One arc ends and another beginnings as My Hero Academia continues to speed forward with aplomb.
Story/Art: Kohei Horikoshi
Translation/Adaptation: Caleb Cook
Touch Up and Lettering: John Hunt
Editing: Mike Montesa
What They Say
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
As My Hero Academia finishes its third volume, it seems Kohei Hirokoshi’s manga is really starting to find its stride as a story—both in terms of the larger conflict that will eventually come and in terms of the more immediate challenges the cast members face. The volume picks up where the second left off, with All Might’s truly heroic entrance in the midst of what looked to be an inescapable situation for the students of U.A. As a conclusion to the arc, the fight’s exciting—filled with last-minute saves and oscillating advantages. But the most interesting component is the expansion of My Hero Academia‘s scope beyond just Midoriya’s journey. Tomura Shigaraki’s villain ideology, which levels accusations of state-sponsored violence (and implicit preferential treatment for those deemed worthy by society), is base in its simplicity, but it’s clear from later events in the volume that his whiny beliefs are less a genuine antithesis to All Might’s brand of justice and more an indication of his lack of control. Behind Shigaraki doubtless dwells a villain of true evil, one who needs no petty excuses for his action. Shigaraki is, likely, just a pawn.
As All Might notes following the fight, the villain invasion also serves as a dramatic pivot point for the entirety of Midoriya’s class, introducing our wide-eyed hero and his classmates to a world beyond simply trying to be the best. Having seen evil face-to-face, they now have a much wider perspective on the reasons for their training. It’s no longer just enough to become a strong hero for its own sake, but because the world will require them to be strong—and the difference this makes in them manifests in the second half of the volume during the Sports Festival. Narratively, though, the introduction of the villains also instills in My Hero Academia a bigger sense of scale than it’s ever had before. Up until these moments, all the talk about All Might being the “Symbol of Peace” have existed in the abstract, but in facing off against Nomu and Shigaraki, All Might demonstrates both why he deserves the title and why it’s important that he exists. As the ideological opposite to Shigaraki (who, it seems, is being set up to be a symbol himself), All Might provides a counterpoint to the “load of hooey” Shigaraki spouts and makes his case for his own rightness as he saves the students and teachers at USJ. For Midoriya, then, we see just how far he has to go before he can be the “Symbol of Peace” himself.
This idea continues into the Sports Festival event, which itself is sort of a midpoint between Midoriya’s contextless classes and the reality of the world he and the others will eventually fight in. The festival, as an event designed to present the world’s future heroes, represents the transition between classes and actual work out in the field. The stakes aren’t just winning or losing, but rather your potential opportunities as a hero.
The tone here is appropriately more light-hearted and hot-blooded than the villain attack arc, and the lack of external antagonists (besides the members of the lower classes) means that the relationships between the characters are given more time to breathe. This is really the first time we’ve seen Class 1-A really highlighted in isolation of other major events, and a number of characters who have only been bit players to date (Todoroki, specifically) come to the front. But none of this gets in the way of the race’s excitement, which uses its relatively simple construction to let the characters go wild with their quirks. It’s a fun time, and the developing three-way rivalry between Todoroki, Bakugo, and Midoriya is going to be something to keep an eye out for in the coming volumes.
Horikoshi’s art continues to be detailed, dynamic, and filled with personality (his seemingly limitless capacity for inventing new, weirder character designs impresses more with each volume), making each panel a lot of fun to look at on its own. However (and I feel I’ve noticed this in past volumes, too), one of his weaknesses is making his fights feel like a continuous series of events, rather than isolated bursts of motion. It’s often somewhat difficult to get a sense of distance and space between the combatants (for example, although we’re told Todoroki gets off to a substantial lead at the beginning of the Sports Festival race, it’s never made clear exactly how far ahead he is). On the whole, the sheer verve of execution usually carries My Hero Academia through, but I often found myself wishing I had a better handle on where everyone was in relation to each other during the action sequences.
It’s yet another winner from My Hero Academia, as the stakes rise, the large cast gets colored in just a bit more, and the fun barrels on.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: February 2nd, 2016