Thursday, May 26, 2016

Battle On, Challengers! ~ My Hero Academia Volume 4 review

*Be aware of spoilers!*

Volume 4 of My Hero Academia begins where we left off with our cliffhanger. The Sports Festival is in full swing and Midoriya, our hero, is the one with the most points. However, the second round is a Cavalry Battle, with each participants' headband being worth more depending on how they ranked in the last round. Since Midoriya came in first place, he is target #1.

The first half of this volume deals with this Cavalry Battle and how Midoriya and his carefully picked team must survive until the next round. Oh yeah, and since Midoriya still can't control his power ("quirk"), he has to play it extra careful.

The centerpiece of this volume, however, deals with what is going on behind the scenes. Aspiring hero Todoroki (the kid in the top left of the cover) who until this point just seemed like competition for Midoriya, reveals that his desire to win is about more than just winning. He wants to beat his father.

Todoroki's father is the #2 hero (behind All Might) Endeavor, who has control over flames. Endeavor, it turns out, is not such a nice guy as he is only the donor of half of Todoroki's power. You see, Quirks in My Hero Academia are hereditary. You might get your mother or your father's Quirk, or some combination thereof. Endeavor participated in a Quirk Marriage (a sort-of arranged marriage) in which he forced Todoroki's mother into marriage using his wealth and influence in order to give birth to a child with the best Quirk. It hints at the fact that Endeavor is definitely not much of a father figure.

Todoroki was born with Half-Hot Half-Cold power. The ability to control fire and heat with his left side, and the ability to control ice and frost with his right side. His mother didn't take to the relationship so well, and ended up scalding half of her son's face with boiling water.

Naturally, this leads him to having a complicated relationship with his father. However, there is one twist on this sort of relationship you probably wouldn't see in a western comic these days.

Instead of wallowing in despair, Todoroki makes a pact to himself to make it to the top of the hero world only using his mother's power. While his anger is understandable, and his pouting typical of that of a child (he cannot get by on half his power), the fact that he does not throw away the world of heroes to become a villain is admirable. Despite his hardships, Todoroki still aims to be the greatest hero of all time.

Bakugo, Midoriya's former bully, overhears all of this, though he doesn't act on it. He's still getting over his own realization that he is not the greatest thing since sliced bread, and that he still has a long way to go to get to the top.

As you can tell, this volume is all about what My Hero Academia is best at, and that's character development. This volume specifically focuses on Midoriya, Todoroki, and Bakugo, though at the end it hints for some for Uraraka in the next volume.

After the second round ends, we get to starting the third and final round which is a tournament. Thankfully, this is the one and only time this series uses such a standard set up for the story, and it is primarily driven by characters instead of flashy battles. By the time the volume ends, we'll be on our way to the end of the Sports Festival, and you get the impression that things are never going to be the same again for our heroes.

My Hero Academia is, in my opinion, the current best running manga series out there. Even though it's a love letter to western and eastern comics, it is, at its heart, a story about characters struggling to be the best they can. Not only is that the heart of both shonen manga and superhero comics, but the heart of good stories in general.

Though I don't want to spoil it for new readers, I can say wholeheartedly that what comes next is fairly great. If you're enjoying My Hero Academia now, well, you ain't seen nothing yet.

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