My Hero Academia Vigilantes 10-14 – 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, Koichi, 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:

Review:

Despite my earlier hopes with Chapter 9, Vigilantes continues to teeter between world building, fan service side content and wanting to be its own thing. There’s a lot of missed opportunity here, especially with this Stendhal storyline. In Chapter 9 we learned that Soga Kugizaki, the villain from the very first issue, wants to be a good guy now. We also have it set up that Koichi believes in the basic goodness of villains, and isn’t so quick to paint things as entirely black or white. Stendhal appears on the scene and we learn he has no qualms with killing those he’s deemed as evil.

We got an off-brand Wolverine here, people!

There’s a lot of potential there for great conflict, character work, and exploring Koichi’s ideals– none of which Vigilantes seems interested in. Chapter 10 opens with Soga visiting his two buds from that first brawl in the manga. Instead of exploring his character, the change of heart, anything like that at all, we launch immediately into positioning Soga against Stendhal.

The manga makes no effort to ease us into things. While Academia proper has sometimes been accused of a slow build, Vigilantes is anything but, often moving too fast in these later chapters. Within 6 pages Soga is pitted against Stendhal, leaving no room to explore Soga or Koichi. We get maybe one page delving into Soga’s history and how his childhood made him the delinquent he is today, but it’s not really enough to bring some kind of emotional impact, something the main series is so good at and Vigilantes is so dearly lacking.

Koichi appears on the scene all too suddenly, and his ideological difference with Stendhal gets maybe a page worth of discussion before we’re launching into Koichi vs Stendhal. As we discover, the reason for this abrupt series of developments is because Koichi and our other heroes aren’t the main focus at all. Rather, we discover, this has all been setting up a secret origin story for the beloved, yet short ‘lived’ villain, The Hero Killer Stain.

Well I think we all recognize that tongue.

It turns out Stendhal is Stain and the rest of this chapter and chapter 11, coupled with a, admittedly, bad ass fight between him and KnuckleDuster, serves as the first visualized exploration of the character’s origins and what will transform Stendhal into the Hero Killer Stain for the main series. It’s fan service, enjoyable fan service, but seems to take far greater precedent than telling Koichi’s own story. Anyone looking for a true meaty exploration of Koichi’s life will come away sorely disappointed. It feels like Vigilantes is best viewed as periodic fan service explorations of Academia’s more underused characters peppered between short, but fun, tales about our vigilante trio.

Skipping past Chapter 11 for the sake of brevity (as I sort of laid out my feelings on it while discussing Chapter 10) let’s move onto Chapter 12 which introduces a new character, Makoto Tsukauchi, Sister of the police detective from the main series, Naomasa Tsukauchi. She meets Koichi in college, as he’s struggling with a course on Hero Sociology. This opens up a narrative where Makoto could potentially reveal Koichi’s identity as a vigilante hero. However, a large part of this arc’s content is establishing world building on the way the hero society came to be, and Vigilantism’s role within that.

Thankfully there’s a greater effort to flesh things out, and keep the focus on our heroes, than with the Stain surprise origin. We get a lot of comedy as we learn how each of the three vigilantes is viewed by the community, although there’s hardly any surprises. The chapter ends with Makoto’s research getting stolen, Koichi getting it back as his alter-ego, The Crawler, and Makoto nearly catching onto who Koichi is really, except she gets the name wrong and fails to learn Koichi’s secret. It’s cute and it’s fun, but still feels to be missing something compared to the main series. That’s probably due to the narratives more stand alone, one off story nature, which leaves little room for deeper, emotional, character growth.

We’ve got to get this man a more unique catch phrase.

The last chapter I’ll be looking into today is Chapter 14, which serves to introduce the idea of the American Hero, Captain Celebrity, and his overly focused, publicity driven nature. Again it’s another amusing tale as Captain Celebrity makes Koichi’s life hell. As with the Makoto story, it’s cute, it’s fun, but doesn’t really offer the meaty character work Academia proper is known for.

As we wrap up for today I want to make it clear I don’t hate Vigilantes. As side content goes it’s not bad. It’s cute, it’s fun and arcs like Stain are absolutely great for big fans of the series who want to see more of characters who’ve gradually been left in the dust as the story has pressed forward. It’s also an excellent way to see the world gradually fleshed out. But as a narrative on its own it’s so lacking. Koichi and Co. exist mainly to produce quick one off, comedy bits or fan service focused narratives. They rarely get a lot of exploration themselves and when they do it’s more for gag purposes than truly crafting them as compelling leads. It’s unfortunate, as I could imagine a version of Vigilantes far more gripping and equal to its big brother series, but as it stands is decent enough as a fan service laden side dish.

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.

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