Published in 2008, Acro Artist is only now being unofficially translated and, with obvious similarities to My Hero Academia, the timing is perfect.
The manga Artist Acro essentially takes the concept of Quirks from My Hero Academia and molds them into special artistic skills, which are then employed by renowned artists. Artist Acro may have run in Japanese publications from 2008 to 2010, but fans are only now getting to read unofficial English translations, right at the height of My Hero Academia‘s popularity.
In My Hero Academia, an incredibly high majority of the population are either born with or develop a specific superpower, known as Quirks, at an early age. Those who are exceptionally talented or are blessed with an insanely powerful Quirk usually endeavor to become heroes by obtaining a plethora of licenses, participating in numerous work studies and internships, and graduating from a top-notch school.
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In Artist Acro, Skills are similar to Quirks, but all revolve around a form of art, which is why those who develop their Skill are usually artists. These powers are equally as creative as MHA‘s Quirks, and much more so than Naruto‘s jutsus or Bleach‘s Zanpakutō abilities. For example, the main character, sculptor Acro Hanbakka, can mold anything he touches like clay, like the time he rolls an assailant’s dagger into a ball before throwing it and, later, when he fixes someone’s broken paintbrush. This is quite similar to My Hero Academia‘s Gentle Criminal’s Elasticity Quirk, which allows the villain to bestow the property of elasticity on anything he touches. Meanwhile, one of the manga’s early villains can transform three-dimensional people into 2D designs on whatever surface he chooses.
The world of Artist Acro, however, is not as developed as My Hero Academia’s highly complex universe, as there appears to be no licensing system nor an official school where creative souls strive to become artists. At the beginning, Acro arrives at the Capital of the Arts in hopes of improving himself as a sculptor so he can become a truly great artist. There is no larger peril or responsibility to this initial desire, but the story truly kicks into gear when Acro discovers a particular area designated for those who don’t have a Skill to develop their own. That’s where the story begins, not because Acro wants to develop his sculpting, but because that particular section is surrounded in flames. It’s inside these flaming walls that Acro finds people who are tormented by an artist who uses their souls as his canvas – the kind of out-there power and unusual threat that has made MHA so beloved.
It’s truly a shame that Acro Artist never previously made its way outside of Japan, as the concept is, like the overall theme, profoundly creative and fresh. This is especially the case as the manga and anime industries are currently inundated with Isekais, riding the wave of these ‘hero trapped in another world’ stories about leveling up in true Dungeons & Dragons fashion. Maybe now is the perfect time for such a series to debut, shaking up publishing trends with the precedent of My Hero Academia‘s undeniable success to guide its way. Though different in many respects, the correlations between both series are indisputable. Acro might have started out with his Skill at the beginning of his series, unlike Deku who obtained his Quirk from All Might, but both characters share a burning passion to be truly great, and fans who love My Hero Academia can check out Artist Acro for a fresh take on some of the story elements they love.
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