Friday, 17 August 2018

The Test ~ My Hero Academia Volume 12 and 13 Review

I wanted to wait a bit to cover these two volumes as they work better as a pair. Volume 12 and 13 cover the Provisional License Exam of My Hero Academia, and is most certainly where season 3 of the anime will end. Since that season is still airing, I wanted to avoid spoilers but that's going to be next to impossible.

So if you're only keeping up with the anime you might want to beware of spoilers for the current anime arc.

Volume 12 is a series milestone, as it contains and starts with the 100th chapter of the series. That's right, MHA made triple digits and a two year run so far. The series has been blistering fast since the beginning, and has already covered so very much. This volume, however, starts off a bit slower than the other recent ones.

Midoriya has broken his arms so many times that one or two more bad events might cost him the use of the limbs permanently. On top of it, All Might no longer has One For All and the heroes are left extremely weakened from his absence. So the volume's first half deals with two plot threads. The first is what Midoriya is going to do to make up for his screw ups by creating new ultimate moves that utilize a far different approach than what he's used to. The second plot thread is a bit different.

Midoriya has made a lot of new friends since arriving at UA. He's met Ida, the speedster intellect who almost lost his life for revenge. Todoroki, the half-hot half-cold prodigy with a troubled past was another. Even Bakugo, his childhood friend turned bully, has begun to turn a corner of seeing him as more than an obstacle to overcome. But one friend that might feel a bit different is Ochaco Uraraka, the first friend Midoriya made since coming to UA.

When Uraraka first arrived she was only there to make money for her family since Pro Heroes are paid quite well for what they do. But as she has stuck with Midoriya and seen him grow and become a hero who always does the right thing and always does his best, she began to change. Her focus was no longer just to be a hero for money, though that is still part of it, but to try and match up to Midoriya and become as heroic as he is. Her feelings are mixed as to whether she actually just admires him, or maybe thinks of him in a romantic way. Part of her growth in this upcoming arc is parsing out just what she really feels.

Which leads us to what these two volumes are actually about: The Provisional License Exam.

Around 1540 students from across the country compete an earn a chance to be seen as real heroes. Midoriya's class meets up with several different schools, all gunning for the top school. Because, you see, UA is known as the best of the best, so taking them down would put your name on the map and give your cred a real boost. The first test alone will whittle competitors down to 100, which makes them all huge and prominent targets.

So what this ends up doing is making the test about cooperation and teamwork: a theme My Hero Academia has not touched much on before this arc. Those destined to have a rougher time are those unwilling to stand with their allies, and those who do stick together find just how tough a team of heroes actually can be. At the same time it allows certain students, like comic relief Denki Kaminari to show his stuff and prove why he's in the hero course to begin with. This first stage really does a lot to test their mettle and show how far they've come since the series start.

Volume 12 ends with the first test's final moments and the students finally able to cut loose. It leads to the second stage, and the next volume.

Volume 13 is mainly focused on the second stage of the test, and the results which offer a very important coda that will change everything going forward.

This is also whereabouts the currently running anime season will end, so be aware of spoilers for the finale.

The second test involves rescuing civilians. While the first dealt with weeding out those physically incapable of the hazardous profession of being a hero, the second test shows who is mentally prepared to be the person victims of calamities need. This means those who excelled in the first half of the exam are not necessarily going to succeed in the second half.

And some do not.

We also see how far along some of the students have come . . . and how far some have not. Inasa, the one with the wind control powers, has a beef with Todoroki because of his father's reputation as a nasty hero with a bad personality. And Todoroki has the same look in his eyes his father does. Are they really alike? Has he really put his father's treatment of him behind him, or is he just hiding from it? Uraraka has a similar problem with losing control of her focus over her growing feelings for Midoriya, especially after a certain girl tries to accost him. But neither have the time to deal with it as the test just starts and throws them all in the thick of it!

Quickly they learn that dealing with injured civilians is much different than dealing with normal people. It is the hero's job to be exactly who the civilian needs at that moment, and that requires saying the right words, instilling confidence and hope, and basic medical care, all while keeping their cool. In other words, this is more of a personality test than a physical one.

But not entirely, as one of the pro heroes shows up playing the part of a villain. Now the heroes in training have to save people AND deal with a threat at the same time. Heroes have to be prepared for anything, after all.

This volume wraps up this short exam arc, but it also leads to an odd coda to remind those of the darker side of the MHA universe.

What one has to keep in mind reading My Hero Academia is how close to the edge society actually is. In a world where 80% of the population can potentially destroy everything without so much as a blink, rules are needed to hold it all together. All it takes is one bad day and one terrible quirk for everything to be taken apart. In these chapters we see just how delicately balanced society is to keep it in check. That MHA has this reputation as a sunny and Disney-fied series mystifies me. The way the world in this series works is far more fascinating than the newest moe series or comfort food anime. If it wasn't for heroes, the world would be completely leveled.

That is what makes the last few chapters of this volume interesting. You see the world from several of the villains' positions in how they like the natural state of chaos and detest those that would deny them their freedom to act like beasts. The League of Villains might have started as a way for All For One to re-seize control of the world again after his fading power began to escape him, but with him dying it is now about Shigaraki's quest to wipe out the civilization that has failed. And it is all very close to a tipping point. Not to spoil, but the next big arc (and what season 4 will likely be based around) shows this reality in the harshest possible light.

This realization leads to the event that will certainly be used to cap off season 3 of the anime: the second fight between Midoriya and Bakugo.

Unlike the original battle which was one of the defining moments early in the series, this fight between the two childhood friends is not so much about old grudges, but in clearing the air about everything that has happened since the training camp went sideways. Midoriya not only passed the provisional license exam but is also All Might's successor while Bakugo failed the exam and is responsible for his hero losing his powers. We've been told that Bakugo is an unthinking jerk with the personality of a wet cat, but slowly that old arrogant exterior has been shaved off. Where he is now is just a lost screw-up of a teenager no better off than Midoriya, who he had once considered nothing but a pebble in his path. And yet that same pebble keeps tripping him up at every opportunity. What is Bakugo missing that Midoriya has? He still can't figure it out, and he needs to. He can't keep going the way he has: not if he wants to be a hero. But this round 2 of their fight will help clear the air and bring everything out into the open.

Unfortunately, the end of the fight is in the next volume, so I won't quite say what happens, except to tell that it is a very important moment and is destined to be the finale for the third season. It also helps cement Bakugo as a more three dimensional character than many thought he was at the series start. Midoriya is training his newly acquired power, but Bakugo is training his newly acquired soul. It's a strange contrast that is sure to lead to good places in the future.

When we return with the next volume, we will be entering a new and very long arc that is slightly different in what the series has done up to this point. It's also going to encapsulate season 4 as a whole and will introduce some great new characters. I hope you'll join me for it. It's going to be grand.

Speaking of heroes, I should have a very important update for you on that topic next week. If you saw my last post then you have an idea of what I'm hinting at.

Until then, never forget: Plus Ultra!

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