My Hero Academia 259-265 – 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:

Villainy is afoot, and gaining power by the day, yet greater society remains none the wiser. While Midoriya and Co. begin another round of work studies, to prepare them for an epic battle ahead, pro-heroes catch wind of the League growing power, having absorbed another counter society movement: The Liberation Army. In just four months society could see a level of unprecedented destruction, and the fall of heroism as they know it. Will our heroes be ready in time to save the day?

Review:

This arc has to end with the villains winning. It must. Shiguraki and Co. have failed at every turn to make a lasting impact on hero society. Their biggest claim to success is not even defeating All Might, but causing him to exhaust the remainder of his power, and that they didn’t even do themselves! All for One had to do it for them. Endeavor is still top hero and people still have faith in heroes. Despite the aggression with which heroes have gone after the league, Shiguraki and Co. are borderline a joke threat, incapable of actually accomplishing anything. They need a win and now. Unfortunately things aren’t off to a great start if we’re hoping Shiguraki and Co. have finally grown into a meaningful threat. Let’s Jump In!

Chapters 259 through 265 see the Heroes get the jump on the league. First they attack the hospital where Kyudai has been running experiments and creating Nomu. As that assault continues a larger band of heroes begins the assault on the villain’s stronghold itself. I will say, before my critique continues, that Horikoshi’s art is great here. It’s dynamic, action packed and makes Mirko, an underused side hero, look like an absolute crazed bad ass. If all you care about is pure spectacle, and couldn’t give a damn about whether the villains are formidable opponents or not, then Academia absolutely delivers.

I also think that Horikoshi may be trying something interesting here. It seems like he’s cast the heroes as antagonists and the villains as the protagonists. I’ve talked about this before, but with this arc it feels so much more prevalent. Shiguraki and Co. have their backs to the wall. It’s been that way since the start, but here’s it’s insanely pronounced. The way certain characters are panicking, everything is coming down around them, Mirko in one panel is depicted as extremely villainous, primary villains are instantly de-powered and immediately undermined: They’re the brutalized ‘heroes’ with their backs to the wall in desperate need of a last minute power up.

It’s definitely an intriguing approach, but I don’t think it totally works. We’ve spent the majority of this manga seeing Shiguraki and Co. fail time and again, rarely leaving a lasting mark on society, and I’d argue really none at all. To see them near totally trounced again, even after an arc meant to solidify them as a force to be reckoned with, only casts them as a bigger joke. This approach might have worked if Shiguraki and Co. had some early successes to point to, before falling into an unending string of failure, but what’s done is done. It might’ve also worked if they, in fact, were the true heroes to the story. Like if Academia’s society really did need to be stopped because it was so corrupt and so while we thought Shiguraki and Co. were villains they were actually heroes. But we haven’t gone in that direction and there’s little else entertaining that idea beyond the way this arc may be playing out.

We open the battle with the assault on the hospital, putting a side hero, Mirko, front and center for the battle to apprehend Kyudai. Mirko is essentially cast in the role of “fodder,” meaning if Academia was operating traditionally she and a few other early fighters would be used to showcase how unstoppable our villains are. Here instead Mirko wipes the floor with High-End Nomu after Nomu. She does take quite a bit of damage here and there, perhaps acting as one of the manga’s more dramatic and effective sequences, but her own unstoppable ability really starts to make these top-tier enemies look, well, pathetic. It’s not a good start for our antagonists who are in desperate need of looking like they have actual fangs.

From there the heroes bulldoze through numerous grunt baddies in the blink of an eye. As that happens Twice finds himself betrayed by Hawks (Though this was such a recent relationship, and we knew Hawks was a double agent, that it doesn’t really hit home emotionally for me.) Twice, deeply hurt by Hawks’ betrayal, activates his quirk and goes full ham like in the last villain arc. This is probably the most disappointing developments for me. Twice, like the other league members, powered up significantly. Yet it’s still not enough to earn him a win. Hawks obliterates him and it’s up to Dabi to prevent Hawks from capturing Twice. While it looks like Dabi has Hawks in a bind, this is where my fear for the heroes is tested and found lacking. Outside of one random hero death at the end of the Overhaul arc, and a few occasional loses of Quirk ability, heroes almost always come out okay. It wouldn’t even shock me if by next chapter Dabi was down and finished.

This is where our villains really, really need a win. And I think maybe, just maybe, Horikoshi is actually building to one. Shiguraki is still powering up and my money is on him swooping in at the last minute and turning tides (assuming they actually turn, I am still dubious after all.) But it really can’t just be Shiguraki that proves insurmountable. We need to see Dabi, and the other league members that haven’t been bulldozed over shine too. Otherwise even if Shiguraki pulls off a win, the rest of the villainous cast continues to feel weak and lame. It’s bad enough Twice got hammered before getting to do anything.

Also, very quickly, I wanted to address the whole naming controversy from 259. It’s my opinion that there are simply too many coincidences between Kyudai’s character and the real life events referenced from his original name not for it to have been on purpose. Horikoshi loves to drop little nuggets of darkness in his work thus far. Bullying, abusive parents, etc. It’s his ‘style’ for lack of a better word. I also think he had no idea he’d face such backlash and to be honest this is the risk you run even when more openly discussing darker themes and genuinely upsetting, real world issues. I do now wonder if we’ll see Horikoshi shy away from trickling in more edgy topics now that this one was met with such disapproval from segments of his audience.

Overall I think Academia has a lot to prove with this arc. Can we see Shiguraki as an honest to god threat? Are the league more than a joke? Is Academia ultimately just comfort food shonen? To be fair, all shonen, and many pop culture stories, lack stakes. Even Dragon Ball, one of my favorite shonen titles, in all truth, lacks stakes. But it’s the job of any author to effectively pull the wool over the audiences’ eyes. To make them think that their heroes are in any actual danger, and might not walk away as the victors once everything is played out. I think Akira Toriyama was extremely effective at this, Togashi too. But Academia is part of a more recent trend in Shonen where heroes are rarely challenged so harshly. I rag on Neverland all the time too for very similar reasons. But if Horikoshi wants Academia to be remembered, rather than become a flash in the pan success, he’s got to get better at making us worried that our favorite characters might not see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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 via Shonen Jump. Volume 22 released December 3rd, 2019.

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