My Hero Academia 188-190 – 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 villainy on the rise the hero association does a new ranking, giving the populace of Japan a new No. 1 Hero– Endeavor. But can Endeavor fill the role All Might left behind?
Three more chapters under the belt and this arc still seems to be only just heating up. That said, there’s still a decent amount to discuss. As I was afraid of last time, High-End doesn’t get to wrought too much destruction. By going after Endeavor from the start much of his potential mayhem is confined to doing damage to Endeavor, or forcing him and Hawks to contain the destruction and keep civilians safe. That said, Endeavor takes a considerable pounding and in that way does help to sell the building threat of a world without All Might. That even after establishing himself as the new No. 1, Endeavor isn’t nearly as capable as All Might was and on his first major outing is already taking a considerable beating. Assuming the damage Endeavor’s suffered is permanent, even if he can fight again, it’s still a hefty mark left by villainy and at least some progress towards Villain’s rising in power. Also the moment when Endeavor gets immediately knocked down again by High-End, after rushing back into the battle is great stuff.
That said, you then have moments like where the crowd goes into a panicked terror, afraid all is lost. A reporter begins screaming “This is society without a symbol of peace!!”, referring to All Might’s fall and that Endeavor hearkens back to those fears. It’s way too on the nose however, and feels at odds with how people would react in the reality of the situation. I also think it’s blatantly unnecessary with how well Horikoshi has visualized the panic stricken crowd.
Of course, unwilling to let true terror linger for too long, and to keep us from devolving into an oppresively dark tone, a character pushes back on the crowd’s terror to bring them back to their senses, reminding them that Endeavor is still fighting for their safety. I continue to feel like not just Academia, but the vast majority of modern battle shonen want to have their cake and eat it to. Things are supposed to be dark, grim, and enthralling as our heroes struggle, but never too dark, never too grim, and not for very long. Indeed as soon as the crowd regains its senses Endeavor carries the fight to victory and elements of this chaos feel more for show than actually building towards the potential collapse of the hero society. Sometimes I wish we’d linger in the mood a little longer, let terror take hold, and really let the art, action, and character work speak for the tone itself. I think it’d be fine to let the crowd wallow in that horror and only come out of it after Endeavor delivers the final blow.
The other major component to these chapters is the character work centered on Endeavor himself. Horikoshi continues to dabble with the idea of who Endeavor was before he became No. 1 and how he feels about himself now. This is addressed in two separate ways: First through High-End’s characterization, the way Endeavor sees himself reflected in this monster, and the way Endeavor’s family reacts to the news coverage of his fight. High-End’s reflection of Endeavor’s earlier self, and by proxy his misdeeds on his family, is generally solid stuff. It’s maybe a tad on the nose with how High-End’s dialogue exclusively revolves around “stronger, must fight stronger” but it works all the same and marks a high point for this arc. Less successful, and I guess what started some minor drama in certain online circles of the fandom?, is the focus on Endeavor’s family.
Until just a few chapters ago, much of Todoroki and Endeavor’s family existed more as ideas than true characters. We knew Todoroki had additional siblings, and had met his sister all but briefly when he’s visited his mother before, but overall those characters haven’t factored much into the story, especially Natsuo Todoroki, who only debuted in 187 itself. This means that when Natsuo is slamming Endeavor for his misdeeds, and later portraying Endeavor as someone who gives up based on the way he treated his family, vs. Fuyumi who insists he’s never the type to give up, it doesn’t work, not entirely anyway.
Part of the trouble is while we’re trying to redeem Endeavor’s character, and challenge the horrid nature of his misdeeds, we’re side-stepping a lot of the direct address towards those actions. Ignoring Natsuo for a moment, even Todoroki’s mother and sister Fuyumi have played a mere fledgling role in the story. And that’s understandable, seeing as at the heart of it, this is still Midoriya’s story, no matter how often we get side-tracked.Academia has a huge cast however, and is always trying to service fans of each character to some extent. Much as Jiro’s emotional moment during the school festival felt shoe-horned in, Todoroki/Endeavor’s abuse narrative feels much the same. Academia is about getting in and out of story arcs quickly, and I struggle to imagine a future arc of this manga that’ll ever rival the crazy length One Piece’s latest arcs typically sit at today. That said, sometimes they move so fast there’s no room to slow the pace and let stuff breath. While Jiro’s shoe-horned emotional catharsis at the school festival is a far more minor complaint, The Todoroki/Endeavor storyline is a bigger deal. It deals with some very dark themes of family abuse that the manga’s always sort of toyed with, but never felt like talking about in earnest, at least not after the first mention during the sports festival. But if we’re to honestly do a redemption story for Endeavor, I think that needs to come to the forefront.
One of the main issues is how Todoroki’s siblings and mother exist almost exclusively here as dialogue/thematic vehicles, carrying the idea forward of Endeavor’s efforts to be Number 1 and what they mean for him as a character. They don’t entirely feel like individuals in their own right, nor do we feel like we’re directly confronting the dark past this entire family shares. We have the basics, but we don’t have the details. By side-stepping so much of the brutal ideas behind his familial abuse, it can feel like Horikoshi is doing disservice to the kind of horrible nature Endeavor has embodied up till now.While Endeavor’s growing as a character is a strong addition to the series, jumping to it over first challenging and addressing the abuse doesn’t do this narrative justice, and feels like it’s skipping a really important step. Endeavor and Todoroki’s story is a powerful one, with some really, really dark themes. If not given enough time to breath I’m not surprised if members of the audience, who this arc perhaps dredges up some of their own childhood traumas, might sit with them the wrong way. And perhaps that’s by design, perhaps Horikoshi doesn’t really want to focus on what is definitely one of the darker elements to appear in Shonen manga over the last ten years, but again, this feels like a ‘having your cake and eating it too’ moment where he wants to put those elements in the story, but not deal with the effect they’ll have on darkening the tone.
All that said, it’s not as if the arc is actually over. I think it’s important to reserve final judgement until we see exactly where things end up. Heck a long running fan theory seems poised to be confirmed as Endeavor defeats High-End, but is approached by Dabi, whose dialogue strongly hints that he, at one time, knew Endeavor, as he playfully suggests he should introduce himself. Fans have been running with the idea that Dabi is another of Endeavor’s kids, receiving an even darker treatment than Todoroki or the others. Depending on how Dabi’s part in this story is played, it could go a long way to addressing some of the criticisms stemming from how much we seem to be skirting over Endeavor’s transgressions against his own family. If Dabi is a child Endeavor treated in an even worse fashion, that could go a long way towards addressing complaints.
Overall there are some really strong elements to these chapters, mixed in a few missteps. The fight between Endeavor and High-End is incredible, and its great to see our new No. 1 walk away with some potentially permanent damage, like what appears to be the loss of his left eye. There’s a chance here to really up the stalks and offer us a strong start to the stumbling of society in the wake of All Might’s fall, but that’ll depend on how this all ends with Dabi confronting Endeavor. There’s moments that are too on the nose, and others that skirt important elements. Being a bit of a mixed bag I still think these chapters come out on top thanks to strong art and abandoning the need to inject comedy. Things get pretty grim here, and few, if any jokes can be found throughout these 3 chapters, helping to sell High-End’s assault as something truly deadly. Quibbles aside, I’m also dying to see what’s going to happen with Dabi, if the fan theory is about to be confirmed, and how this arc will conclude. My personal hope is that stakes will be raised, to see Endeavor defeated as hero No. 1, hammering home the idea that without All Might, it’s all a matter of time before each and every hero falls in the face of villainy.
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 15 releases on October 2nd, 2018. Chapters discussed today will be collected and released sometime next year (or maybe even next next year?)