After hearing several people rave about it, I finally gave Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia a chance earlier this year. So far I’ve been loving it, as evidenced by my reviews for the last few volumes. Many of the characters are charming and the action scenes are usually exciting to watch unfold. The series’ fourth volume, published by Viz Media, collects chapters 27-35, which further the U.A. High sports festival arc. Specifically, it features the cavalry battle and the beginning of the one-on-one duels tournament. Does Vol. 4 live up to the high expectations set by its predecessors?
The sports festival arc continues to be right up my alley. I enjoyed the League of Villains arc across volumes two and three, but it’s a lot of fun to see what the protagonists do when pitted against other heroes instead. There’s still plenty of room for badass action sequences, but the lack of life-threatening danger allows for sillier, more creative violence. Take, for instance, the cavalry battle. Who else but Horikoshi would ever have thought to assemble superheroes in horse-like formations and have them engage in what’s basically a modified capture the flag game? It’s ridiculous but I love it. Not only do we get to see the students utilize their powers in new ways, we get to see them adapt according to who they’ve been partnered up with as well.
This volume fleshes out a lot of characters’ personalities and motivations as well. The focus is clearly on Todoroki, who has both fire and ice powers. He gained one set of abilities from his mother and the other from his father, whom he deeply resents. As a result, he refuses to use the flame powers inherited from his father. Seeing such a major powerhouse limit himself in this way is unusual, and helps add depth to the character. Also notable is Hatsume, who attends U.A. High as a member of the support class. Rather than training to fight crime herself, she is training to create technology that would assist superheroes in combat. Her gadgetry adds even more variety to the already unpredictable action.
Visually, Horikoshi continues to knock it out of the park here. The characters’ over-the-top facial expressions range from hilarious to heart-warming. Bakugo’s enraged faces are particularly great. The flow of action throughout most of the combat scenes is impressive and easy to follow. Tokoyami gets more page-time, which is good because the designs of his Dark Shadow quirk and bird-head are delightful. My only con with this volume art-wise is that there are a few instances where the students’ powers aren’t clearly rendered. If it weren’t for the writing providing explanations, I wouldn’t know what those segments are trying to convey. I also wish that more of the one-on-one duels besides Midoriya’s had gotten significant page-time.
Overall, My Hero Academia Vol. 4 is delightful. The unique premise of the sports festival provides ample opportunity for comedy as well as development of previously underutilized characters. Horikoshi’s eye for action continues to impress, and it’s great to see what he does when zany antics aren’t off-limits. I have a few qualms with this volume, but none of them are major. Four volumes in, this series has yet to disappoint.