My Hero Academia Vigilantes 51-55 – 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 sandwiches some of its best work between chapters that detract from it. Starting with Chapter 51 Vigilantes spends too much time delving into what everyone else is doing. We have an elongated focus on the heroes trapped within the tower, detailing their efforts with far more attention than is actually needed. While it can be nice to be thorough, much of this information is unnecessary, existing mostly to give us longer time with fan favorite characters who don’t get to show up too much in the main manga. When we do finally return to Captain Celebrity and Koichi, Vigilantes is in top form. Captain Celebrity’s life is on the line and Koichi is stepping up, a rare sight to be sure. The manga’s still a little reluctant to turn Koichi into an out and out hero, making note to portray him as a kind of “Stop Gap” Hero, where in he merely bides time until real heroes can appear on the scene. It’s disappointing that Koichi is still a second string character in his own manga.
Chapter 52 and 53 are splendid however, offering the right amount of focus on Captain Celebrity, flits back to the other heroes, Koichi and the villain. It’s near as good as this series has ever been, with only a few nagging, minor flaws. Comedy perhaps comes back in a little too often, damaging the series’ ability to sell tension. It’s also unable to convince readers, because of the lack of tension, that Captain Celebrity might actually die here. It doesn’t toy with the reader’s emotions enough, and that’s disappointing especially after it nailed Captain Celebrity’s flashback. For as much as we’ve used Celebrity’s marriage as a gag, the flashback here showcases his romance with his now estranged(semi-estranged?) wife and is fantastic. It hits all the right beats, doesn’t outstay its welcome, and doesn’t feel cropped, making it easily one of my favorite parts of the story. It really humanizes Captain Celebrity, and turns an outright goof character into a sympathetic individual. It’s a shame the series, like most modern shonen, is too afraid to allow tension and dramatic elements to linger for too long.
Unfortunately for as strong as these chapters are, Vigilantes suffers much the same issue as the main Academia title– our heroes are simply too strong. It’s perhaps worse in Vigilantes since its a prequel, and what we know from Academia proper is that All Might was a near unstoppable force for good, rarely allowing any evil to linger all that long. Indeed All Might swoops in and not only makes a fool of our villains once, but twice! There’s even an attempt by the art to sell just how menacingly evil Scarred Man is. Yet each attempt to bring about defeat for our heroes is ended in an instant by All Might himself. The text even references how this is basically a Dues Ex Machina, but that doesn’t really wash the taste away of how lackluster an ending this is. The shift of focus to All Might also again highlights how little this manga actually lets its main cast be, well, its main cast. It’s still out and out a side-story/bonus content for main series fans, and that really dampers the level of appeal Vigilantes has.
As a piece of side content, Vigilantes is perhaps exactly what it needs to be. Decent enough main characters to carry the story until we get another smattering of fan pandering guest appearances. But as its own title? Vigilantes is still a disappointment, and it’s a shame because I still honestly feel it could soar if given the chance.
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.