A major player from the main series gets their backstory fleshed out significantly.
I’ve been a big fan of My Hero Academia ever since I first started reading it. As such, it didn’t take much convincing for me to check out the first volume of its spin-off series, My Hero Academia: Vigilantes. Unfortunately the manga didn’t get off to a great start, as its creativity and characters paled in comparison to those of its source material. With the introduction of some prominent characters from the main series, however, Vol. 2 promises to at least be more consequential than the previous installment. It features chapters 6-11, which are written by Hideyuki Furuhashi and illustrated by Betten Court. Does this volume surpass the mediocre expectations set by the series’s debut?
The best portions of this volume are definitely those that more prominently tie in characters from the main series. One such character is Tensei Ida, the pro hero Ingenium. In My Hero Academia he exists primarily to influence his younger brother, Tenya Ida, but here he gets to be more of a character in his own right. His temperament is significantly different than expected given how much the more straight-laced Tenya idolizes him. Tensei has an interesting rapport with the protagonist Koichi, as even though Tensei is a pro hero he doesn’t entirely disapprove of Koichi’s vigilante status. The two have a number of humorous moments together, and they have a nice idol/fan relationship.
Hero Killer Stain also plays a major role here, but unfortunately he’s not as well-handled. He starts out as a vigilante named Stendhal, and a number of hints regarding his true identity are dropped throughout. These are all great, as they leave the reader wondering “Is he…?” until the truth is finally revealed. With that said, the actual reveal is less effective. We get some insight into how Stain arrived at his famous philosophy, and the reasoning is unsatisfying. It feels as if Stain arrived at his famous mindset almost by coincidence, rather than through developing his own code of conduct. Given how beloved Stain is for his ethics, it’s disappointing to see his own relationship to them undermined.
As mixed as Stain’s portrayal here is, it’s still much better than that of the protagonists or other villains. While Koichi has some charming moments, both Pop Step and Knuckleduster continue to be generic, flat, and in dire need of deeper characterization. They still feel strictly like archetypes, and two volumes in that’s a major problem. With that said, at least they have roles they’re meant to fulfill. This volume’s other villains that aren’t Stain lack even memorable gimmicks, and they contribute nothing to the reader’s understanding of how evil operates in this world. We see a handful of interchangeable flunkies with super-strength Quirks get beat down, and that’s about it.
The most consistently strong aspect of this manga continues to be Court’s artwork. There’s a nice flow of motion to the action scenes, and the page compositions have great variety. The sound effects are particularly great, as they’re frequently large, dramatic, and burst out explosively from the impact of characters’ attacks. While many of the characters are disappointingly generic here, there are also some who at least have striking designs. Stendhal looks particularly impressive, and he grabs one’s attention even before his true identity begins to get hinted at.
As a whole, My Hero Academia: Vigilantes Vol. 2 isn’t terrible, but it’s not good either. While the artwork is impressive, the writing is much less consistent. Though the Stendhal and Ingenium plot lines both have their great moments, the rest of the characters are incredibly bland. It’s hard to maintain interest in the series due to how forgettable the protagonists and most of their adversaries are. Overall Vigilantes just doesn’t seem to have very strong direction, which can be a death sentence for any comic but especially a spin-off.