Published by Viz Media, Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia Vol. 5 collects chapters 36-44 of the superhero action series. This volume concludes the U.A. High sports festival arc from volumes three and four. We get to see the last several matches from the one-on-one tournament, as well as meet a new villain who’s sure to play a major part in volumes to come. Does Horikoshi continue to meet the high bar he’s set for himself in past installments? Does Vol. 5 end the sports festival arc on a satisfying note?
There are several one-on-one fights in this volume, and most of them are enjoyable. The first, and probably best, of the duels is between Bakugo and Uraraka. It initially seems like a total mismatch of power levels, but Horikoshi makes the battle engrossing with suspenseful pacing and creative uses of Quirks. This battle also does more to make Uraraka endearing than any other scene in the series thus far. Tokoyami gets a little time to shine as well, which is nice. His Quirk is a lot of fun, thanks to its unique design as well as its various uses.
Bakugo, Midoriya, and Todoroki also receive solid development in this volume. Todoroki’s complicated relationships with both his parents and his Quirks continue to be the most poignant aspects of the sports festival arc. I never expected his portion of the narrative to end the way it does; Horikoshi impresses with narrative twists that are as logical as they are unexpected. Midoriya and All Might have some touching scenes together as well. Bakugo’s character arc is intriguing, as we find out how he responds to getting what he wants through different circumstances than desired. Overall, this volume is at its best when Horikoshi delves into the characters’ emotional lives.
With that said, I don’t think this volume is as engrossing as the series’ past installments. My biggest qualm is with the pacing. With the exception of Uraraka’s match against Bakugo, all the duels feel rushed. On one hand, it’s probably for the best that the tournament doesn’t drag on much longer than it does. On the other hand, I wish that more of the fights had gotten increased page-time to enable clearer movement across panels as well as more unique utilization of characters’ Quirks. There are more occasions in this volume than usual where I’m not entirely sure what is happening. This is especially the case in Todoroki’s fights, where the numerous giant ice blasts don’t stand out from one another in any meaningful way.
Overall, My Hero Academia Vol. 5 is yet another good volume. There is some solid action, and several characters get poignant page-time. On the downside, a lot of the duels suffer from repetitive and even confusing visuals. It’s probably a good thing that the sports festival arc doesn’t last longer than the two and a half volumes it encompasses, but several of its scenes still feel awkwardly paced. I would recommend this volume as it has plenty of redeeming qualities and is a lot of fun as a whole, it just doesn’t meet Horikoshi’s usual high standard.