Reviewby Nick Creamer,
My Hero Academia
The invasion of Chisaki's yakuza headquarters at last reaches its climax, as Midoriya and Chisaki trade thunderous blows above the city streets. Having finally learned the nature of Eri's power, will Midoriya be able to use this knowledge to finally defeat her oppressor? Meanwhile, Shigaraki's League of Villains make maneuvers of their own in the shadows, hoping to capitalize on the disorder in order to bolster their own nefarious aims. As the consequences of All Might's retirement continue to mount, the hope of true peace in a world of quirks seems to only slip further and further away.
Don't be fooled by the dramatic cover art of My Hero Academia's eighteenth volume. Though that cover promises a climactic battle between Midoriya and Chisaki, the tragic reality is that Midoriya actually cleans up this fight within a single chapter of the volume itself. After a couple of titanic, Eri-empowered punches over the Tokyo skyline, Chisaki is cleanly defeated, leaving the rest of the volume to detail all the various consequences of this mission, as well as work through a couple more minor conflicts. It's a drastic change of pace from the mile-a-minute action of the last two volumes, but though this is far from My Hero Academia at its best, there's still a fair amount to enjoy here.
The Chisaki fight itself unfortunately suffers from an issue that's cropped up repeatedly in this arc - a profound lack of visual clarity. Chisaki's powers are impressive, but the interplay between his constantly evolving body and Midoriya's blows makes it difficult to tell how the two combatants are actually interacting with each other, or feel any sense of impact in Midoriya's punches. This arc has often sacrificed clarity of drama for scale of action, and while I appreciate Horikoshi's visual ambition, I'm hoping he eventually arrives at a better balance of scale and coherency.
Fortunately, this volume's other major fight sequence is actually a real standout. Shigaraki and his gang soon end up pulling a heist that draws far away from the Chisaki arc's almost tournament-esque standalone fights, using their powers to disrupt a mobile police caravan. The sequence both serves as a strong reminder of Shigaraki's menace, and also a pleasingly creative application of quirks' ability to facilitate action setpieces. We've seen plenty of villains trying their best to punch heroes, but it's a very different kind of satisfying to see them apply their quirks to more conventional criminal ventures.
The rest of this volume serves as a grab bag of various dramatic odds and ends, both tidying up the conclusion of the Chisaki arc and focusing on 1-A's next steps. Though I've critiqued his quirk's fundamental narrative awkwardness aside, I actually felt this volume did an excellent job of finally justifying Nighteye's quirk and character. A quirk that straight-up predicts the future is very dramatically unsatisfying, but Nighteye's explanation that collective belief in a better future can actually change the future itself felt like a very clever way of tethering his quirk into Academia's general thematic focus. Heroism in My Hero Academia is always about how heroic action by individuals isn't just worthwhile in its own right - the essence of heroism is that it inspires others to believe in something, and pass that charitable, aspirational instinct along. Viewed in that light, Midoriya's triumph here feels like the embodiment of Academia's heroism; his strength, conviction, and personal magnetism were so great that they actually inspired enough people to genuinely change the world.
The last chapters of the volume see My Hero Academia's more prickly protagonists attempting to embody that positive spirit in spite of themselves. The provisional license exam retake sees Todoroki, Bakugo, Yoarashi, and Camie trying to inspire a classful of rowdy students, while Endeavor takes notes on being a better hero from All Might himself. While I appreciated the conceptual purpose of this arc, the execution felt pretty unsatisfying; not only were this conflict's stakes incredibly low, but it didn't even feel like our heroes meaningfully grew from the experience, and this felt like a wasted opportunity to build up Camie as a character in her own right.
That said, these chapters also feature some truly dazzling demonstrations of powerful quirks in action, and I appreciated the evolving nuance of the relationship between Endeavor and Todoroki. Endeavor has done terrible, unforgivable things, but he's not a genuine monster - he's a deeply flawed man whose most negative qualities have at times facilitated his greatest strengths. His pride and ruthlessness and utter obsession with being the top hero once helped drive him to greatness; now he realizes these qualities have also destroyed his relationship with his family, and left him a cruel and unreachable figure who could never inspire hope. Watching him attempt to acknowledge and account for his mistakes, both in terms of his family and his relationship with society, was a real unexpected highlight.
On the whole, My Hero Academia's eighteenth volume is in large part a transition segment, offering a hit or miss collection of loose ends before the story moves into its next proper act. It's definitely one of the weaker recent volumes, but that was almost structurally inevitable, and there's still plenty to enjoy here. My Hero Academia continues to be a very entertaining read, in spite of some minor stumbling blocks along the way.
Overall : B-
Story : C+
Art : B
+ Offers an interesting grab bag of dramatic loose ends, with some real highlights like Shigaraki's highway assault
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