My Hero Academia Vigilantes 46-50 – 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:
Vigilantes tries its hand at a longer arc with Chapter 46, building up a narrative through a succession of three chapters to culminate in a larger scale confrontation than normal. This 5+ chapter narrative highlights some of the series’ greater shortcomings, particularly in the way Captain Celebrity and other characters have been utilized up to this point.
Starting with Chapter 46 we’re introduced to the idea that Captain Celebrity’s time in Japan is fleeting. In fact, he’s on his way out, as Makoto has managed to wrap up all of Celebrity’s legal and home troubles that have kept him from returning to America. The chapter is played with a slight melancholy, as if Captain Celebrity leaving the gang is a touching (Well, after we’ve had a good few pages of per slice of life content anyway.) It’s a weird feeling, seeing as Captain Celebrity has actually had very little usage. Introduced as a sort of pain in Koichi’s side, he’s actually had very little to do, and whenever he has shown up it’s felt kinda of samey each time. Captain Celebrity’s leaving feels sudden, and decidedly unemotional for the audience as his inclusion in the story hasn’t amounted to much. We’re no closer to him as a character than when he first appeared. In fact this little arc works double time later on to try and catch us up on his character, in part to instill fear for Captain Celebrity’s life as the Villain Factory sets its sights on him.
Chapter 46 is largely dull and meandering, using up 7 pages before we get to the meat of the story. It’s in part to try and hide the, rather obvious, info dump about how Celebrity’s quirk works. It’s very poor writing as Celebrity explains how his quirk works, and then Koichi is immediately scolded by Makoto to keep the info secret, as learning how Celebrity’s quirk works could put him in grave danger. (Perhaps the best course of action would’ve been to simply not share that info in the first place?) There’s better ways to have written this too. Rather than having Celebrity, stupidly, spell it out himself, maybe Koichi could have guessed it? Or perhaps Makoto should’ve scolded Celebrity for being so caviler with such an important secret.
Things get interesting however when the kids visting Celebrity are targeted in a random Villain Factory test of their latest baddies, and our big bad ‘Scarred Man’ gains an understanding into the limitations of Celebrity’s defensive abilities, deciding to target him again in the near future.
From there Vigilantes goes into overdrive setting up a detailed scenario that seeks to put a cap on Celebrity’s story, one way or another. The trouble with Chapters 47 and 48 is how nitty-gritty we get. There is a lot of talking heads over the next couple chapters, and unless you’re absolutely absorbed in the more slice of life atmosphere offered, it feels impressively boring. There’s a couple strong developments though, like Koichi and Pop getting gradually tied closer and closer to the main narrative (Which is good, seeing as it’s supposed to be their manga, not Eraser Head’s spin off.) But outside of smaller elements like that, 47 and 48 feel thoroughly overwritten. There’s too much detail here on the set up for Captain Celebrity’s big going away party, or Eraser Head’s operation to trap the Villain Factory. It’s not hard to imagine how you could trim both aspects of the set up through tighter writing, better paneling, and other ways to offer the same information, but with less dialogue. Some of it also isn’t all that necessary either. It’s possible to convey how much work Makoto is doing, or the police, without offering up wall of text level details. A great example of just how meandering these chapters are is how Chapter 47 ends. Rather than offering us an exciting tease for next time, or furthering the suspense of the villain plot, we end up with a little gag between Makoto and her brother, Naomasa, as she tries to wrangle him into getting All Might to appear at the party.
Another problem with so much lengthy build up is the expectations set for the audience. Because we take a good three chapters to set up Captain Celebrity’s ‘big goodbye’ that only adds pressure for the manga to actually deliver on a truly epic battle, whether Celebrity is really deserving of such a big send off or not. Thankfully Vigilantes seems ready to deliver on that front. Chapter 49 takes a bit to get going. Opening with Celebrity’s big goodbye party readers are treated to a ‘who’s who’ of heroes from Academia proper, followed by Eraser’s big bust against the Villain Factory’s operations. This sequence, compared to the who’s who of heroes, isn’t all that dynamic, and lacks punch as one page of the raid is narrated right over. It’s only as the chapter wraps that things get explosive and Scarred Man makes his big play against Celebrity.
In some ways you could even argue things don’t really get started until Chapter 50. Here we get a humanizing sequence for Celebrity, showcasing much of the talked about home life/character work concerning him and his wife (The ‘playboy’ angle is eased off, painting Celebrity as more of a well meaning idiot, rather than a truly aloof, romancing goon like he was in his original introduction.) As Celebrity is apologizing to his poor wife, things take a terrible turn, with Scarred Man’s exploding quirk monsters attacking the tower the party is being held in. Immediately Celebrity finds himself in an almost engineered situation meant to pummel away at him as everyone’s lives hang in the balance.
Ultimately this set of chapters varies highly in quality. There’s glimpses of a rather tragic redemption story (although I personally don’t think Vigilantes is actually interested in killing Celebrity, or really any of its characters, off.) but it’s buried beneath subpar story-telling choices. It also highlights the series’ shortcomings, as Vigilantes hasn’t done a great job of utilizing Celebrity as a character, making this final send off feel like the most engaging plot he’s had since he appeared back in Chapter 14. This story does offer the opportunity for Koichi to step up however, and that’s this arc’s biggest boon. I’ve harped before on how little Koichi matters to his own manga (heck when they’re talking to Midnight in Chapter 47 and she mentions how all of their encounters could be described as self-defense, rather than vigilante-ism. It really highlights how soft the series has been on building Koichi to match the title.) and this acts as a perfect opportunity to further his development. Vigilantes is a lot like Academia however, focused on the slow-build, offering change through the most incremental of updates. It’s baby-steps every time, as if both series are geared toward narrative runs spanning into the hundreds of chapters. The problem with that is sometimes it can feel like our characters are going nowhere. Academia proper generally gets away with it thanks to the school-setting, signaling that Midoriya is still but a hero in training. Koichi doesn’t really have that same excuse for baby-steps on the path to becoming a Vigilante.
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.