My Hero Academia‘s school tournament arc was a staggering high point for the series so far. Matching clever, fast-paced battles with poignant personal stories, it further humanized a solid subset of the manga’s immense cast while never letting up as immediate entertainment. It was essentially a showcase of exactly how you make fight scenes exciting — by giving them clear internal conflicts, emotional depth, and beautiful execution. It was a remarkable achievement for an already-excellent manga.
With the sports festival just behind them, the cast experiences a welcome breather at the beginning of volume six. The highly promoted competition put all the major contenders in the public eye, and now many of the tournament’s victors find themselves being scouted for hero internships. Life continues apace at the hero academy.
This volume’s first, lighter chapters are actually some of its strongest. My Hero Academia‘s cast has always been one of its best features, and giving that cast a challenge like “think up your own hero names” acts as a perfect demonstration of their diverse and charming personalities. The comedy here is substantially lifted by our existing fondness for these characters, and seeing them debate choices for their internships adds compelling wrinkles to our understanding of their superpowered world. My Hero Academia‘s “low neutral” is at this point already very entertaining.
Things actually get a little shakier when the internships begin. While many of Midoriya’s friends find themselves in intriguingly distinctive internships, Midoriya’s is the most straight-laced of all possibilities: he’s forced to master One For All under the tutelage of Gran Torino, the hero who once trained All Might himself. Gran Torino is very much the Yoda character here; diminutive and short-tempered, his mix of hoary wisdom and ostensible senility so far makes him come across as more of a default archetype than nearly anyone else in this narrative. And the actual training material isn’t much better. Midoriya’s attempts to visualize controlling his power and successfully spar with Gran Torino echo a thousand other training arcs, lacking the distinctive methods or stakes that help the genre’s best training arcs elevate themselves above pure filler.
The nature of Midoriya’s power also makes this sequence feel oddly disappointing. One of My Hero Academia‘s other great strengths was how Midoriya was a protagonist who had to rely on quick wits over powerful abilities. His inability to control One For All actually made for more tactically interesting battle sequences — but now that he can more or less control a small percentage of his power without repercussions, he comes across as a far more generic shounen battler.
Fortunately, this volume’s final chapters add some high-stakes intrigue, as the hero killer and villain association launch a messy assault on a local city. There are some lovely two-page spreads all through these chapters, capturing the sense of desperation and disorder as the villains’ new creations wreak havoc on the populace. And the fight at the end echoes My Hero Academia‘s thematic heart, as Todoroki embraces the heroic spirit Midoriya taught him to save another lost soul.
My Hero Academia‘s art design remains strong through these chapters. Though the early chapters don’t offer too many opportunities for big effects spectacles, the paneling and expression work make the classroom scenes feel lively and personal. The fights near the end are more traditionally thrilling, though it did feel like the hero killer’s design somewhat worked against the tension. The hero killer is so heavily festooned with blades and scarfs that it’s sometimes difficult to gauge momentum in his appearances, draining some of the impact from his duels with Midoriya and the others. But outside of that, Kōhei Horikoshi‘s style and execution are as strong as ever.
Overall, this is certainly weaker than the last volume, but still a reasonably entertaining adventure. Gran Torino has yet to rise above simple archetype, but the existing cast has never been stronger — whether goofing off in the classroom or embodying how they’ve grown on the battlefield, class 1-A continue to shine. My Hero Academia remains a polished and satisfying experience.
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