My Hero Academia Vigilantes 0.5-1 – Manga Review
Synopsis: Vigilantes: People who work outside the law in the name of ‘justice.’ These are the individuals who aren’t registered as licensed heroes, not permitted by society to use their quirks in public. While Heroes like All Might, Eraser Head, and the aspiring Midoriya confront villainy with the power of the law behind them, other heroes lurk in the shadows, pursued by the police for their disregard of the rules.
When Kindly Dude: Nice Guy, a street level hero who does little more than help the average citizen in the most pedestrian of tasks, meets KnuckleDuster, a grizzled and hardened Vigilante, Nice Guy finds his life forever changed as he dives into vigilante heroism in order to combat a growing epidemic of ruffians who’ve their quirks boosted with illegal drugs.
Warning: Spoilers to Follow:
My Hero Academia Vigilantes is part of a growing line of manga acting as spin offs for highly successful titles. Akin to Boruto, Vigilantes tells another tale in the world of Academia, although one that runs alongside the main manga rather than proceeding it. These titles feel like steps toward the American Comic Book Industry, where popular characters quickly gain numerous running titles. My one fear, with a situation like this, is the big problem that developed in the comic industry through the 90s, where those additional titles became required reading, assuming readers wanted the full story on their favorite heroes. It made keeping up with comics a mess, and is a problem the industry still grapples with today, even after attempts to resolve the damage in the early 2000s.
However, what’s here currently in My Hero Academia Vigilantes isn’t at all required reading for the main title, but rather a fun supplementary story for readers who haven’t quite had enough of Academia’s world. Vigilantes opens with a 0.5 chapter to explain the concept, which is good seeing as Academia proper never really goes into vigilante heroism as a thing.
Within this introductory chapter we already get a sense that Vigilantes wants to perhaps be a little darker than Academia proper. We’re introduced to our All Might type figure, KnuckleDuster, a buff and tough hero that seems to capture the very embodiment of Vigilantism the same way All Might does with Heroism. His introductory panels showcase a classic alleyway robbery, with darker tones and imagery than what we typically find in Academia.
An edgier Academia would be a mistake I feel, as Academia isn’t quite Academia without its ‘quirky’ comedy. Thankfully Vigilantes showcases that isn’t gone as we’re introduced to the bubbly, exhibitionist Pop Step, and our main hero Nice Guy. Nice Guy gives off ‘diet Midoriya’ vibes. He idolizes All Might and while not to the same degree, acts as our heroes primary inspiration for his actions. He even dresses like All Might, something Midoriya came to do after he dawned his first costume.
This 0.5 Chapter does a good job of easing audiences into the spin off, allowing its new cast to briefly play around with the main heroes, almost making me wish we’ll actually see some more of that as Vigilantes continues.
Chapter 1 is where things really kick off. We open with a flash forward to Nice Guy, KnuckleDuster and Pop Step’s encounter with a massively oversized villain and it isn’t going well. We snap back from that to introduce Koichi Haimawari, Nice Guy, and his down trodden life.
While both he and Midoriya share a similar love for All Might, Koichi’s is significantly less fan crazed, we thankfully don’t repeat the quirkless hero shtick. Rather Koichi has, what many consider, a lame or ‘gross’ quirk. It’s the one area where I feel Vigilantes stumbles. It tries hard to convince us that Koichi’s quirk is seen as disgusting, so much so people compare him to that of a cockroach when he takes up the stance required for it to activate. But it doesn’t really work, and feels try hard in its efforts to portray Koichi as looked down upon. I also don’t think it’s necessary given Koichi’s other traits. He’s ultimately a fairly meek individual and runs away more often than he stands up for himself.
Koichi ultimately goes through a similar arc to Midoriya; down trodden individual, thrown into a situation, rises to the occasion. This occurs after he meets Pop Step girl, a female vigilante who performs on the street utilizing her Jumping Quirk. Koichi mostly uses his quirk the same way Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the recent Summer Blockbuster used his abilities early on: Helping the little people. The first chapter repeats the 0.5 Chapter, again showcasing the mundane ways in which he aids everyone.
Pop Step tries to rope Koichi into using his quirk for her benefit, a way to give her a heads up when the cops are on their way to break up her performance. But this invitation doesn’t last long, as Pop Step is attacked by the same three thugs who beat up and stepped all over Koichi is his day life.
This is where Vigilantes really gets darker than Academia. As the thugs grab a helpless Pop Step, which is a bit disappointing that the heroine of the piece is quickly recused to a damsel in distress, they threaten to strip her nude. There’s even allusions to molestation or perhaps rape later on in this scenario, delving into territory that is entirely absent from Academia proper.
We don’t hold on that for long however as Koichi tries to save Pop Step, only for the play by play he had in his mind’s eye to go horribly wrong in reality. It’s here KnuckleDuster drops in, quite literally, and smacks the villains around with surprising ease, all while mentioning that he’s looking for druggies, which is, as I understand, a very important plot element to the series.
Koichi is forced during this to take the same actions Midoriya did and dive in as a hero to save Pop Step. Koichi isn’t quite as driven to be a hero however, let alone a Vigilante, and declines KnuckleDuster’s offer, although it’s likely not for long, otherwise we don’t have much of a series. The chapter ends with the thugs being offered ‘medicine’ or more likely the very drugs KnuckleDuster was looking for.
Overall what’s here is pretty solid. It feels a tad formulaic in the shadow of Academia, but works all the same and provides a fun look at a different aspect to this world’s society. But Vigilantes doesn’t feel as strong as Academia in one important regard: Emotional punch. One way in which My Hero Academia stands out is its ability to really instill heartfelt emotion in its proceedings. Particularly it’s very first chapter is noted for bringing readers to tears, or at least close to it. But Vigilantes isn’t quite able to instill the same emotional impact. While a solid starting point, it certainly remains the lesser of the two titles. I might even go as far to say that it’s reserved for fans of Academia, rather than the more casual reader base. While not a true ‘poor mans’ Academia, it lacks the emotional charge that makes the main series feel so gripping, leaving behind a competent, enjoyable, but lesser title.
Still I’m interested to see where this series will be going, what ties it has to the main series, and whatever surprises it still has in store.
That’s it for today. Please let me know what your thoughts are on these chapters in the comments below!
My Hero Academia Vigilantes is published monthly in Shonen Jump and currently available for free through the viz website.