My Hero Academia Vigilantes 61-65 – 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:

With Chapters 61-65 the Eraser Head flashback seems about over and done. I have real mixed feelings on this flashback. Outside of Koichi getting sidelined again in his own manga, this flashback is both moving and interesting, yet also poorly realized all at the same time. Let’s Jump In!

Let’s start with 61-62, part of the establishing chapters, that includes 60 from last time, all designed to set up Shirakumo and his relationship with Aizawa as this life changing friend that gradually develops Aizawa from a lukewarm hero into the character we know him as today. Shirakumo’s entire presence through these chapters is to help Aizawa refine his technique, and his belief in himself. The trouble with these chapters is that a large part of the magic that’s normally in Academia proper simply isn’t here, and the story itself plays out in the most predictable of fashions, even up through the best parts of this flashback. Nothing here feels dynamic, fresh, or lively, at least not until tragedy strikes. I can’t help but feel that if Horikoshi had overseen this himself, the Aizawa flashback would feel much more powerful and engaging.

To be honest I don’t know exactly how Vigilantes is produced. I don’t know how much oversight Horikoshi has over Hiyuki Furuhashi and Betten Court’s work, or how much input he offers. I kind of doubt he actually oversees the writing, seeing as much of Vigilantes writing doesn’t really feel like Horikoshi’s style. It’s always felt like a reproduction of it. My guess though is that Horikoshi offered an outline as to Aizawa’s origins and Furuhashi and Betten Court took over duties seeing it fleshed out. I think Furuhashi dropped the ball, and offered up the most generic realization of it. There’s a couple ways this could’ve been heavily improved. One would be to rush it. Speed through Shirakumo because audiences will know immediately the kind of character he is. He’s not terribly unique. In fact he’s almost the picture boy for the “too good to live” character trope. We don’t need three chapters fleshing out his effect on Aizawa’s life, not when it’s so bog standard. Cut it down to maybe two chapters, focus more on how grim and lacking in drive Aizawa is, to match his brooding persona, and let Shirakumo exist as the stereotypical catalyst character he is.

The other option is to change it up. This is much harder and requires more inventiveness, perhaps more than is reasonable to expect of a bi-weekly manga. We’d need to go back to the drawing board and totally change up how this story is told. I might even argue that you need to put all the focus on Aizawa, really depict his world as grim, plodding and without drive as he comes across, with only Shirakumo acting as the beacon of light urging him to be better. Right now the tone is still pretty happy go lucky, typical Academia, which is a shame because Horikoshi has even abandoned that tone for other flashbacks in the proper series, and it usually makes for a much more compelling origin story.

I will say however things improve once the drama gets going in 63 and 64. My complaints largely fall away as a giant villain attacks the city and things go from bad to worse in the blink of an eye. My only issue is that there’s a double explanation for the villain’s power, both as Aizawa’s apprenticeship boss notes, and later when Aizawa pieces it together himself. We really don’t need both explanations, as the first is wasted page space, and I think it would’ve flowed better if we’d been left in the dark until Aizawa pieced it together. Otherwise 63 is pretty tight, and dynamic, something missing from the earlier chapters in this flashback.

Chapter 64 is the best of the bunch thanks to the high of Aizawa taking down such a massive villain all by himself, followed by the emotional gut punch of Shirakumo’s death. The only issue I have is how hard the manga works to drive home that Shirakumo is dead, and Aizawa couldn’t possibly have heard him, before the reveal of Shirakumo’s body. We repeat several times that the radio was busted, and Aizawa couldn’t have possibly heard Shirakumo. I think saying it once, followed by Aizawa denying that truth, to him seeing the body would’ve made for a more powerful moment. As it is it feels a tad overwritten, ruining an otherwise strong, dramatic flow.

Finally Chapter 65 sees us return to the present, with Eraser Head and Koichi meeting up with the Hotta Brothers, who plan on setting up a cafe. Finding the cat a new home, and Eraser remembering that he wanted to make a hero tower that had that cat from the flashback as a mascot, realizes he can finally let go of clinging to Shirakumo’s death and move on. I don’t know that the cat tying the two time periods together works nearly as well as it could and in some ways Eraser Head’s decisions almost feels arbitrary. Then again, this is probably better than dragging the flashback out any further.

Ultimately Eraser Head’s flashback suffers a number of lows offset by a couple really great highs, making it fairly uneven in execution. I think it’s a shame Horikoshi didn’t offer this flashback in the main manga himself, as I’m almost positive he would’ve given us a far more dynamic version of the story, that might’ve made Shirakumo more memorable, or at least left me feeling more wholly positive about Aizawa’s origins, rather than mixed.

For next time I’d like to see the story move back toward Koichi and gradually thrust him more into the life of a vigilante, but I’m not holding my breath. It seems far more likely some other character will take the spotlight, with Koichi tenuously tied to their narrative. I feel bad for Koichi, Knuckle Duster and Pop-Step, so often it feels like Vigilantes barely considers them the point of the story anymore.

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.

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