Saturday, June 15, 2019

My Hero Academia Volume 19 Review

School of Rock!

Mangaka: Kohei Horikoshi
Translations: Caleb Cook
Lettering: John Hunt
Cover Price: $9.99
Release Date: June 4, 2019

Review by Luke Hollywood

(Spoilers ahead!)

With the Internship Arc finished and Overhaul dealt with, it's time for Midoriya and his pals to move on, and what better way to take your mind off demented Yakuza bosses than with a bright and cheery school festival! Class 1-A plans to put on an unforgettable performance to cheer up their peers and put a smile on the face of a very special surprise guest. However, a new Villain has been making waves on the net recently, and he has his sights set on U.A for his next big caper! Will Deku be able to stop the Gentle Criminal and allow the show to go on? Read on to find out!

Explain It!:

Right from the bright and bubbly cover, it's clear that this volume is aiming for a lighter tone. This is definitely welcome, as the previous volumes covering the raid on Overhaul's lair contained some of the darkest chapters of the series so far. We saw hints of this tone change with the Remedial Course arc at the end of volume 18, and it continues on here. The volume kicks off with the direct continuation of last volume's ending, a somewhat sinister Aoyama peering into Midoriya's dorm room window. Fortunately for Midoriya, this seemingly menacing encounter is, in fact, a lot more genuine and heartfelt in reality, as Aoyama attempts to confide with Midoriya their shared struggle of possessing quirks that hurt their bodies. The cause of confusion was simply born from Aoyama's quirky personality and peculiar (and very humorous) method of delivering cryptic messages with cheese pieces. This chapter sets the stage for how much of the rest of this volume plays out. Not with cryptic cheese messages, but instead with the shifting spotlight this volume shines on some of the minor characters from the core cast of class 1-A. This volume definitely seems to capture that team-book feeling, as the ensemble cast of 1-A get the focus while events proceed into the annual School Festival, the perfect venue for some of Midoriya's less prominent classmates to take center stage.

For no other character is this more apparent than Kyoka Jiro. The no-nonsense music lover has always been present in the cast (more often than not as the straight man to Kaminari or Mineta's comic relief antics) but the school festival, and class 1-A's decided performance of a dance/band combo for their part of the event, push Jiro and her music-making expertise into the forefront, even if she is initially reluctant as she believes her hobby of music isn't as practical as those of her classmates when it comes to heroic endeavors. However, as much of her classmates point out to her in a touching scene, the simple act of making someone smile through music is heroic in itself. This concept of heroes and the smiles they provide bears greater importance as the volume continues and little Eri returns to the fold. Though her physical recovery following the events of the last volume is progressing well, it quickly becomes clear to her rescuer's, Midoriya and Togata, that the effect of a lifetime of Overhaul's physiological abuse still lingers within her. As she admits herself, she finds it hard to smile, a tragic fact that makes sense when you consider her brutal upbringing in the clutches of the Yakuza.    As a result of this, the School Festival becomes a lot more significant, as it now becomes an opportunity to help Eri heal with a smile, and in the process, truly save her. As the stakes get higher a new player enters the scene in the form of a new villain called Gentle,. A self-confessed "Gentleman Scoundrel", Gentle records his villainous acts (with the help of his infatuated accomplice La Brava) and uploads them online, with the goal of obtaining fame and glory over simple material wealth. After his last villainous performance had a less than viral result online, Gentle decides that his next appearance needs a certain level of spectacle more befitting of their current hero-loving society, and sets his sight for the school that best represents that... U.A High!

As the chapters continue and the day of the School Festival draws nearer, everything starts falling into place.  1-A  is working hard to perfect their performance, dividing up the class into a band, dance and stage crew. In order to ensure the spectacle won't be too much for her on the day, Eri visits the school with Mirio amid the preparations. This brief break from Festival activities gives Eri (and the reader) a meet-and-greet with a lot of fan favorites from U-A's other classes, including the ever-resourceful Mei Hatsume from the Support Course. It is through Hatsume that Deku receives the next upgrade to his evolving hero costume in the form of his new Air Force gauntlets, a support item he plans to utilize to achieve the ability to perform long-range attacks, something he found himself lacking in his fight against Overhaul in the previous volume. In the meantime, Gentle is finalizing his attack plan for the big day, including an important tea break (Gentle's dignified method of celebrating a big job). However, Once the day of the School Festival arrives it is this very tea break that inadvertently seals Gentle's fate, as he happens to stumble upon Midoriya running last minute errands on the morning of the festival. Horikoshi excels at these tense one-on-one encounters between villains and our protagonist, as we've seen previously with both Shigiraki and Overhaul, and he delivers once again as Gentle's true identity and cunning plan to disrupt the festival are revealed to Midoriya. With so much at stake for so many close to Midoriya, he is immediately at odds against Gentle and La Brava, and with the addition of his new Air Force Gauntlets, he's ready to take on the nefarious duo. After nearly a whole volume with little to no action, these concluding chapters provide an exciting and explosive finish to the volume. With Long range attacks included in his arsenal, Horikoshi adds further depth to Deku's attack style, and Gentle's newly revealed Quirk of Elasticity results in one of the most exciting games of cat and mouse I've seen in a while. Though eventually cornered, Gentle takes advantage of Deku's do-gooder nature to force him into a tight spot, and we end the volume with the promise that the battle is far from over, as La Brava decides to engage her as-yet-unknown quirk. 

Bits and Pieces:

Despite the brief but enjoyable glimpse of action towards the end of the volume, much of volume 19's page count is devoted to character interactions, with a specific focus on minor characters such as Jiro or Ashido. While some fans might find these cool-down chapters monotonous after such a bombastic previous arc, I found these chapters to be a delight to read. The slower pace gives Horikoshi a chance to really flesh out his cast, and the setting of the school festival gives long-term readers a chance to revisit some of their favorite characters from previous arcs. The addition of Gentle and La Brava to the story is also an interesting development, as the duo is much more lenient and worthy of sympathy than we are used to with our previous antagonists, and their interactions with each other throughout this volume has me eager to learn more about them. It is also worth commending Horikoshi's ability to keep the stakes high while maintaining a more upbeat tone throughout the volume. Having witnessed all of his classmates working so hard, and Eri's own plight in the aftermath of Overhaul, we can understand Midoriya's desperation in his attempt to defend his school from Gentle's criminal exploits, and this only serves to crank up the tension around this showdown further. We're far from over with this fight, or with school festival shenanigans, and I'm eager to find out what's in store for Deku and 1-A next!


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