ahead of the adaptation schedule.
My Hero Academia avoids all of these pitfalls and more, turning its anime-original material into a genuine strength of the adaptation. So far, likely the three most prominent anime-original segments have been the Tsuyu Asui-focused internship episode, the ensemble fight through the forest near the beginning of season three, and most recently, Yaoyorozu’s battle against the calculating Sai. None of these episodes or sequences were strictly “necessary,” as none of them existed in the original manga, but all of them more than justified their own presence, and have ultimately helped fill in meaningful gaps in the source material.
First off, it helps greatly that My Hero Academia chose to elaborate on moments that were actually there, but never truly fleshed out in the source material. Sequences like the student internships or the success of people like Yaoyorozu in the provisional license exams were assumed in the manga, but never truly elaborated on. Instead of adding arbitrary conflicts that don’t naturally fit into the escalating drama of the source material, My Hero Academia’s anime is simply spending more time to highlight exciting invisible moments, moments which naturally slot into larger existing arcs. By doing this, My Hero Academia’s anime is able to genuinely compliment the source material, instead of awkwardly diverting from it – and the fact that none of these additions last for longer than an episode means the pacing never suffers as a result.
Beyond slotting into natural, pre-existing places in the manga, My Hero Academia’s anime-original material also benefits greatly from My Hero Academia’s inherent ensemble appeal. From the first few episodes onward, My Hero Academia has been a story not just about Midoriya and his friends specifically, but about the collective feelings and fortunes of Class 1-A generally. My Hero Academia smartly builds up the personalities and unique interesting abilities of characters like Tsuyu and Jiro – but often, arcs conclude before these less prioritized heroes get any time in the spotlight, meaning the fans of many of 1-A’s compelling characters are still waiting for their favorites to shine.
In light of this ensemble storytelling approach and the inherently limited scope of the original manga, the anime’s ability to find natural points for secondary vignettes means it not only makes greater use of the story’s strong cast, it’s able to offer excitement and validation for a meaningful yet largely unsung portion of 1-A’s roster. Not many shows have too many protagonists for their own good, but My Hero Academia is in the unique position of having an incredibly deep bench of charming characters that the source material simply hasn’t gotten to yet. Celebrating these characters through highlighting their own stories thus feels not like a break from the “actual” story, but a welcome embracing of one of My Hero Academia’s greatest strengths.
Finally, even if they’re fitted naturally into the ongoing narrative and prioritize characters we actually want to see, none of that would really matter if this new content didn’t succeed on its own merits. Fortunately, Studio Bones’ team have yet to disappoint there. From the propulsive self-contained drama of Tsuyu’s internship to the arc-affirming leadership focus of Yaoyorozu’s recent fight, these episodes have demonstrated all the things that make My Hero Academia such a joy, offering plenty of the tactics and spectacle the show does so well.
From their success in highlighting beloved secondary characters to their graceful congruity with the existing narrative, My Hero Academia has consistently demonstrated that anime-original material need not be a curse, and that anime adaptations are actually an opportunity to meaningfully flesh out the world of the original story. I’ve greatly enjoyed My Hero Academia’s increasing usage of these added stories, and hope its creators continue to dazzle us with more hidden tales from this thrilling world!