Tuesday, December 10, 2019

My Hero Academia Volume 22 Review

Battle Royale!

Publisher: Viz Media
Story and Art: Kohei Horikoshi
Translations: Caleb Cook
Lettering: John Hunt
Cover Price: $9.99
Release Date: December 03, 2019

Review by Luke Hollywood

(Spoilers ahead!

It's the most wonderful time of the year and a new My Hero Academia Volume is here to help spread more of that festive cheer! Even the cover of Volume 22 has a Christmas vibe to it, with that mix of green and red sprinkled throughout, but will the contents inside be a wonderfully wrapped gift of manga goodness, or are we all getting coal this time around? Did that even make sense? Who knows! On to the review!

Explain It!:

Just like Volume 21, we're treated to a 12-chapter volume with smaller page counts this time round. However, as the entirety of this volume is made up of different fights from the Joint Training Battles of Class 1-A and Class 1-B that we began last volume, I think that this smaller individual page count actually serves the volume well, as it allows for a quicker pace when going through the individual fights that make up these big class brawls. We ended last volume with 1-A taking an early lead with their group (and an extra assist from Shinso) efficiently taking down their class 1-B rivals, but as we begin this volume midway through the second battle of the training session, we see that Class 1-B are by no means pushovers. Going up against real powerhouses like Yaoyorozu with her Creation quirk, and Tokoyami with his (adorable) Dark Shadow quirk, it's impressive that the group from 1-B are able to go toe-to-toe with them. These fights are our first chance to see a lot class 1-B in action, who have previously been relegated to brief cameos and background appearances, so showing their ability in keeping up with some of 1-A's finest is a great way for us to immediately get an idea of their power level. Despite some quick thinking from Team Leader Yaoyorozu, Class 1-B's dastardly (and somewhat villainous?) cunningness ensure that they take home the victory this time round. 2 rounds in and it's an even draw, what could happen next?

The real meat of this volume's contents lies in the third match of the event, which once again features a couple of powerhouses from 1-A, especially in the form of Shoto Todoroki, one of class 1-A's strongest, who got into U.A High School on a special recommendation. Interestingly enough, it is in this fight that we are introduced to a student in class 1-B who also got into the famed Hero Course on special recommendation, Juzo Honenuki, and seeing his unique quirk of Softening as well as his cool and confident leadership skills in action here is a real treat. All this 1-B love has me clamoring for another spin-off at this stage! The fights aren't just all action though, as we do get a nice character moment for Ida in these chapters, who has been neglected quite a bit from the main story considering how important a character he was in the earlier volumes of this series. And while Todoroki had received a lot more panel time than Ida recently, the inner conflict he faces with reaching power at Endeavor's level is also a very interesting read. Having had so much focus on Endeavor as the new #1 Hero in the last couple of volumes, seeing Shoto still struggle with the past was a poignant reminder not only of how evil Endeavor was but also how strong Todoroki is to keep moving forward. And when he's going up against the tough-as-nails (literally!) Tetsutetsu Tetsutetsu, he better be! It's an unlikely match-up, but Tetsutetsu's Steel quirk turns out to be the perfect counter to Shoto's ice and fire, and seeing them both push themselves to their limit and beyond was both intense and exciting to read.

The fight isn't without its flaws, though. Compared to the quicker pace of some of the other battles, this match might have overstayed it's welcome a little, and not every character gets as great a moment in the spotlight as Ida did (In particular, the benching of Ojiro's character potential to just the same "Ordinary" punchline over and over is starting to get on my nerves). I'm also of two minds of the final score. We end up with a draw of 1-1, with most of the two teams knocked out by the end. While both sides definitely put up a good fight, I really thought 1-B had the upper hand for this one. Honenuki effectively getting KO'd after one blow from Ida (albeit, a supercharged Recipro Turbo blow) seemed a little hard to believe for me. Perhaps my Class 1-B bias is showing too much, Vlad King would be proud! Anyway, we enter the fourth match still with everything to play for, so who will turn out on top this time round?

The 4th round of the Joint Battle Training showdowns is without a doubt my favorite so far, and probably the highlight of the entire arc as it stands. Despite his important role in the plot, it'd been a while since Bakugo has taken the spotlight, and he absolutely steals it here. His unwavering drive and stubbornness are on full display here, and his relentless speed even affects the pace of the fight itself, which takes place over the course of two blisteringly quick chapters. 1-B put up a fair fight too, don't get me wrong (A particular highlight is seeing the Team Leader, another recommended Student, Setsuna Tokage in action, with her unique Lizard Tail Splitter Quirk), but Bakugo will just not accept defeat as an option, so his victory was never in doubt. It must be said, Bakugo shows a surprising amount of growth in his co-operation with his teammates here. He's a far cry from the Bakugo we saw back in the Sports Festival, and all the various trials and tribulations he's faced have resulted in a much more co-operative Bakugo (even if it's begrudgingly so) and that makes him all the better hero for it. Also, seeing a few of class 1-A's unsung heroes like Sero and Sato chip in with some tactically-sound team-ups, as well as Jiro being her usual badass self, made this fight an absolute joy to read, and no doubt made the volume for me!

We wrap up the chapters with the beginning of the final round of the Joint-Training Battles, and it looks like it's finally time for our protagonist Izuku Midoriya to shine. We saw before these battles began that Izuku's quirk, One for All, was acting up a little, or at least it was affecting his dreams, but things go south pretty darn quirk once he tries using it for the fight. Over the course of the series Midoriya has slowly but surely grasped a better control of the almighty power of One for All, so to see him lose that control so quickly (and with One for All looking very different to what we've seen previously) was quite shocking and unsettling, especially as he begins to rampage out of control on the battlefield. It takes some quick thinking from Uraraka (who seems to have regained a bit more self-identity recently beyond just being the love interest for our protagonist) and newcomer Shinso to try and put a stop to Midoriya going berserk, and in the process of doing so, they end up shunting Midoriya back into the One for All dreamscape we saw previously, where we see a very angry looking bald man! This guy appears to be one of the former wielders of Midoriya's quirk, and he's not happy with how Izuku's been using it? It looks like it's time for an upgrade, Deku!

Bits and Pieces:

Volume 22 matches the quick pace that we started in the last volume, and keeps it running right on through, resulting in some fast but undeniably enjoyable chapters. They're like a can of Pringles, you just keep wanting to go back for one more. Sure, some of the fights and individual moments are weaker than others, but when you have standout moments like the showdown between Todoroki and Tetsutetsu and the entirety of the 4th match with Bakugo, it's hard not to close this volume with a positive attitude, and with the promise that Midoirya might be increasing his ability with One for All, I'm excited to see what happens next. It's also worth pointing out this volume ends with a decent chunk of fun mini-comics from the authors of various My Hero Academia spin-offs. A lovely little bonus present on top of the already generous gift of chapters in this volume. It's definitely making the nice list!


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