I first got into comics through American titles published by the Big Two. The X-Men, Justice League, and Deadpool were all early favorites, so I quickly developed a fondness for superheroes. More recently, though, I’ve transitioned to primarily reading manga. Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia, with its dynamic heroes and superpowered action, has scratched an itch that’s otherwise difficult to satisfy in manga. Vol. 9 collects chapters 72-80, which comprise the middle of the training camp arc in which the U.A. High students are attacked by the League of Villains’s Vanguard Action Squad. Is this installment good?
The Vanguard Action Squad makes its combat debut here, and it has a strong first showing. Dabi’s design is fantastic, and a past connection to Eraser Head is hinted at. Himiko Toga, meanwhile, has an even better design, and she’s downright unsettling. She has some sort of blood quirk, and she’s clearly modeled herself after Hero Killer Stain in a very creepy way. The top of her coat’s design, which looks like an open mouth with fangs, intensifies her bloodsucking, vampire-like theme.
My favorite of the Vanguard Action Squad’s members is Moonfish. I’m a sucker for sexual, bondage-based villain designs, and Moonfish pushes those elements to the extreme. His Quirk is also fantastic; he can elongate his teeth into sharp blades that grow to absurd, panel-defying lengths. He’s a great match for Todoroki, Bakugo, and Shoji, who struggle much more against him than they have against most opponents in the past. Seeing Shoji get a little more focus is nice since he’s been one of the least developed students thus far. Tokoyami also gets some fantastic spotlight in this volume, but I don’t want to spoil anything about it.
Unfortunately, the previously mentioned characters don’t actually get the majority of the page-time. Most of this volume focuses on a battle between Midoriya and Muscular, who is easily the most boring member of the Vanguard Action Squad. His quirk doesn’t amount to much more than super strength, and his design isn’t particularly unique either. Worse, however, is his connection to Kota Izumi, a boy under Midoriya’s protection. Izumi has hated Quirks and pro heroes ever since his pro hero parents got killed by a villain. That villain, conveniently enough, was Muscular.
This portion of the plot feels too forced, and neither Izumi nor Muscular add any fresh perspectives to the story. The battle just kind of drags on, with no real progress made until Midoriya wins by deus ex machina. When 100% of his power proves to be insufficient, he goes beyond 100% of it in order to win. Maybe I’m just harping on specific wording, but I’ve always hated the cliche of protagonists exceeding their limits with no prior build-up or rationale. It lessens my ability to enjoy Midoriya’s victory here, and it doesn’t do his character arc any favors.
As a whole, My Hero Academia Vol. 9 is a good read. The League of Villains’s Vanguard Action Squad makes a strong debut, with great designs and Quirks well-suited for battle against the U.A. High students. The artwork throughout is also great, and Shoji and Tokoyami both get some much needed spotlight. Unfortunately, the volume is dragged down by Midoryia’s fight against Muscular, which is rife with cliches and suspiciously convenient plot twists. Nonetheless, this is a still fun read. No one does superheroes quite like Kohei Horikoshi.