Saturday, January 5, 2019

My Hero Academia: Vigilantes Volume 3 Review

Keeping up with the Professionals!

Story: Hideyuki Furuhashi
Art: Betten Court

Cover Price: $9.99
Release Date: January 1, 2019

Review by Luke Hollywood

Since it's debut chapter My Hero Academia: Vigilantes has explored the similarities and differences between the professionally licensed heroes and their illegal vigilante counterparts in the super-powered society that they find themselves in. In this latest volume, Furuhashi shines the spotlight on the Pros, with Koichi and the gang getting wrapped up in all sorts of crazy shenanigans on the way. We've seen the Vigilantes go up against Trigger-boosted monsters of the week and prototype Hero Killers, but now the Crawler faces his toughest adversaries yet: A college friend eager to learn the secrets of the Vigilantes, a washed-up sleazeball superhero from the states trying to steal the limelight and... a surprise appearance from his Mom!? How will Koichi survive? Read on the find out! 

Explain It!:

Something that becomes quickly apparent while reading this volume is that Furuhashi is definitely leaning towards the comedic side of Vigilantes for these chapters. Vigilantes as a series has always had a lighter tone than the main My Hero Academia book, and while that isn't to say Furuhashi isn't capable of serious story arcs (the clash with Stendhal at the end of volume two is proof of that), I feel that his best work is when he lets loose and shows just how wacky a world of super-powered citizens can be. While still prevalent in this volume, the overarching villain plot of Hachisuka and her Trigger bees takes a back seat, with new characters and challenges to Koichi's life stepping in to fill the void. The first of which is Makoto, who enters Koichi's life as a voluntary tutor who happens to have more than a passing interest in the Vigilantes of Naruhata. Though he admits himself in the opening chapter of this volume that college is his real job, we rarely get to see Koichi's life outside of his Vigilante antics, so a friend from college is a great way to flesh out this aspect of his character (and provide a hefty amount of world-building in the process through Koichi's Hero Sociology studies). What makes Makoto really interesting is her intrigue with the Vigilantes, who she happens to be basing her thesis on. It quickly becomes clear that Makoto is a lot more shrewd and perceptive than she initially lets on, so Koichi is going to have watched his step to avoid spilling the beans on his other job, so to speak. Having to protect their secret identity is not something our heroes usually have to contend with in the super-powered society of My Hero Academia, so it was a lot of fun seeing this classic Superhero concept being explored in these chapters. Makoto enters the story in a whirlwind and as the decisive go-getter that she is she really provides some traction to the plot, as she manages to pop up continuously throughout the rest of the volume (much to Pop☆Step's chagrin). She is a great addition to the Vigilantes cast with a strong connection to a main character from the My Hero Academia series that I won't spoil in this review!

The next contender in the "How to ruin Koichi's day Olympics" promptly arrives midway through the volume in the form of Captain Celebrity, who is every bit as ridiculous as his name suggests. Imagine all the arrogance and showboating of Booster Gold minus the big heart and charm hidden inside (along with a very familiar visor) and you've got Christopher Skyline, the number 1 hero of America who managed to publicly disgrace himself for his playboy antics in the states, and so intends to rejuvenate his career in Japan. These chapters are where we see the majority of the action for this volume, As Captain Celebrity is all about swooping in for the fame and glory while leaving the real work (and little credit) to Koichi. We've seen plenty of Pros who are more invested in the celebrity aspect of hero work over the actual hero work itself in the main series, but Captain Celebrity exaggerates this concept to an almost villainous extent (in one chapter he refuses to enter a disaster zone until the media and his personal team of cheerleaders and merchandise vendors arrive). He's the perfect foil to Koichi's good-natured actions and genuine personality, and a character you can't help but despise with his every appearance. Thankfully, with a cunning intervention by Makoto, Skyline gets his just deserts, but his final appearance in the volume promises a new take (Must be Captain Celebrity reborn?) that will no doubt be just as entertaining to see in future chapters.  

The final adversary for Koichi arrives towards the end of the volume. An unexpected visit from Koichi's strict, no-nonsense Mother proves to be not only an excellent excuse to get more background on Koichi, but also, through some comically timed surprise entrances, a great opportunity to develop Pop☆Step and Knuckleduster's alter ego's as well (the amount of effort Pop goes to makes herself presentable to Koichi's mom is particularly heart-warming, even if it goes completely over Koichi's head). With the threat of forcing Koichi home with her if she judges his current living style inadequate, it's nice to see the Crawler's Vigilante buddies back him up as their civilian selves, and once again Makoto is able to swoop in and tweak the situation to their advantage. The final two numbered chapters of the volume conclude the arc in the most bizarre and outlandish way possible. The highlight of the entire volume, chapters 17 and 18 depict a sightseeing trip between Koichi's mom and Makoto (with Koichi tagging along for the ride) that ends up as the quirkiest (pun intended) adaptation of the movie Speed you've ever seen. One of the neater aspects of this series is Furuhashi's knack for utilizing minor characters and guest appearances consistently throughout the series, which goes a long way to establishing a unique and self-contained world for Vigilantes to stand on its own legs, which in itself is impressive for any spin-off series. These chapters are no different, with some unexpected returns from allies in volume 2 giving Koichi's heroism a chance to really shine. A lot of this volume's chapters are comedy focused, with Koichi usually being the butt of the jokes. so it was great to see him step up once again in a moment of crisis and show us what he's really made of. The culmination of this is a somewhat unexpected power-up that comes off as a slight Deus ex machina, but after the physical and emotional beatings, Koichi has received all volume long it's nice to see our protagonist put one in the win column.

The last two chapters of the volume are special one-shots that were originally printed in a different magazine, and so they are designed for first-time readers of the series. As such, these chapters focus less on the core Vigilantes cast and more on previously established characters from the main series, In particular, the Pro Heroes. a lot of Pros, of both major and minor importance to the main series, show up here, and it was great to see some of the earlier interactions between established characters, such as the discussion between Midnight and Eraser Head about working at U.A. Of particular note is the chapter "Sp.2- Hero Visit", in which the long-term friendship of Detective Tsukauchi and All Might is explored through their first encounter with each other. As something that has been well established but rarely expanded upon in the main series, it was a real treat to see Furuhashi building upon Horikoshi's foundations, not to mention the generous portion of Superhero references sprinkled throughout the chapter (the "Might" cave and a very Clark Kent-esque shirt rip come to mind). Definitely a welcome bonus for the volume!

Bits and Pieces:

With each concurrent volume, Vigilantes proves that it is not only a fun spin-off but indeed a must read for any My Hero Academia fan. While some may lament the fact that Hachisuka and Trigger have taken the back seat this volume, In the process exciting and hilarious new additions to the cast provide a great comedic break after the darker, more serious story arcs of volume 2. You can tell from this volume that both Furuhashi and Court are having a blast coming up with these crazy quirky adventures, and I'm having just as much fun reading them. Managing to provide more than a few laughs, on top of some quality world building and character development moments, this volume takes full advantage of the creative toybox that the world of My Hero Academia provides and runs wild with it, all the reader has to do is strap themselves in for the ride. I leave you with a final score and the wackiest page I could find from the volume, the terrifying speed demon cat bus... you can't make this stuff up!


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