My Hero Academia 158-161 – Manga Review

Synopsis: Izuku Midoriya has wanted to be a hero all his life. He lives in a world where people are born innately with quirks, and if so chose, can go down the path of becoming a hero, choosing to fight those who would use their birth given abilities for evil rather than good. It’s a difficult path for anyone, but near impossible for Izuku, who was born quirkless, without any innate powers of his own. He’s mocked by his classmates, who rudely nickname him Deku, but Izuku holds onto his dream no matter what.

Izuku’s life is forever changed however, when he has a fated encounter with All Might, the mightiest super hero of them all. Through this encounter, Izuku found his path towards becoming a super hero, a path not easy by any means.

Warning: Spoilers to Follow:

Now, having fought several villains seeking to defeat All Might, and learned to properly control his quirk, Midoriya and the rest of his class became targets by the league of villains, culminating in a battle against All Might’s nemesis, All for One. All Might managed to defeat this great evil, but at the cost of his powers, now no longer able to act as the symbol of peace. With a shift in the status quo, Midoriya and Co. manage to get their provisional licenses so they can prepare for the great rise of villains just on the horizon. The world is in for a turbulent time.

Review:

When I last left My Hero Academia things were coming to a head. Midoriya was finally facing off against Overhaul one on, well mostly, one. Things were really ramping up. And while we get a wonderfully epic battle to conclude things, and Shigaraki’s first impressive feat, finally lending him some actual credibility as a villain, these chapters have solidified for me that Horikoshi has bitten off a bit more than he can chew between the manga, his efforts regarding the anime adaptation and keeping himself healthy.

It’s not secret that Horikoshi has been struggling between balancing his work and his health. Speculation I’ve seen online, and agree with, is that his efforts on aiding the anime production have compounded this. It’s, at least in part, why Academia gets a break seemingly every three weeks. Despite the struggle, his efforts remain incredible, and there’s a lot still to love with the series. But I do think there are elements that have ended up half-baked.

Mice: the world’s #1 scapegoat.

Chapter 158 opens with an internal monologue for Overhaul, which gradually shifts to him explaining his ultimate and grand plans for Eri: He seeks to wipe out the world of quirks, and return humanity to a time when no one had special powers. While elements of this have been brought up before, taking away people’s quirks, putting the Yakuza back on top, what mention there’s been of returning the world to the way it was before quirks has been so infrequent, so rarely vocalized, that this reveal feels almost out of nowhere.

Overhaul’s grand plan is a cool one, and awesomely sinister, but I feel like we didn’t build up to this well at all. There needed to be a little more set up for this moment to feel truly impactful, like Midoriya was fighting an even bigger menace than we’ve come to understand. In part this is due to the way Horikoshi has utilized flashbacks. It’s only as Overhaul and Midoriya square off in a final showdown that we truly delve into Overhaul’s past. While some of these flashbacks have worked well as mid battle reveals, I think Overhaul’s needed to be a few chapters ago. Maybe it would’ve been best placed right around when Midoriya and Co. showed up and pulled Eri out of the battlefield.

The other major issue I have is the way in which the story has dealt with Sir Night Eye’s insistence that the future can’t be changed. While defying destiny is always a compelling plot line, I think we’re missing some story beats here that would’ve made it far more powerful. Namely Sir Night Eye keeps the events he foresaw terribly vague. We never really know how Midoriya’s death was supposed to play out. This means when Midoriya does finally avert destiny it feels less like “Yes! He did it!” and more like “He– he averted destiny? Right? That’s what he just did, yes?” Chapter 158 ends in such a way that it’s not crystal clear Midoriya succeeded. There’s room for doubt and that’s not great.

But… Now… I foresee him dying even more horrifically!

All that said, it’s not as if I think Academia is suddenly bad. There’s still a lot to love here. Midoriya’s fight with Overhaul is visually impactful and it feels incredible to witness Midoriya take down his first super villain. Midoriya having to constantly break his body to stop Eri from rewinding him out of existence also feels intense and striking. Shigaraki’s successful attack on the transport carrying away a beaten Overhaul is also incredible. Not only does it finally give Shigaraki a much needed win that sets him back on a path to feeling like an actual threat, but we, at least seemingly, get a brutal death for a pro-hero and the utter defeat of Overhaul as Shigaraki and Co. ensure he’s out of action permanently by rending both his arms off. These are all stunning moments, only marred by issues clearly born from Horikoshi spreading himself a bit too thin.

With him getting a break every three weeks, however, I have great confidence, particularly after chapter 160, that he’s got greater control again over balancing his workload and health. Chapter 161 is where we’ll be concluding the discussion for today as we wrap up this latest arc. There’s a couple unsurprisingly developments here. A character like Eri can’t be left running around for long. Her power is basically the ability to undo any of the meaningful character developments tied to physical repercussions. Buff Tin Tin losing his quirk? Undone as Eri could perhaps just rewind him to before he’d been hit with the bullet. Eraser Head’s damaged eyes? Undone! Ingenium’s paralyzed lower body? Why stop there! She could even rewind All Might back to the point where he was at his full potential. So it comes as no surprise when Eri falls into a ‘pseudo coma’ and Eraser Head proclaims that we can’t rely on her quirk.

The second more obvious development is Sir Night Eye’s passing. While I don’t think we really spent quite enough time with the character for this to achieve the greatest of emotional impact’s, it’s still a touching enough scene in and of itself. But we knew it was coming, as the ability to see the future, even periodically, could become an ongoing problem for the series if hinged upon too often.

I mean, Shigaraki’s right, that is the ultimate goal.

Overall these chapters offer the best conclusion this arc can have. It’s had a few issues here and there, and I think suffered from Horikoshi’s hectic schedule and health issues. It rights itself part way and does the best it can, leaving things on a stronger note than some of the chapters in the middle of the story. I don’t exactly know where the series goes at this point either, which is great, I always love to be surprised. Even with the flaws, I still think Academia is the manga I look forward to the most for these reviews and I’m eager to see where the series sits when I come back to it in January.

That’s it for today. Please let me know what your thoughts are on these chapters in the comments below!

My Hero Academia is published weekly in Shonen Jump. Volume 11 releases on February 2nd, 2018. Chapters discussed today will be collected and released sometime next year (or maybe even next next year?)

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