My Hero Academia 231-236 – 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 finds 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. Shortly after Midoriya has a vision, where he sees the past wielders of All for One, and talk of an oncoming “singularity”. Before he can achieve greater understanding Midoriya and Class A are pitted against rival Class B in a team face off to see who has improved the most over the last few months. With Class A triumphing, it now seems new evils are beginning to move, bringing about greater threats to society.

Review:

Despite my quibbles with the last set of chapters, Chapters 231-236 really hit home, overcoming what flaws they do still suffer from thanks to solid character work, great action, mostly excellent use of the shorter chapter length, and one hell of an origin flashback. Let’s dive in.

Chapter 231 sees the tide of the battle shift in the League’s favor as Twice takes center stage, showcasing his abilities to their fullest now that his mental struggle is over and done with. Chapter 232 flips the script then, allowing Re-Destro to turn the tide back the other way but the flow of the  battle changes as Shigaraki gets to be an actual badass, for once, and take down Re-Destro’s entire tower with just one touch.

Shigaraki’s hold over the battle doesn’t last long however, as Re-Destro bats back at him and delivers some of the series’ most brutal physical damage yet, seeing Shigaraki lose several fingers in Re-Destro’s counter attack. From there Chapters 234-236 send us down through Shigaraki’s mental state and right back to his origins, probably the absolute best aspects to this arc. This not only humanizes Shigaraki, but explains why he turned out as awful and twisted as he did, making him a wonderful counter to Midoriya’s more optimistic path.

But for all the praise these chapters deserve, and rightfully so, they’re not without flaws. Little problems persist through Academia’s narrative. Going back to Chapter 231 we, very briefly, snap to Hawks and his double agent storyline. Hawks had been in contact with Dabi, who demanded proof that Hawks was willing to help the League as however necessary. This culminates in Hawks showcasing his support for the league by seemingly offing Best Jeanist, who is missing now according to the news. The problem with this is we already know that Hawks is a double agent, working for the hero association. We know his seemingly traitorous actions in support of the league are part of a ruse. This means we know that Best Jeanist is likely okay, as Hawks has forced him into hiding to make it look like he killed Best Jeanist.

That’s the problem with Academia sometimes, it shows us too much, and removes the mystery. Now, since we haven’t seen the end of this arc it’s entirely possible that Best Jeanist really is dead, and Hawks has gone from double agent to double double agent (or perhaps this is how scummy the Hero Association is? Willing to off an injured hero to further their designs), but then the series runs the risk of feeling too complicated/wishy-washy. I really just wish we didn’t know Hawks was being used by the Hero Association to try and infiltrate the League. Knowing too much absolutely damages the drama.

Moving on the other chapters have other niggling little issues. Perhaps due to the short chapter length (most of these chapters run sub-16 pages.) Re-Destro launches into a speech in Chapter 232 without great transition, making his sudden pompous bluster aimed at Shigaraki to feel abrupt. Another issue is the focus on Spinner in Chapter 233. Each of the Vanguard Action Squad, what’s left of them anyway, has been getting a little backstory, here and there. Toga’s revealed she was always screwed up, Twice’s mental state got solved, and Shigaraki himself gets his whole origin dished out. Spinner, as it turns out, has no real goals or ideals to pursue. He’s someone who has, as the manga put it, jumped on another’s band-wagon. That’s all well and fine, and it’s even nice to see the manga address someone feeling inspired enough to do something, but piggy-backing on another’s ideals. The trouble is Spinner’s backstory feels shoved in, squeezing it all in just a few pages, making the points it touches feel like a passing thought. It’s this and the Re-Destro’s abrupt transition into villainous bluster speech that show how unfavorable a tight, short chapter length is.

That said, Horikoshi has done a great job otherwise. Most of these chapters read and flow quite well, feeling substantial enough that it’s easy to forget how damn short they are. It’s only in certain sequences that the page length continues to harm the story, like the examples I offered above.

Overall, outside of one other nitpick concerning the explanation for the hands Shigaraki wears, (I personally think this borders on absurd and melodramatic rather than a satisfactory explanation for why one would wear disembodied hands) these are really great chapters. They totally power up the league, which was desperate to feel relevant and deadly. What I think would work best now is if the league hung around for as brief as possible. Maybe they have at most one, small confrontation with Midoriya and Co, sweeping the floor with them and gaining an outright victory, before disappearing from the story till Academia is ready for its climax.

The trouble with having a final bad guy introduced so early, devalued, and then revalued again, is that Shigaraki and Co. either need to be beaten, and now, which would probably see Academia as a series close out, or they need to disappear, much as the Akatsuki did. They showed up, wrecked shit, and then disappeared until Naruto was able to take them down, one at a time. I don’t know that the league needs to follow the exact same formula, but if the series is to continue for hundreds of more chapters, they need to retire for a bit, let Midoriya and Co. fight some smaller, shorter term baddies, and then pop up again when we’re ready to advance the story towards its climax.

While it’s a shame that the Liberation Army seems to have been created purely for the purpose of Horikoshi powering up the league, I’ve come to accept that usage. And it’s not too big a deal, seeing as Horikoshi is creative enough that I’m sure he can come up with a few more villainous organizations to throw in Midoriya’s way, until he’s ready for that fateful showdown with Shigaraki.

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 at Shonen Jump. Volume 20 releases on August 6th, 2019. Chapters discussed today will be collected and released sometime next year (or maybe even next next year?)

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