My Hero Academia 175-179 – 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. took to the streets as provisional license heroes, only to go toe to toe with the deadly Yakuza villain, Overhaul. Suffering casualties, our heroes could use a pick me up and there’s nothing like a school festival to do the job.
My Hero Academia’s latest set of chapters are generally solid, with a few places where I feel like things could’ve been tighter. Chapter 175 starts with wrap up covering the final prep work Midoriya and Co. have before the day of the school festival. I feel like these pages drag, particularly so if you’re more into Academia for the super power component and the way that factors into the school dynamic. There isn’t too much that showcases that here. But once we’re onto the multi-chapter confrontation between Midoriya and our comedic villain, Gentle things pick up. Gentle gets a little more serious over this fight, particularly as we delve into his motivations and come to understand what’s driven him to villainy. Still, he acts as a breather after Overhaul, producing a more light-hearted encounter that has a lot less riding on it than Midoriya’s fight with Overhaul.
Their encounter gets underway quite quickly, with Midoriya piecing together Gentle’s true identity upon bumping into him. By Chapter 176 it’s into all out brawl territory. The only thing interrupting this multi-chapter showdown are either flashbacks to showcase how the festival prep has improved Midoriya’s fighting ability, or quick snaps to the rest of our cast as they gear up for the school festival’s opening. Much of the time I feel these flashbacks or cut aways go a little too long, their points gotten across a lot faster than Horikoshi realizes, making us linger on material that isn’t nearly as exciting as the back and forth between Midoriya and Gentle. The back and forth is great, with both characters gaining the upper-hand, and then losing it. Fights like these are awesome when put together correctly, and what’s done here outshines many of Academia’s contemporary shonen.
Part of the issue with lengthy cut aways, I feel speaks to a greater trouble Academia has lingering in the background: Character bloat. I’ve mentioned this before, but in Academia’s quest to craft unique, individual characters, we end up with a massive wealth of characters that can’t possibly all share the spotlight. Every reader ends up with a favorite minor character from Class A, B, or other arcs from the manga. In an effort to please, Academia has to sometimes spend a little more time on these characters than is necessary to the ongoing story, I think then making certain parts feel a little slow for readers who aren’t entirely in love with the overall manga. It’s telling when the anime, for example, chooses to constantly display character’s names and quirks on the screen. It’s basically an admission that there’s simply too many characters for anyone but the diehard to remember. That said, this situation is kind of a catch-22, because the last thing you want are too many unmemorable characters peppering your story.
Either way, it’s not a huge issue, and the struggle between Midoriya and Gentle generally outshines most of my complaints about character usage. Particularly as we start to understand Gentle and his assistant La Brava. First we get to see what makes La Brava tick, why she turned to villiany and in particular why she’s Gentle’s right-hand gal. Her backstory is short and to the point, which I generally prefer over lengthy, multi-chapter flashbacks. But maybe this flashback takes brevity a tad too far. I know there was some consternation over La Brava’s age amd her relationship with Gentle, particularly after her love confession. While I personally get the sense that La Brava and Gentle’s relationship is one more out of a kind of familial love for each other, I can understand why La Brava, who looks so young, would cause a stir. Her flashback self largely looks so similar to her modern day version you wouldn’t know she’s aged at all, and the details so minor, so easy to overlook that it’s no wonder people got confused thinking she’s underage and Gentle a much more older man.
What’s interesting is that in the very next chapter we get a flashback for Gentle that’s a bit more informative, that leaves little question as to his age during his origins. If would’ve been nice if La Brava’s flashback was more weighty with overt details like this. Ignoring the readership’s drama, both flashbacks are great and really put both characters in an overtly sympathetic light that has me almost rooting for them. These are downtrodden individuals, who more likely reflect readers than most would be willing to admit, and speak to the unsung members of society who, for one reason or another, don’t get to fulfill their dreams or aspirations. It ties into Academia’s overarching themes and concepts concerning the problems this society has that haven’t been addressed.
The only other quibble I have is with Chapter 178, after Gentle has been powered up by La Brava’s Love quirk and turns the tables on Midoriya. Rather than cutting things right when Gentle is about to knock Midoriya out, which would’ve made for a superb cliffhanger, Horikoshi has the chapter go a step further to include Midoriya’s counter attack. I feel like this decision removes tension from the fight, particularly if you’re someone who’s long clued into the reality that most shonen heroes rarely, if ever, lose. By already showcasing Midoriya as capable of fighting back against Gentle’s power up, it damages my fear for Midoriya’s predicament, making me feel like I already know by the next week he’ll be absolutely okay and still in the battle against Gentle.
As for where this arc is going I largely get the sense Midoriya is going to win against Gentle before he can even reach the festival. I’d actually prefer Gentle make it to the festival. Too often Academia’s villains are halted early, never managing to accomplish much before Midoriya, All Might, or others are able to stop their advance. I’d particularly like to see more villains succeed in order to really sell the idea that, in a world without All Might, villains are on the rise and heroes are struggling. Outside of a little of that at the end of Overhaul’s arc, where we lost a recently introduced character and another minor hero, it still feels like heroes by and large have things handled, making me feel like the status quo has barely changed since the passing of All Might, and making all this talk about losing the symbol of peace ring hollow.
That said, to end on a positive note, Gentle and La Brava are quickly becoming some of Academia’s most memorable, and lovable villains, standing alongside Stain and Overhaul as characters that immediately stick out in my mind as quality baddies.
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 released on February 2nd, 2018. Chapters discussed today will be collected and released sometime next year (or maybe even next next year?)