Saturday, April 13, 2019

My Hero Academia Volume 18 Review

Mangaka: Kohei Horikoshi
Translations: Caleb Cook
Lettering: John Hunt
Cover Price: $9.99
Release Date: April 2, 2019

Review by Luke Hollywood

(Spoilers ahead!)

Volume 18 is here, and with it we finally reach the dramatic conclusion to the Internship Arc. We've spent the previous 4 volumes with Deku and the gang going up against the Yakuza organization known as the Shie Hassaikai and their twisted leader, Overhaul, and as the final page of the last volume suggested, it's all come down to a super-powered showdown of epic proportions as the final battle for Eri's fate begins. So does this showdown deliver on all that build-up from the previous volumes? Is there sufficient closure for all our favorite characters from this lengthy saga? Is Horikoshi able to stick the landing on his most ambitious story arc yet? Read on to find out, of course!

Explain It!:

The initial chapters of this volume throw us right into the action, exactly where we left off with volume 17, with an overcharged-Midoriya facing down a terrifying Overhaul, at this stage resembling a patchwork monster of flesh, as he has used his "overhaul" quirk on his own henchmen to build a stronger body for himself. The result is a sight that is as gruesome as it is intimidating, and calls for Midoriya to utilize a power-up of his own to face the threat. He calls upon Eri to use her "rewind" ability on him, while he activates One-for-All at 100% throughout his entire body. This level of power would normally have a fatal effect on Midoriya's body, but thanks to Eri's quirk Midoriya is able to break his body down just as quickly as she rebuilds it, a clever tactic that nullifies both of the inherent weaknesses of their powers. With both Hero and Villain ready to brawl, the battle begins... and is over before we know it? In just two chapters a fight that has been brewing for the whole arc is concluded, leaving quite the underwhelming taste in this reader's mouth (volumes are for reading, not eating!). It's really disappointing that such a titanic clash is over so quickly. We do get a couple of nice splash pages to evoke a sense of scale to the battle, but unfortunately, the page space devoted to the fight feels inadequate by comparison. For such an imposing figure Overhaul really does not put up too much of a fight. I get that the power-up Eri provides Deku is super powerful (so powerful that he eventually loses control of it) but the efficiency with which he dispatches the big bad with this power-up obliterates the threat of Overhaul and reduces Eri to little more than a MacGuffin utilized to take down the final boss. I'm left with the feeling that with the ending in sight, Horikoshi rushed the finale to reach the aftermath, and while this may be somewhat understandable considering the long length of the arc, the result is ultimately very unsatisfying. 

Fortunately, the chapters devoted to the aftermath of this arc are much more rewarding. The takedown of Overhaul and rescuing of Eri have big ramifications for pretty much every major player in the My Hero Academia world, and we see the students, pros, and villains react to the events in their own way. Of particular note is Chapter 160, "Expressway", which is far and away the most thrilling of these aftermath chapters, as it returns the spotlight to the League of Villains as they seek immediate retribution from the incarcerated Overhaul. Shigiraki and the league have been present, albeit confined to the background, for the majority of this arc, so it was great to see them leap into action and remind the world (and the reader) that with Overhaul out of the way, they are once again a force to be reckoned with. The heroes, on the other hand, have a decidedly more tragic turn of events to contend with. As the smoke clears from the final battle the harsh reality of a hero's duty and the sacrifices that result from that loom large over the raid team. We see a lot of the heroes who were given the spotlight with their battles in previous volumes, such as Krishima and Amajiki, fairly bruised and banged up, but ready for recovery. Others did not fare so well. While she may now be physically safe, the severe psychological trauma Eri has suffered in Overhaul's clutches will not be so quick to heal, a stark reminder that saving a person doesn't always result in a miraculous recovery, but the biggest casualty of all is Sir Nighteye, who we saw receive a brutal blow from Overhaul in the previous volume, and it quickly becomes clear he doesn't have much time left. Chapter 161, "Bright Future", features the death of Sir Nighteye, and a major turning point for the series, as he is the first major hero to die so far. His death, and the emotions that it elicit from those closest to him, resulting in a devastating read, but in some ways also a hopeful one. Sir Nighteye had resigned in himself the fact that the future cannot be changed, but in witnessing Midoriya triumph over Overhaul, after he once witnessed a future that foretold otherwise, he comes to realize that individuals do indeed have the power to change their fate, and this newfound knowledge allows Nighteye to believe that his protégé Mirio might get the chance to change the fate that befell him as well. Overall, These chapters do a fantastic job portraying the impact of the raid on the Shie Hassaikai compound on a lot of characters, both directly and indirectly involved in the events of the last few volumes.

The remaining chapters in this volume provide a much-needed breather after some particularly heavy chapters. The beginning of the Remedial Course arc is jovial and light-hearted, with an emphasis on fun and flashy quirk action. While on the surface it may look like just more cool-down chapters after such a big event as the Internship arc ending (as we saw previously in the series with the Hero name class after the Sports Fest or the dorm room contest after the big All Might Vs All For One battle). However, there is a lot more going on in these chapters that initially meets the eye. First and foremost, it's a chance for Horikoshi to re-establish some of the series stalwarts who have been notably absent during the previous arc, Bakugo and Todoroki, as they head off to try and earn their hero licenses once more in a special remedial course. This setting also provides the opportunity for Horikoshi to reintroduce some fan-favorites from previous arcs back to the spotlight, such as Shiketsu High's Inasa Yoarashi and Camie Utsushimi, the real one this time. This kooky quartet (but no Captain America in sight) are tasked with proving they've got the heart to be heroes by connecting with a group of unruly elementary school kids who have closed their hearts off from adults (according to their much-beleaguered teacher, anyway). Over the course of a few highly entertaining chapters, the heroes in training manage to win over the little troublemakers with a flashy quirk performance, and we see they themselves showcase some strong character development as well. It's also important to note a key scene here that occurs with All Might and Endeavor discussing what it means to be the number #1 hero and what the mantle of the Symbol of Peace really means. The shifting status of Endeavor as the new #1 and it's ramifications on Hero society have been hinted at ever since All Might's retirement, so it was fantastic to see some real time spent on the topic, especially considering the task Bakugo, Todoroki and the others must accomplish, opening their hearts to the people around them, is a challenge Endeavor himself is trying to contend with, in both his work life as a number #1 hero and his personal life as an abusive father slowly accepting the error of his ways. The volume concludes with a return to ordinary school life, another aspect of the series that has been absent for a while, and an extremely odd cheese-filled encounter with one of Midoriya's more eccentric classmates, Yuga Aoyama, that quickly develops slightly sinister undertones by the last page, which is definitely more than intriguing enough to keep fans guessing until the release of volume 19. A strong chunk of chapters to conclude the volume, no doubt!

Bits and Pieces:

Volume 18 began with a somewhat anticlimactic finale to what had been a stellar story arc, but after that early stumble, Horikoshi regains his footing to deliver some very strong chapters with a heavy focus on emotion and character, providing a much more satisfying epilogue to the Internship arc in the process. However, the real highlight of this volume for me arrived at the end with the Remedial Course arc, which really does feel like a love letter to long-term fans of the series, with the likes of fan-favorite characters returning, long-seeded plot points bearing fruit and, most importantly, lots of flashy quirk action and plenty of laughs. After the much darker direction the last few volumes seemed to have taken us down, these chapters had a revitalizing effect on me as a reader, and go a long way towards my positive approach to my final score. While still acknowledging the faults of the earlier chapters this volume, this new arc, and a fresh approach are definitely worthy of praise. Here's hoping the good vibes continue into the next volume!


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