Monday, August 12, 2019

My Hero Academia Volume 20 Review

Fantastic Festival!

Publisher: Viz Media
Mangaka: Kohei Horikoshi
Translations: Caleb Cook
Lettering: John Hunt
Cover Price: $9.99
Release Date: August 6, 2019

Review by Luke Hollywood

(Spoilers ahead!)

We've reached the impressive milestone of 20 volumes of Pus Ultra goodness, and with a bumper-sized eleven chapters (that's less than a dollar per chapter!) Volume 20 sets out to celebrate that momentous occasion by wrapping up the U.A High School Festival and Deku's fight with Gentle Criminal before shifting the focus of the book in a bold new direction with a glimpse at the world of the Pro Heroes and the new status quo of the Flame Hero Endeavor as the new #1 Hero. So will Class 1-A be able to pull off the performance of the century? Will Gentle ever get to drink his tea after a job well done? Will Endeavor be able to be nice to one of his fans for a change? Read on to find out!

Explain It!:

When we last left him in volume 19, Deku was stuck between a rock and a hard place (or more accurately, a bunch of steel girders) in the midst of his battle with the criminal duo of Gentle and La Brava. With the fate of the School  Festival (and Eri's chance for happiness) potentially at stake, the standoff had a tense feeling to it, which continues into the early chapters of this volume. The desperation and sheer doggedness with which Deku pursues the duo has forced them to take the fight more seriously themselves, with La Brava playing the trump card of activating her quirk "Love", which essentially is a short-term power boost to the person she loves the most, giving Gentle an extreme level-up in power. It is here that Gentle really becomes a significant threat, as we can see from the force of his blows against the hero-in-training. Gentle drops his dignified restraint as a sign of respect for his opponent and makes it clear to both Deku and the reader that he won't be giving up his mission without a fight. It is while this fight continues that we get a little more background on the duo, with an emphasis on Gentle, in the form of a heartbreaking flashback to his youth as a student and hero-hopeful, not unlike Izuku Midoriya himself. We already knew that he strived for fame by recording his operations and releasing them on the internet, but this flashback revealed that originally Gentle dreamed of being a hero, and his heroic actions would be what put him in the history books. We've seen plenty of heroes who are more concerned with their fame and public standing than with hero work in this series, but this young Gentle really does seem to be genuinely trying his best to do good.

 Unfortunately, in the process of doing so, he ends up getting in the way of an actual hero doing their job and makes a bad situation worse. Because of this, his family and society itself shunned him and the world eventually forgot about him, leaving his dreams of fame shattered. This backstory goes a long way into explaining his fixation with fame, as well as how his relationship with La Brava so quickly blossomed, considering they were both outcasts unhappy with their lot in life and desiring more. This added layer of backstory makes the pair quite sympathetic. Gentle, as a "mere shadow of a failed would-be hero", is a dark reflection of what could have been for Izuku, had he not been spotted by All Might way back when, so it adds a layer of depth to his involvement in the fight as well. Eventually, Deku is able to get the upper hand and takes down the pair, but Gentle once again proves his chivalrous nature by attempting to exempt La Brava of any criminal charges by claiming he abducted her and forced her to take part in his criminal activities. With a closing comment of encouragement to Deku to look after Eri just as he did La Brava, Gentle is removed from the U.A. grounds, leaving Izuku with a renewed drive to get the show back on the road and make Eri's day!

With the threat of Gentle and La Brava resolved, the focus shifts back to 1-A's big performance. A big chunk of the last volume was spent showcasing everyone's responsibilities in the elaborate band/dance production, as well as the importance of the show for not just Eri's sake, but for the entirety of the school itself, as a lot of the other classes were beginning to resent 1-A for all the trouble they had brought to the school ( Midoriya isn't the only magnet for trouble in his class). With all that in mind, it was great to see all that hard work pay off as we are treated to a full chapter worth of the performance. The band, dance and stage crew all get their chance to shine, and once they start using their quirks together they really do create quite the spectacle to behold. It's worth noting that when this chapter was initially released in the weekly format of Weekly Shonen Jump Magazine a lot of pages were left in an unfinished rough sketch state as Horikoshi was ill at that time, but as he explains in one of the chapter break pages in this volume he has since gone back and completed the unfinished pages as well as adding additional details he had to leave out in the original version. Having now read both versions  I can confirm that the adjustments made here for the volume are all excellent additions, with the highlight being the new glorious double-page splash of Jiro singing her heart out at the crescendo of the performance. As 1-A's resident reluctant rockstar, Jiro has been extremely instrumental (pun intended) in getting her classmates up to scratch for the show, so it's fitting that she gets the spotlight for the big finale!  It's while she's rocking out with the rest of the A Band that we get a touching flashback to tug on the heartstrings once more (Horikoshi has a knack for that in this volume). This time we see a young Jiro in distress as she reveals to her parents, who are both musicians themselves, that her desire is to pursue hero work instead of a career in music. 

Jiro is upset because she believes her goal to be a hero will disappoint her parents, but as they explain to her they began playing music purely out of enjoyment initially, but as that enjoyment blossomed into a career they both realized the positive effect music can have for others, not unlike the effect a hero would have on those they save. Jiro has the power to save others with both her music and her heroism, and as she hits the final note we see that power in full force in the stunning final page of the chapter, where the shadow of Overhaul that once loomed large over Eri is blown away by the performance in a page that I'm sure will be the cause of a lot of teary eyes around the room! We've been waiting for Eri to smile and truly be saved from Overhaul's clutches for a long time now, and it's all been worth it for this fantastic payoff. Wrap it all up with a nice tour of all the other events on offer by the other classes, and the School Festival concludes in an extremely satisfying manner.

But that's not all this volume has to offer! The School Festival was the culmination of a lot of long-standing plot threads for the series, so what comes next will naturally feel fresh and new by comparison. This new feeling is extended further with a shift in focus on characters, as well as the introduction of a lot of new characters in the process. All this change is brought about with a surprise visit from a certain feline quartet who are set to make their return to the hero world after a period of absence.

 As they explain to Midoriya and his classmates, the Wild Wild Pussycats are getting back on the scene just in time for the Hero Billboard Chart, a event that occurs twice a year where the top heroes of Japan are announced to the public, based on a number of factors ranging from public approval to incident resolution. No sooner than we are introduced to the concept of the Billboard Chart do we actually see it for ourselves, as we see the top 10 heroes counted down in what is a lovely piece of world-building, with a few familiar faces sprinkled through the ranks that long-time readers of the series will recognize. Chief among these is the fiery hothead trying to fill some big shoes, Endeavor. Finally recognized as the new #1 Hero to an official extent with his appearance on the Billboard chart, this is a landmark moment for Endeavor, as well as the world of My Hero Academia itself. 

The Symbol of Peace is gone, and society is on uneasy footing because of it. This fact is quickly pointed out by the newly revealed #2 Hero, Hawks. It's clear that Hawks has a playful and carefree personality and is never one for fitting into the status quo, making him a very interesting foil against the deadly serious Endeavor. You can already see the buddy-cop potential from their initial interaction with each other, and this is delivered upon when Hawks approaches the #1 hero with a job offer: Following some rumors on the Nomu, the quirk-boosted monsters under the control of the League of Villains. It isn't long before the rumors come true and the new #1 and #2 find themselves facing down the toughest Nomu yet, the High-End version. Possessing multiple quirks and a lot more tactical thought than the previous Nomu were capable of, High-End proves to be quite the formidable opponent. The fight is frantic and brutal, and as this volume concludes our new #1 is left in a perilous position in front of the monster in what is definitely one of the most thrilling cliffhangers we've had in this series in a while. The wait for Volume 21 is going to be tough!

Bits and Pieces:

What better way to celebrate twenty volumes than with an extra helping of quality chapters! Both the end of the School Festival and the Beginning of this new focus on the Pro Heros bring a lot to the table. The Gentle fight was gripping in terms of both action and emotion, with the shadow of a would-be hero proving to be quite the challenge for Deku to resolve. The reward for doing so, of course, was the 1-A class performance, which was simply a joy to read, and witnessing Eri smile after all this time was a standout moment for the series. Meanwhile, the Hero Billboard Chart and Endeavor's debut as the new #1 propels the series in an exciting new direction. Endeavor is certainly a polarizing character in the world of My Hero Academia, but his pairing with the standout newcomer Hawks as a foil is sure to put the character in an interesting position for the future, and at the very least we can expect some intense action against the terrifying threat of the High-End Nomu. An extremely enjoyable read throughout, and I am very excited to see how the new #1 fares in the coming battle next volume!


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