My Hero Academia Vigilantes 71-75 – 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:

Vigilantes really feels like it’s wrapping up. We’ve jettisoned the Koichi and Pop everyday shenanigans in favor of a dramatic turn that sees Pop converted into a villain. Alongside that, the long teased but hardly toyed with romance between Pop and Koichi suddenly gets pushed front and center. Let’s Jump in!

Koichi and Pop’s, barely even a, romance plot has taken center stage, acting as the catalyst to Koichi attempting to save Pop once we discover she’s been converted into a baddie. I’ve talked previously about how the love angle has been so underutilized this whole series so I won’t harp on that again too much. I will say however, that in the series’ twilight hours they do make good use of it never having really been a ‘thing.’ In chapter 72, when Koichi realizes that Pop is missing, Koichi isn’t suddenly love sick for her, but rather realizing that he never really knew her, because he’d never made the effort to define what their relationship was. For as shoehorned in as this ending feels at times, it’s at least consistent with what’s been presented up to this point.

And this series isn’t going out without a bang either. Evil Pop well, pops, onto the scene, making an explosive entrance as she bombs the area she used to perform so often in. Koichi attempts to stop her, but is sent tumbling, incapable of getting through to her. It’s a bit cliche, particularly since there’s a slight air of ‘spurned lovesick girl goes evil because boy wouldn’t like her back’ but with the mind control angle introduced shortly after I don’t think it’s too painful a development. And it’s certainly exciting, offering the kind of dark atmosphere Vigilantes has toyed with from time to time. It’s that atmosphere that I wish was so much more pervasive throughout the series. It’s these moments, when the villains strike out and we flirt with actual danger that Vigilantes has felt at its best. I still think it’s a shame that the comedy basically took over the entire series, leaving us with scant moments of brushes with true villainy. I thought early on Vigilantes could’ve been the ‘darker’ take on Academia, catering a little less so directly to the core shonen demographic, maybe brushing aside some of the genre’s more common tropes.

Of course, even when Vigilantes has allowed the baddies to make the series’ tone just a tad bit darker, it hamstrings itself even during those more gripping moments with classic shonen dumbing down. Like Academia proper we can never allow the villains to actually accomplish anything. Vigilantes, like Academia proper, sees the villains make their play only to come up totally empty handed. It’s always lip service to the idea that the villains are winning, or managing to inflict lasting damage on society. Even here though the dissonance between the way villains are seen in the series vs what they have accomplished is far more pronounced than it ever has been.

Not a chapter after Pop blows a bunch of buildings up, and assuredly hurt people in the display, we learn the damage she inflicted wasn’t all that grand. Besides a few minor injuries Pop’s only lasting mark is property damage, which even the heroes of Academia are no stranger to accidentally inflicting. It’s the classic “don’t let this get too dark for the kiddies,” that has plagued Academia, if not most Shonen, for the last few decades. We don’t even have to kill anyone like Dragon Ball did, just let us know tons of people are in the hospital. Because the problem is when we minimize Pop’s accomplishments as a villain, then you end up with extreme dissonance like the following.

Despite Pop having accomplished relatively little, and being but an angsty teenager, nevermind all the pop up villains in the area before, she’s been classified as a full fledged villain? It doesn’t really jive with what’s been accomplished. I know it’s to give Koichi a shot at being the hero, so we need our actual heroes to be a bit more ruthless, but it feels like overkill for what Pop has actually done. It’s here where I wish we’d just said, yes, she hurt people, and some will have their lives changed forever.

Chapter 75 sees Koichi get a letter from Knuckleduster, after being rescued by Kugizaki, turned Knuckleduster replacement. It’s a touching letter, re-contextualizes early events of the series, and gives fans some more love with a tease that All for One is responsible for Knuckle having lost his powers, and potentially being the backer behind the Villain Factory. While I think Academia could use some more variety in its mastermind villains, it’s still nice to see a bit more connectivity with the main series that isn’t about Academia’s side characters taking the spotlight from Koichi.

I’m fairly confident that Vigilantes is positioning itself for the end. I suspect there’s only five, maybe 10 chapters, at the most, left. Basically enough for one or two volumes. It all depends on how long it takes for Koichi to save Pop. In some ways I’m sad to see the series end. Mostly because I think it never really grew into its own thing, and what’s happening with this arc now would’ve been cool to see much earlier. Not events exactly like this, but ones that saw Koichi actually fighting small time villains. Koichi is kinda like the Spider-man of Academia. He’s a friendly neighborhood guy, but nobody wants to see him helping grandmas cross the street for the entire run. At some point he’s got to grow as a hero, and the sad truth is that it’s only as the series is ending that we’re really seeing Koichi get to do a bit more. I suppose Vigilantes could be continuing after this arc, but narration has hinted that this is the last story arc, and looking at it from a writing perspective, we don’t have a lot of loose threads left to tug at. I think it’s safe to say that when all is said and done Vigilantes will have been a modest, if not closer to mediocre, companion piece to the main series, and yet could have been so much more.

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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