My Hero Academia 237-240 – 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:

Chapters 237-240 see the conclusion of the League’s rise to power, with Shigaraki managing to turn near certain defeat into victory as he overpowers Re-Destro and claims the Liberation Army as his own. Let’s Jump in!

Chapter 237 continues the flashback from 236, showing us how Shigaraki went from killing his family to finding himself under the wing of the deadly All for One. I actually kind of think this part of the flashback isn’t necessary. We already saw parts of this in earlier chapters, and Shigaraki murdering the two guys who beat him up is a step down in powerful imagery from him gleefully killing his own father. It’s, again, one of those times Academia perhaps shows us more than we really need to know, similar to Hawks, although this isn’t butchering a surprise.

In the present Shigaraki continues to power up. Remembering his origins helps to break him of his mental bonds and restore his Quirk back to its full, terrifying magnitude. Re-Destro begins to realize over Chapter 238 that Shigaraki is perhaps exactly what he’s been searching for in terms of Quirk Liberation. The point is kind of beaten around though as we spend a good chunk of the chapter also checking in on the rest of the League and how they’re reacting to the sheer chaos unfolding. The other league members really don’t need that much attention at this point, especially if the rest of them aren’t getting the same level of character development as the others who did get focus. It ultimately makes Re-Destro’s self-revelation feel underdone.

Chapter 239 and 240 help to shore up 238 however, managing to act as a tight culmination of everything this arc has been building towards. I’ve come to really love some of the central ideas to this arc, especially the visual transformation for Shigaraki as he destroys the hands that have been a part of his visual persona for 230+ chapters now. I’m also glad that the Liberation Army isn’t simply killed off, but folded into Shigaraki’s organization, giving him not only a personal boost in power, but new minions to boot. That said, for as much as I love some of the major ideas, Academia continues to do a lot of half measures.

Chapter 240 is a real mixed bag in quality. Twice went through a ton of character development, yet with 240 he suffers Usopp syndrome. It’s what I like to call it when a character supposedly grows and changes, overcoming negative aspects of their persona usually tied to their central character quirk– only to immediately slide back because the writer doesn’t know how to write them any other way or is afraid of what reader’s might think. This happens a lot in Shonen and I think it’s in part due to a fear of upsetting the ‘status quo.’ Readers like their characters as is, and that often means shonen characters can feel stagnant in personal growth and transformation because you never want to change them too much from what made the audience so attached to them in the first place. It would be like if Goku or Luffy underwent development to the point that neither was a big eater. That’d be crazy if you saw these characters turning down buffets in favor of protein shakes!

Certain characters can survive a shake up, especially if there’s more to them than just a central quirk/character flaw. But Usopp, for example, is pigeon holed into the ‘panicky fibber is a coward, but sometimes a hero’ shtick. Midway through One Piece we see Usopp challenged in how weak and unheroic he is compared to the rest of Luffy’s crew, yet after One Piece’s big time skip there’s several big instances of Usopp remaining pretty much the cowardly, unheroic liar he’s always been. Sure he rises to the occasion when need be, but he always did that. Despite his arc it feels like he never really grew, and that’s the same problem with Twice. We see Twice overcome his fears about whether he’s the ‘real one’ or not. Yet Chapter 240 sees him just as absurdly schizophrenic as before, if not more so, as if Horikoshi is saying to readers “Don’t worry! He’s still insane! Nothing has changed!” Indeed, in the end Twice’s development really only means his ‘power level’ has gone up, and that’s disappointing.

I have similar disappointment for backtracking on Shigaraki’s visual change. Shigaraki literally says earlier in this set, “It’s all so unnecessary” while destroying the hands that he’s been wearing the whole manga. In Chapter 240 we see characters remarking that, against all odds, one of the hands survived, and that that’s a good thing, since the hands are his one gimmick. It’s a small thing, but it actually urks me he continues to wear the hand. He was ready to show his face, and for as much as that would’ve made a huge change, visually for the character, his cracked, desperately in need of lotion face, would’ve been a welcome visual shake up to let us know that, from this point on, this was a truly more threatening Shigaraki, ready to face the world face to face.

The Hawks plotline briefly makes a resurgence here too, as Hawks is present for the merging of the League and Liberation Army, noting he needs to find out more of the inner-workings of the Villains, specifically who is backing them behind the scenes, before he can alert the Hero Association. It’s looking like Horikoshi is setting Hawks up for a fall. That all our telegraphing that Hawks is a hero is perhaps to try and kill him in a tragic way, that he’ll come close to warning our heroes, but die before he can succeed. I still think it would’ve been better to keep us guessing as to whether Hawks was a traitor or not. It could’ve played out much the same way, but keeping us in the dark could’ve made for a shocking, upcoming twist. Unless Horikoshi has something else up his sleeve, I continue to feel like this sits as example to how Academia sometimes shows us too much, and could do with keeping the reader in the dark just a little more often.

Overall the big ideas are awesome, it’s the execution that keeps this arc from feeling extraordinary. If I were to rank on concept alone, this arc would probably be my favorite. I really enjoy the idea of making the villains our ‘heroes’ even if just for a brief shift away from Midoriya and the rest (wow it’s been months since we saw them!) but big ideas are only great if the footwork matches them, and sadly,  Horikoshi stumbles here and there, perhaps too afraid of upsetting the fans of Twice and Shigaraki with too many changes too fast. Maybe it’s an editorial decision, and I wouldn’t be surprised, but it keeps me from feeling like both Twice and Shigaraki have really changed at their cores.

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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