My Hero Academia Vigilantes 76-82 – 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:
As we build closer to the series’ climax, Vigilantes stops to redefine Koichi, who has generally been portrayed as a kind of ‘joke’ protagonist. While his powers have certainly grown, there’s always been an air of comedic portrayal to him, or at the very least an atmosphere that has left Koichi feeling unimpressive to the real heroes. But as we launch into the series’ last major story, Koichi gets a rebranding as someone who could truly go toe to toe with any hero, assuming he ever gets the proper training. Let’s Jump In!
Chapters 76-77 have us watch as Koichi and his abilities are ‘retconned.’ It’s not a true retcon, it’s not like he couldn’t do something along the lines of what we see here. But the way the manga chooses to visualize his abilities, the atmosphere the story gives them, lends it all to making Koichi actually seem, well, cool, powerful and formidable. It’s a marked change, making him truly feel like the hero of his own manga for once.
We do hamstring this with a typical, ‘oh, he’s got a mental block on shooting people’ sequence that feels superfluous. It’d be far more dynamic to show his struggle/reluctance to shoot a living target in action, with his new allies realizing during the climatic ordeal that Koichi has that mental block. Learning it during training, simply because he’s shooting at targets shaped like people, feels very silly and lazy. It doesn’t feel real, because most anyone can say, pull the trigger on a gun when aimed at a target, even if the silhouette is person shaped.
Thankfully we don’t dwell on this silly idea long. We push off into a fun little training montage, followed by a reminder that our original starter villain, Soga, now has a heart of gold, even if he’s still prickly, as well as a little teasing with what’s going on with Pop mentally.
My one issue with Pop’s character is that at times it feels very reductive to portray her as girl who’s simply pining too hard for a guy who doesn’t notice her. It’s weird because I think Vigilantes has often handled female characters very well, but here it feels like we’ve boiled Pop down to the scorned maiden who really just needs her man to finally come for her. Sure, she’s mentally manipulated by the bad guys, but it’s not exactly the most progressive realization of this idea.
Again though, we don’t dwell long on Pop’s portrayal before everything is going to shit. And that’s great. Chapter 78 sees Pop’s latest attack start, catching a swarm of heroes off guard. It’s here that I really noticed a difference in the kind of heroes we see in this series, vs in Academia proper. In MHA it’s very rare for a hero to falter. Anything from being dangerously caught off guard, to actively loosing in a fight is almost always off the table in MHA. It feels like every hero is always at the top of their game, and is impossibly hard for the villains to ever defeat. Here in Vigilantes we see the heroes immediately overwhelmed by Pop’s attack. True “B-listers” as you’d sort of have to assume bolsters the hero ranks. By Chapter 80 Number 6, who eventually re-brands himself as O’Clock 2, manages to kill something like four heroes in the span of just a few pages. It’s a significant shift from MHA’s portrayal of heroes, and I kind of wish MHA would borrow from Vigilantes more often with this. The heroes in the main title have felt overwhelmingly powerful, and my worry that they could ever be defeated has been at an all time low as we’ve entered its most climatic arc yet. MHA could do a lot of good by stealing a few of Vigilantes’ B-listers to off now and again.
Is Vigilantes a bit lazy though in its use of B-List fodder? I would have to say yes. The most glaring example is when O’Clock 2 meets with Compass Kid, a character designed from the outset to lose. He’s a fairly unimpressive hero, a good guy, but someone you can’t help but feel isn’t going to overcome much. His seeming death, because you can never be sure people are dead in Shonen until someone states that as fact, can be seen coming a mile away. But even if Compass Kid is designed from the outset to die, it still works, I think in part because Shonen manga have set the bar so low. Still, it’s great to see O’Clock 2 growing into this unstoppable, twisted, murderous villain that it always seemed like he was meant to be, but we never allowed for the sake of the otherwise easy-going, low stakes tone Vigilantes offered up for most of its run.
Another fun thing as we enter into Chapter 79 is the portrayal of Endeavor. Endeavor pops onto the scene, seemingly the only real A-lister there. A problem I have always had with Endeavor in Academia is that by the time we first meet him it already seems like he’s undergoing character development. Outside of a few flashbacks, and even then it’s all more so implied than visualized, we never get to see him being the raging asshole he’s supposedly always been. Here though we really get to see how awful Endeavor is as a paragon of justice. He’s the shoot first, break a few heads, burn em to a crisp and then see if anyone is alive enough to answer some questions, type. Again this is something that I wish was in Academia proper, and the fact that it’s here continues to speak to how Vigilantes has mostly been utilized as a way to bolster the main title, rather than become its own thing.
Another highlight is Pop’s ‘day dream’ or fantasy, where she imagines a life that she and Koichi could have had, while acknowledging every page that this future for her is now permanently out of reach. It really helps to sell her depressed, burn it all down, mindset. I continue to have mixed feelings on Pop becoming a ‘scorned-lover’ villain, even if part of it is due to being mentally manipulated by the baddies. But it’s sequences like these that make me feel like it’s not all just to wrap up the series, but to try and build on Pop and Koichi’s underdone relationship in a way that finally makes it feel like our characters are growing closer.
Chapter 82 wraps us up for this review, as Number 6 reveals himself as O’Clock 2. He’s apparently got some warped idea to use Pop’s death as a way to catapult himself into the spotlight as a hero. It’s crazy, and I’m not entirely convinced that what we’ve seen of Number 6 justifies this abrupt shift in objective, but still, it gives Koichi a chance to save Pop from the clutches of evil and go up against a character we know to be incredibly deadly, since he seemingly killed Knuckleduster. The chapter ends with Endeavor taking the scene, and prepared to go toe to toe with O’Clock 2 himself. I really want the story to end with Koichi getting to be a hero, even if still viewed by the public as a Vigilante, so I hope that O’Clock 2’s dust up with Endeavor here isn’t actually what takes him down, as again it would feel like Koichi isn’t really the main character of his own story.
Ultimately though, despite my quibbles, Vigilantes continues to soar as we aim for the conclusion. It’s looking like my prediction of 5 (that’s way out obviously) to 10 chapters might have been too conservative. Depending on how things play out it could still end in the next 3 chapters, or perhaps the next 8. It’s difficult to say, but it does feel like we’re coming very close to conclusion. I suppose one thing that would be kind of cool, and would assuage my issues with Koichi always feeling like second fiddle in his own series, is if Vigilantes was a long winded way of introducing him into the main Academia title as a new, ongoing, supporting character. Vigilantes would still have always been a companion piece, but a crucial one, rather than merely something for fans to futz around with.
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.