Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"The Weaker of Us Will be Culled" ~ My Hero Academia Volume 6 Review

*Be aware of spoilers!*

My Hero Academia starts a new story arc in this volume, and it is widely considered one of the best parts of the series so far. That cover isn't just for show. Much happens in this volume, which means there is much to go over.

The Sports Festival has ended. Because of the massive success the students had made the events, they are now being sought out for recruitment by Hero Firms for internships. Things are getting real. They are allowed to pick their official hero names, and chose the place they will be working for a week. Midoriya surprises everyone with his hero name and his turning of an insult into inspiration, and Tenya Ida wrestles with his own identity as a hero as he stews over his brother's near-death at the hands of the Hero Killer. Meanwhile, the villains have approached that very murderer for help in their next diabolical scheme . . .

This volume introduces some very important characters in the My Hero Academia world. The first is the aforementioned Hero Killer Stain who even the author admits his English name was chosen for a very important reason:

"Stain has a very specific meaning in English. Slowly but surely, this character is making his mark on the story."

To go into his meaning more would be to spoil events further in the story. But Stain is, to put it bluntly, the grey area between black and white. Unlike the cool image such characters have been given in comics since the 80s, Kohei Horikoshi does not fuss around with the monster that an anti-hero can truly be. Stain is the result of pure consequentialism and working for the greater good taken to its obvious end point. I could go further into this, but that would require speaking of future events, and I want to save that for reviews down the line. Long story short, Stain is one of My Hero Academia's best characters, and one that truly helps color in the battle of good and evil that pulses through the story.

Another character that appears is All Might's teacher, the retired hero Gran Torino. He takes Midoriya under his wing to help him control his power and teaches him how to fight villains on his own. This mentor is a curious character. One thing I must applaud Mr. Horikoshi for is not making Gran Torino the typical perverted master type that has been so prevalent since Dragon Ball. He is instead a crafty old codger who feigns senility to take his opponents by surprise. Given that he has intense speed as his power, it is an incredible advantage he affords himself in battle.

Gran Torino's introduction is a sort of mirror of Stain, at least conceptually.

The color coding between the characters is quite brilliant. Main villain Shigaraki wears dark clothes and black to clash against his pale skin, Gran Torino wears all white aside from his mask, and Stain wears mostly black with white bandages and a red scarf. It is a nice contrast between all three characters and where they stand in the grand scheme of things.

Volume six, aside from centering on Midoriya's training, is also about Ida's quest for revenge. He chooses a Hero Firm in Hosu City specifically because that is where his brother was attacked, and where the Hero Killer has been spotted. He refuses to let his friends in on his anger, and abandons his post in a crisis to find Stain instead of doing his job. Ida, normally the most emotionally stable of the group and the moral compass, has become obsessed with finding the man who ended his brother's career as a hero. He soon finds Stain about to execute a hero, and attacks the villain who crippled his brother. Where this all leads is to one of the best encounters in My Hero Academia to date.

As the volume shows with an encounter between Shigaraki and Stain, there is more going on here than meets the eye. Shigaraki wants to use Stain to topple society and instill chaos. He declares the hero world a failure and wants to see it scorched away. Stain wants to use Shigaraki as a way to cull the weak heroes, the ones not in it for pure self-sacrificial reasons, and rebuild a pure hero society over this failed one. Naturally, the two villains hate each other, and can never actually co-exist. This is what leads to the assault on Hosu City.

Stain, for all his talk, is a warped idealist. He is a man who could only see the cracks in the boards and never the impeccably constructed foundation which holds up the entire structure. His quest for pure heroes is impossible as even All Might, despite his public persona, is a flawed man striving to be better and to live up to his image. That the Hero Killer even thinks to kill a teenage boy for not living up this unrealistic standard is reprehensible. Not to mention that said teenage boy is only after him because of the evil Stain caused in the first place.

The Hero Killer is put to test when, after easily dispatching Ida and nearly killing him, Stain is confronted not only by Midoriya, but Shoto Todoroki as well. Todoroki is the same boy who had to live under Endeavor's roof, Endeavor being the exact sort of hero Stain hates with a passion and Todoroki has been trying to get away from. Here the two forces meet in an alley with the lives of two downed heroes on the line, and the hope that the pro-heroes can arrive in time before someone dies. The cliffhanger this volume ends on is truly brutal.

All told, this encounter is one of the best in the series, and the beginning of a stain that will linger on the series for stories to come.

Once again Kohei Horikoshi knocks it out of the park. Fan of superheroes and good manga? Pick this series up.

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