My Hero Academia Vigilantes 26-30 – 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:

The chapters I’ll be discussing today, 26 through 30, contain the conclusion for Vigilantes’ single best arc: Knuckleduster’s finale. The battle to save his daughter is a powerful one, well realized in the flow of the battle and the ultimate aftermath. While the manga often breaks up this narrative with the more jovial adventures of Koichi and Pop Step, Knuckle’s tale is one that feels more full of emotion, and while perhaps a tad thin at times since it can feel more relegated to that of a B story in Chapters 27 and 28, still feels like a great way to write out the character.

I’m of two minds about this however. Knuckleduster is a huge draw, acting as a much more gritty, scrappy All Might figure, perfect for what the image of a vigilante hero should be. He very much serves the same mentor role for Koichi as All Might does for Midoriya. To see him go is unfortunate, as his more gruff persona aids in selling this as a story about vigilante heroism, where as Koichi and Pop Step often feel more in line as gag characters suited for wacky high-jinks, rather than outright combating crime. But it also makes sense to put Knuckleduster away. While he isn’t killed off, he is removed, becoming more a legendary figure for Koichi to aspire and adhere to the ideals of. If used correctly, Knuckleduster becomes a pseudo image of what the manga might look like later on, giving us a taste for the kind of gritty street battles Koichi might eventually come to fight. Also taking him out of the story gives Koichi a chance to grow, and perhaps fill his shoes. This is evident by the way Koichi starts to consider carrying a weapon, much like Knuckleduster did, although we don’t get to see that happen by the end of Chapter 30.

Another strong aspect to Knuckleduster’s conclusion is the ambiguity of it. With his daughter safe, she asks to see her mother, but all we’re given is a flashback where Knuckleduster runs to hold his wife’s hand as the doctors are wheeling her away. She reaches for him, but without the aftermath it leaves her status up in the air. Is she dead, and Knuckle is just sparing his daughter’s feelings by withholding that her mother passed away? Or is this more of a happy affair, with a damaged family now whole again? This ambiguity lets the audience decide exactly how Knuckle’s story ends, either on a somber/melancholy one, or an altogether perfect ending to an otherwise tortured character.

With Knuckleduster gone, as apparently his entire reason for fighting crime was to retrieve his daughter, the series has to readjust the roles of its remaining cast. Captain Celebrity gets a bit of rebranding. Attention turns to how often Koichi has his fat pulled from the fire thanks to Captain Celebrity, who now frequents Koichi’s apartment to get away from Makoto. This new, more rundown Captain Celebrity feels like a shift away from his introduction, and an attempt to give him a larger role in the series going forward. Suddenly he’s more tied to our characters than ever before, although he’s later used for the exact same gags as he was introduced with: Saving Koichi’s chestnuts and capitalizing on the poor young man’s plight for publicity.

But we’re in an interesting phase as the manga works to reimagine itself and set the new status quo. Not only do we see the manga slowly re-purposing Captain Celebrity, but establishing the ongoing existence of the Trigger drug, along with talk of a more powerful version of it that, through experimentation, permanently changes someone. It’s been touched on before, but this is the first time the manga’s really lingered on the idea and discussed it. We also see Pop Step in her new environment, more often used for little stage promotional stunts and performances, building off her earlier arc.

Overall I am thrilled with where Vigilantes has ultimately gone. My hope is the series works through this period of change sooner rather than later, and set Koichi on a more vigilante/combat focused path, as has been hinted. The manga’s in a dangerous place where if it lingers too long on Koichi and Pop Step’s more silly endeavors it stops feeling like a story about vigilante heroes and more goofy oddball sidekicks. Next week I’ll be reviewing Chapters 31-35 where I’ll stop until there’s another five chapters out.

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. Chapter 1 is available for free on Viz’ Website, while 2-5 are collected in Volume 1. Currently Chapter 6 and on are still available for free through the Viz website.

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