By Dustin Cabeal
At one point My Hero Academia was the best new thing I had read. The world was like Marvel or DC but grounded more in how our society works. The pacing was fast, and it seemed to avoid all the shonen pitfalls that the genre is known to have. Unfortunately, for me anyway, with the rise in popularity My Hero Academia became more and more Shonen, which some people love. When it works, it works, and the creators produce a lot of long-running content which keeps them working and busy. At some point, the formula needs to change because not every plotline can sustain the long-running and filler feeling nature of the style and that’s exactly my problem with the core My Hero Academia series.
Which the popularity though, two new series are spinning out. The first is Vigilantes which comes out firing on all cylinders. I was instantly reminded why I liked the first volume of My Hero Academia; the action and heroes didn’t feel separated from the world. It took Vigilantes for me to realize that, but the core series has isolated the characters from the world they want to protect with each new threat.
Vigilantes follow an average man with unremarkable powers. That’s something the series mentioned in the beginning, but then when Deku got powers, it dropped it. We’re reminded instantly when we meet Koichi whose quirk is “slide and glide.” Sounds terrible right? Yeah well, he can slide at the pace of a bike as long as he’s making three points of contact. After we’re introduced to his mundane life of school and work, we see him unwind. He dawns an All-Might hoodie and goes around the neighbor cleaning and helping people out in small, but meaningful ways. He’s known as Mr. Nice Guy.
His path continues to cross with three thugs. In one instance he stops them from being thugs, but then runs into them again when he’s at work. Unable to do anything they beat him up and leave him. Later while in costume he runs into the idol he follows, and she gets surrounded by them. He leaps into action, but again, isn’t much of a fighter. A dude my age that’s instantly referred to as old falls from the sky and beats the shit out of the dudes. This starts an unlikely group of vigilantes, or unregistered, untrained heroes. While the core series deals with big events and fights that could undermine society, Vigilantes takes on drugs with a designer drug that amplifies quirks, but also makes the people flip out and become instant villains.
The characters all lack backstory. We learn a little of Koichi’s, but their motivations are unclear, especially the old man. But they feel like characters already. They have distinct personalities and group dynamic that feels well-worn and comfortable. The story reminds me of American superhero stories, much in the way that the first volume of the core series did. Which is what has me worried. I hope that this series doesn’t fall into the same pitfalls. Hopefully, it’ll keep the characters grounded, like actually grounded in the city. It’s what’s working for this story so far. That and the off-hand jokes that sneak in out of nowhere. The core series lacks a lot of humor because of how thick the drama is. You can see the comedic attempts, but they mostly fall flat. The comedy felt more natural in Vigilantes.
The artwork doesn’t look exactly like MHA, but that’s perfectly fine to me. The art for the core series is unique, but not my favorite. The art for Vigilantes is typical of a lot of manga but paired with this world of superheroes and powers, it works. It gave it a Saturday morning cartoon feel to it. Whereas MHA has a lot of drama that comes across in the art, Vigilantes had a fun and wholesome vibe to it. Even the instant villains were kiddish feeling. The art is detailed, pleasant and entertaining with the action making it very successful overall.
I wasn’t excited about this series. Even though it turned out great, it’s still just capitalizing on the popularity of MHA. With that though, we get this very American story handled in a Japanese way. It’s interesting and something that wouldn’t likely get a green light if it hadn’t been for the success of MHA, so for that I’m grateful and curious to see what’s next. Hopefully, they don’t pump it full of cameos because the one that’s in this volume sucked in my opinion, even if he’s the strange favorite of all the high schoolers watching the show.
My Hero Academia: Vigilantes vol. 1