My Hero Academia 191-193 – 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?

Review:

Chapters 191-193 bring Endeavor’s mini arc to an abrupt close while also rushing us into Midoriya’s next stage of development with a meaty look into the ongoing fight between good and evil that he’s found himself the successor to.

While it looked like Dabi was poised for confirmation as another of Endeavor’s abused children, Horikoshi chose to keep that reveal on hold, assuming that’s a component to the story at all. Endeavor’s reaction to Dabi isn’t one that speaks of recognition, and while certain aspects of Dabi’s dialogue do still hint at a connection to Endeavor, or a target for whatever ill remains in Dabi’s past, nothing is confirmed, keeping their confrontation feeling like little more than a frustrating tease.

Hawks is another frustrating element to Chapter 191. He’s revealed to be working with Dabi, and perhaps an aid to the greater League of Villains as a whole. This twist is welcome and shocking, seeing a hero turn his back to justice and side with the growing villainy that threatens to topple society. But unwilling to let this idea fester and build, Horikoshi ends that line of thinking but revealing not three pages later that Hawks is merely a double agent, seeking to gain the trust of the League of Villains in order to bring them down. I think this would’ve been a far stronger element to the series, if Hawks was believed to be a traitor, keeping his double crossing nature a secret until far down the line. At least for ten chapters, or more, whenever the League finally strikes. It would’ve made for a sweet reveal. But as it stands now we just came off of the League betraying Overhaul at a crucial moment, making Hawks double crossing (double double cross?) nature feel hardly interesting. It doesn’t help that by revealing he’s both working with the League, and secretly against them, it feels like this story is truly self-contained. As if this little side venture into Endeavor’s redemption, and Hawks inclusion, is little more than a pit-stop on the way back to whatever Midoriya is doing in the day to day.

This is one problem with reviewing ongoing Manga, as I don’t know where the story is going to go more than a handful of chapters at a time. And Manga can be insanely lengthy. I’m willing to admit that Horikoshi could simply be playing an absurdly long game, with so many of his underused elements, and teases here or there being part of some crazy grand scheme that’s still some ways off. But the more little elements we drop in here, and then do nothing with, makes me feel that Horikoshi is instead leaving himself avenues to come back to, or not, depending upon where he decides to go in the future. There’s a fear I have that when all is said and done in five, ten years, however long the series lasts, these moments will stick out as sore spots, where ideas were teased, and played with, but never actually used.

Chapter 192 doesn’t get off to a good start either, undoing the damage Endeavor suffered in his battle, leaving the scar on his face as the only lasting ramification from his encounter with High-End. There’s talk again of how the League almost got the upper hand, lip service handed to the idea that the heroes are struggling to contain the evil that threatens to swallow society in the wake of All Might’s fall, but it’s little more than talk. Actions speak louder than words, and without some true, honest to god victories, the league still feels weak and underpowered. Otherwise however the scenes squarely centered on Endeavor, his family, his abuse, and his efforts at Redemption, work very well. There’s places where the dialogue is too on the nose, or far more wordy than it needs to be, but overall these are strong sections to the narrative and make for some of the best focus in this mini-arc. It’s a strong note to go out on and I hope we come back to the Endeavor subplot sooner rather than later.

We then do an abrupt cut to Midoriya and a sudden nightmare/dream further showcasing the decades long battle between All for One and the wielders of One for All. There’s a moment here that sticks in my craw however and speaks to growing frustration with Academia’s depiction of women. We see All Might’s mentor, Nana Shimura as one of the first faces Midoriya spots in his dream. His description for her isn’t powerful, strong, intimidating, or anything speaking to her might, but rather describes her as “gorgeous.” as if her physical beauty is the primary aspect of her personage we should focus on. By itself this moment is innocuous, a mere choice of words, perhaps poor, that means little. But quite a few of the female heroes introduced in Academia have some overt sexuality to them, or gendered fetishism. Many of the adult heroes in Academia are of the ‘sexy’ variety. Fetish-sized as a dominatrix, or focused on their physical attributes like Mount Lady. The female heroes who are women, without any kind of fetishism or overt sexual tones are few and farbetween and what ones do exist we don’t spend a lot of time with. Even the Bunny Heroine introduced in 191 is this weird half-measure between a strong and powerful female character and sexuality. She’s got big muscles which isn’t necessarily the standard definition of what makes an attractive woman, but she’s dressed as a bunny, an animal commonly associated with portraying women as sexual objects (Playboy bunnies anyone?).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Academia is awful for the things I’ve laid out above. And I ultimately understand why the series’ focus on non-sexualized female characters is so lacking: Demographics. Running in Shonen Jump it’s clear Academia is truly aimed at the male youth demographic, and part of the reason for the lack of strong, non-sexualized women. Why focus on female characters when you want the boys who are reading to see themselves in the cast? It’s why Bakugo, Midoriya, Todoroki, so many other male characters often take the spotlight. While it’s a shame that Academia struggles with this, it’s also not a surprise and hardly an outlier in Shonen manga as a whole. Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto, so many of the big shonen titles have struggled with the same, rarely offering powerful female fighters in these action titles, where combat is kinda everything. Sure each series has a couple female characters who aren’t pushovers, or act as more than mere damsels in distress, but rarely, very rarely, do women get to shine in the predominant role these action series offer: fighting.

Moving past that what we spend the entirety of Chapter 193 on the fight between All for One and the wielders of One for All. This gave me a wave of goose bumps, particularly as Midoriya wakes from his dreams to find his abilities skyrocketed, wrecking his room in a torrent of overflowing power. It’s cool stuff, the kind great Shonen is made of.

Overall I found these chapters to be a mixed bag. Some strong elements, some disappointing. I do still wish we’d have some more focus for the female members of the cast, maybe give Uraraka her own storyline, or the other girls a greater level of inclusion so that they feel like true, main cast players more often. That said, this little flashback/dream sequence, centered on the fight against All for One and all that he stands for was much needed, and helps to recenter the series back on Midoriya and his quest. I also love the tease of two other former wielders of One for All that we haven’t met yet, and am eager to see what these mysterious characters might bring to the story.

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?)

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