Thursday, December 13, 2018

My Hero Academia Volume 16 Review

Red Riot!

Mangaka: Kohei Horikoshi
Cover Price: $9.99
Release Date: December 4, 2018

Review by Luke Hollywood

Over the previous two volumes of My Hero Academia, Kohei Horikoshi has been slowly building up the threat of the new Villain Overhaul, head of the Yakuza organization known as the Shie Hassaikai. He has also spent a significant amount of time focusing on the detective work and Intel gathering performed by the Pro Heroes in order to launch a raid of Overhaul's compound and rescue the young girl at the center of Overhaul's plot to mass produce Quirk-Destroying drugs, Eri. With all that setup complete, does Volume 16 provide the action we've all been waiting for? Read on to find out!

Explain It!:

A key element of this volume is speed. Horikoshi has taken his time establishing the stakes for this raid, so now he wastes no more time jumping us right to the action. We hit the ground running at the start of the volume as the raid kicks off at the front doors of the Hassaikai compound, and that fast pace rarely lets up in the following chapters. The combined forces of the Pros and Police want to neutralize the threat of Overhaul and rescue Eri from his clutches as quickly and efficiently as possible, without giving him a chance to escape. Unfortunately for them, the members of this Yakuza group are fiercely loyal to Overhaul and are fully aware of their status as pawns, willing to be sacrificed to buy their boss more time. To stand a chance of reaching Eri and stopping Overhaul, Our heroes will have to first take on Overhaul's handpicked henchmen, the Eight Bullets of the Hassai Group.

These Eight bullets serve as effective mini-bosses our heroes are forced to overcome in order to proceed further into the compound and closer to their goal. They also provide Horikoshi with a chance to shine the spotlight on some of the supporting cast in battle. As the raid team encounters more of the Bullets, select individuals are separated from the main group in order to slow the team's progress through the compound, or in some cases the heroes nobly put themselves on the line so the team can forge on without them. This is the case for one Tamaki Amajiki, a member of U.A's "Big Three", the best of the best from U.A's enrollment. We've seen Amajiki briefly throughout this arc, but this is the first time he's received real focus, and a chance to live up to his reputation as the cream of U.A's crop. Taking on three of the eight bullets himself to buy the team more time, we get to see Amajiki deploy some creative uses of his quirk, Manifest, but the real meat of his chapters (food pun unintended) comes from his flashbacks to his shy childhood and burgeoning friendship with fellow Big Three member, Mirio Togata. We see just how much of an impact these two had on each other lives through Tamaki's recollection of how he earned his hero name "Suneater". For two characters who have only been recently introduced to the story, it's amazing how much I found myself caring about these two guys just from this brief flashback to their childhoods, and a testament to one of Horikioshi's best writing skills, his strong character work. 

The other character who receives major development in this volume is everybody's favorite manly man Eijiro Kirishima. As a self confessed Kirishima fanboy, these three chapters were the highlight of the volume for me. In the previous volume we already saw Kirishima get the spotlight with the debut of his new ultimate move, Red Riot Unbreakable, but this volume delivers upon that and then some. Separated from the group alongside his Pro Hero mentor Fat Gum, and facing off against two of the more dangerous members of the Eight Bullets, the Shield and Spear duo of Rappa and Tengai, Kirishima finds himself in a sticky situation after his Unbreakable form proves to be a little more fragile than previously thought. As he finds himself at his lowest point, he begins to think back to his early days and his dreams of becoming a chivalrous hero, much like Amajiki's flashback earlier in the volume. Broken up over two chapters, Kirishima's origin adds a surprising level of depth and drama behind his seemingly straight-forward bravado and gung-ho attitude. I found it just as compelling and moving as protagonist Izuku Midoriya's origin, which we received all the way back in the first chapter of the series. To an even greater extent than Tamaki's origin, Horikoshi's ability to bring so much development to an already prominent character at this stage of the series, while still delivering on a pulse-pounding battle in the process, really elevated my thoughts on this volume. 

It's not 100% perfect, however (though it does get awfully close). I would've liked to see more of the girls in action at the start of the raid, especially after we got a brief glimpse of Ryuko's badass Dragon quirk. Similarly, due to some of the lesser prominent characters getting the spotlight in this volume we get very little of Deku himself outside of the beginning and the end of the volume. However, the shift in focus back to the remaining members of the raid team towards the end of the volume does reassure the reader we'll get to see more of him in Volume Seventeen. Most significantly, the final chapter's endpoint, the sudden arrival of Twice and Rappa, is a somewhat abrupt end to the volume, feeling like a cut right in the middle of an action scene. As the majority of this volume is action orientated, it was always going to end with an action moment, and Rappa's imposing stature does make for an intimidating visual to close on, but considering the complete package feel that Amajiki's and Kirishima's standalone chapter's provided, this ending feels unfinished. Still, the dangling threads of the whereabouts of Mirio and the fate of Eri still leave the reader with enough anticipation for the next volume.

Bits and Pieces:

This may be my first review for the website, and I am a huge fan of this series, but I promise you I'm not faking the funk with this score. My obvious Kirishima bias aside, I really do think this volume delivers on some of this series' best traits in spades. The action is fast and intense, and the many double pages spreads evoke an epic cinematic feel to the encounters. The concept of the Eight Bullets elevates the threat of the Shie Hassaikai exponentially, while simultaneously expanding on the concept of the Yakuza group and their loyalty to Overhaul. The threat of Overhaul and danger of losing Eri remain a constant, which only serves to further up the tension for our heroes. Undoubtedly, the highlight of this volume would be the chapters focusing on Amajiki and Kirishima's origins, where Horikoshi's strong character writing is utilized to its full extent. Adding this level of development to characters formerly regulated to the supporting cast compels the reader to care about these characters just as they would the protagonist, and so serves to raise the stakes even higher for their one-on-one battles with the Eight Bullets. This volume has so far been the standout of the overall arc, and with the threat of Overhaul still looming and some of the strongest heroes still on the playing field, the action and intensity of this volume is no doubt bound to continue.


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