by Nick Creamer,

My Hero Academia

GN 15

My Hero Academia GN 15
Midoriya's work study with All Might's former sidekick Nighteye has begun, but things aren't going quite as smoothly as planned. Given Midoriya and Nighteye's fundamental differences in philosophy, it seems hard to believe the two of them will ever truly cooperate - and that's before you take the increasingly bold actions of yakuza boss Chisaki into account! While organizations across heroic society move to engage with this new threat, Midoriya and his fellow students will find themselves caught up in a operation with no clear resolutions and no margin for error, as Midoriya himself wagers his own spirit of heroism against the greater good. With the simple challenges of school behind them, Midoriya and his friends will soon have to face the messy realities of heroism in the real world.

The simplicity of Midoriya's view of heroism has always been one of those assumed truths that I'd always assumed My Hero Academia was simply holding on the back burner for future conflicts. Contributing to complex, large-scale police operations often requires a lot more than simply “saving people with a smile,” even if that's the part that All Might would always show up for. It requires caution, diligence, and oftentimes accepting a smaller injustice for the sake of a greater victory. It demands being resolutely un-Midoriya-like, and in My Hero Academia's fifteenth volume, the unsuitability of his simple philosophies for genuine police work finally comes home.

The natural conflict between Midoriya's simplistic idealism and his new teacher Nighteye's relentless pragmatism offers some of the most compelling moments of this volume. As Nighteye moves pieces into place for a large-scale operation against Chisaki's organization, Midoriya is forced to suffer by watching oppressed innocents slip through his fingers. This volume's opening sequence, where Midoriya and Mirio accidentally stumble across Chisaki and his “daughter,” is one of the most tense sequences in recent My Hero Academia, engaging not through its action theatrics, but through both the palpable sense of risk involved in their conversation, and the agony Midoriya puts himself through in letting Chisaki escape. Learning he truly can't save everyone all the time is a hard lesson for Midoriya, and one this volume grippingly succeeds in illustrating.

Unfortunately, many of this volume's other conflicts aren't so engaging. The prevailing issue with this volume as a self-contained series of adventures is that it's basically all buildup for a future battle; the prevailing issue with it as a contribution to a larger narrative is that its buildup feels unfocused, and many of the individual beats stand on shaky dramatic bedrock. Perhaps the biggest and most avoidable issue is that Nighteye's power, an ability to see the future that's limited only by its daily usage limit and long-term vagueness, is probably just not a power that should exist in My Hero Academia.

The limits of Nighteye's powers are so nebulous that his future sight immediately feels like an arbitrary resource, where sometimes he'll have perfect information, sometimes he won't have any information at all, and sometimes his vague predictions are just barely enough for the team to go on. Dealing with the frustration of a powerful but imperfect ability to foretell disaster certainly carries some dramatic resonance, but Nighteye's limitations are so vague that his abilities only undercut any sense of true stakes here, and leave many of this volume's conflicts resting on a groundwork of “something vaguely bad will happen in the future!” While I appreciated how Midoriya's argument with All Might regarding All Might's ultimate fate engaged with their evolving sense of trust and mutual responsibility, the fact that this conflict was based on “Nighteye said a bad thing will happen and it's unclear what, if anything, we can do about it” made the sequence ultimately feel pretty hollow. The ability to see the future is just not a power narratives can employ lightly, and I don't think My Hero Academia does a particularly successful job of it here.

Aside from Nighteye's unique issues, my biggest complaint with this volume was its sheer weight of exposition. Although there are occasional dramatic highlights like Kirishima making his professional debut, most of this volume is dedicated to both the heroes and villains explaining the mechanics of their future plans. The explanation of a new drug that disables quirks carries on through several chapters, and other discussions, like an argument about the best use of Nighteye's powers, don't really go anywhere at all. The initial luster of My Hero Academia expanding its dramatic scope has largely worn off at this point, and it seems like Kōhei Horikoshi may be experiencing some trouble keeping this many dramatic balls in the air. I hope this arc serves as a useful learning experience for Horikoshi, and ultimately helps him maintain the immediate tension of My Hero Academia's early arcs while still embracing the dramatic opportunities of a broader dramatic platform.

Production Info:
Overall : C+
Story : C
Art : B

+ Challenges to Midoriya's simplistic heroic philosophy are welcome, some occasional dramatic highlights
Nighteye's powers are a dramatic non-starter, story sags under the weight of aimless exposition

Story & Art: Kōhei Horikoshi

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My Hero Academia (manga)

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My Hero Academia (GN 15)

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