My Hero Academia Vigilantes 31-35 – 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:

After the high of Knuckleduster’s finale, Vigilantes chapters 31-35 are a bit disappointing. We enter perhaps the most aggressively sidelining story our heroes have been a part of yet, keeping both Koichi and Pop Step as side additions to a narrative mostly separate from their involvement.

Things start well enough, with Koichi learning a new ability/use for his quirk. It’s then off to Osaka where Pop Step has another performance. It’s a potentially decent way to get our heroes into a new locale and tie them better into the emerging new threat, the Villain Factory. We even get another cameo, this time for Fat Gum, who hasn’t yet appeared in Vigilantes. But this potentially strong start doesn’t really hold up, as both Koichi and Pop Step quickly become B-story character in their own series.

We do a jump back to Eraser Head, who takes focus as he works to track down information on the latest strain of the Trigger drug. The introduction of the Villain Factory, building off of the series’ previous arcs, is a nice escalation of events, and the latest villain introduced as part of this makes for a solid, if perhaps unoriginal, villain.

Pulling away from Eraser Head it’s actually the Law Enforcement, Fat Gum, and a new character, Monika, that take center stage, all working to out Villain Factory while Koichi and Pop Step are distracted with the performance. In fact, Koichi and Pop seem completely none the wiser as the battle unfolds in the warehouse, and it’s only through plot contrivance with the mecha crabs that they’re caught up in the struggle at all.

Knuckleduster’s finale was a great step forward, and these chapters feel like two steps back. If Vigilantes is going to be a series worth more than a fun side read for die hard fans, it can’t keep Koichi and Pop as the comic relief in their own story. Otherwise the only real appeal starts to be “Which underused hero from Academia proper gets focus this time?” and with so many of the cameos being Eraser Head himself, it almost begs that the manga remake him as the main character.

It doesn’t help that this arc suffers from a number of other minor troubles. Our newest villain turns out not to have a super speed quirk as first assumed, but rather a time stopping quirk. It’s a cool reveal when he takes the police’s own weapons and shoots each of them to enact his get away, but it begs the question why didn’t he do something like this before when the police had him surrounded the first time? It’s only after he’s shot that he uses his time-stopping speed to pull off a counter offensive. A better realization of his abilities would be to drop little hints in the art that he’s capable of so much more than just pure speed alone.

Then there’s the fact that the crab mecha Pop is riding doesn’t explode along with the rest of the crabs. It, for some reason, suffers a delayed reaction, allowing our heroes time to deal with it going haywire.

Vigilantes also made me finally question something from the main series that have never really bothered me until now, but why is it the police aren’t authorized for some quirk use? It seems undermining to not allow law enforcement, particularly when facing quirk powered baddies, temporary authorization to make use of their abilities. Sure, heroes are often part of police operations, but when going up against a villain utilizing their quirks it seems silly to keep the police on such unequal footing. Why even have a police force challenge quirk users if they’re ill-equipped for it? Maybe it’s a moot point since Monika’s plays off her usage as only a minor issue.

Overall though, I found this arc a disappointment. There’s definitely a few highs, like the Villain’s new super speed/time stopping quirk, or Naomasa noting that his sister is tied to both Pop Step and Koichi, and some of the comedy when Koichi and Pop are first on the train to Osaka. I don’t mind silly chapters now and again. Shonen typically use them as comic relief, a chance to reset the status quo, and ease the audience down from more dramatic events. But there’s a limit and in a manga that’s struggling to make its leads feel like they are indeed the main characters, this feels like a big misstep.

I won’t be doing another Vigilantes review for some time, not till after the Summer Reviews are finished, Fall Previews are done, and Chapter 40 of Vigilantes releases, which looks to be sometime in October or more likely November.

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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