Spider-Man has a lot in common with our favorite anime heroes
In 1962, the very first Spider-Man story was published in Amazing Fantasy #15. As a geeky timid person who could flourish as a web slinging hero, the iconic Marvel mascot’s stories provided an inspiring fictional role model for comic book readers who might have shared his experience.
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
“Anyone can put on the mask.”
“What makes you different is what makes you Spider-Man.”
Decades after his debut, Spider-Man’s story persists through the latest and greatest iterations such as the PS4 game and Into the Spider-Verse as the webhead remains an invigorating symbol of what the average person can accomplish. And heroes like that exist in abundance in some of our favorite superhero anime.
Shows like My Hero Academia and One Punch Man have insane followings and leave their marks as ongoing and timeless classics. See, when it comes to a good hero anime, it’s not just exciting action and insane animation that keeps people watching. In the vein of Spider-Man, the heroes of our favorite anime have humble beginnings and stories that strongly resonate with audiences and make their shows as inspiring as they are entertaining. The web slinger’s legacy permeates through many of the anime heroes we follow today.
The classic origin of the first Spider-Man is, by now, a well-known tale. As a high school student, Peter Parker was imbued with extraordinary powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. After suffering the tragic loss of his Uncle Ben at the hands of a criminal he could’ve stopped, he became New York’s friendly-neighborhood Spider-Man and took on the responsibility of defending the city.
Peter acts as a reflection of his audience. He grew up as a young and remarkably intelligent high school student who was awkward in stature and often suffered at the hands of bullies. As he became an adult, he balanced his superhero life with his far-less spectacular everyday struggles with finding a steady job and having enough rent to cling desperately to whatever dinky apartment he can hole up in.
In his book, The Creation of Spider-Man, author Paul Kupperberg argued how unique these relatable characteristics made him. In portraying “the flawed superhero with everyday problems,” Kupperberg posited the idea of how Spider-Man sparked a revolution in comic book heroes who were grounded in reality. X-Men portrayed a society plagued by racism and gender discrimination. Daredevil displayed a handicapped hero who uses his blindness as an advantage instead of a hindrance. Unlike heroes like Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne who used their vast wealth to finance their vigilantism, characters like Spider-Man had very human and relatable problems that make them resonate with their audience more deeply. The same can be said of heroes like Deku and Saitama.
As protagonists in their own shows, Izuku Midoriya and Saitama exhibit many qualities that make them relatable to the average viewer. Izuku’s goal of being a hero seemed impossible for him in his Quirkless state, but he earned the power and confidence he needed to achieve his dream through nothing but his own willpower and hard work. This isn’t entirely unlike what the average person goes through when working out or applying for a job or just trying to be the best at what they love to do. The inspiration that Deku provides is something that we could all use: a young boy who comes from nothing and climbs his own way to become closer to his dream.
Despite having achieved his dream, Saitama has his own level of relatability in his search for purpose. The eponymous One Punch Man is unique in that when we first meet him, he’s long since reached the goal that many protagonists spend years to attain: he’s already the hero he dreamed of being. Ever since that came true for him, he’s become bored and jaded as his aspiration became his everyday. In real life, a lack of purpose or direction can be all too disheartening, and we can spend years searching for something that gives us meaning. If Deku represents the willpower of the ambitious, Saitama embodies one who lives while searching for that ambition.
Just as Spider-Man is presented as a powerful superhero with everyday problems that his readers can empathize with, so are Deku and Saitama. These modern anime heroes carry on in an era where fictional heroes do more than just entertain on a regular basis. They resonate deeply and show us not only who we are, but what we as regular people are capable of. So the next time you watch Deku pull off an all-for-one smash or see Saitama try to find a purpose to his punches, you might be experiencing the same feelings as a young kid in the 1960s reading the latest issue of Spider-Man.
Carlos Cardorniga is a freelance features writer for Crunchyroll. Their favorite genres range from magical girls to over-the-top robot action, yet their favorite characters are always the obscure ones. Check out some of their satirical work on The Hard Times.
This article was originally published on Crunchyroll.