The last time we got a new volume of Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia it ended the Overhaul arc with epic action and focus on Mirio Togata. Now the series is back with Vol. 19, and events have gotten rather silly. Humor has always been one of the series’s strong suits though, so: is this volume good?
So what’s it about?
According to the official synopsis from Viz Media:
In the wake of tragedy, Class 1-A prepares for the upcoming culture festival. While the students are busy planning for success, other forces are at work with their own agendas, and Midoriya, amid the preparations, continues to train with All Might. But when he runs into the failed hero Gentle Criminal, what lesson will he learn?
Art-wise, Horikoshi continues to deliver the goods. His line-art is polished and pleasing to look at as always, particularly in action scenes. The use of motion lines is great, as is Gentle Criminal’s elasticity Quirk. It’s a great match for Midoriya as we watch his super strong physical attacks get countered by invisible walls and barriers. The facial expressions throughout this volume are also stellar in moments of emotional earnestness (Togata and Midoriya bonding with Eri), comedy (Bakugo being his usual grumpy self), and even horror-comedy (Aizawa and Modoriya reacting in over-the-top ways that don’t match the context). My only gripe with the visuals is that some of the page compositions in the latter half are a bit weak.
This volume is notable for how much lighter in tone it is compared to the Overhaul arc that just wrapped up. Rather than carrying out an elaborate plan to take on an über-powerful metahuman, the characters spend most of their time preparing for U.A.’s culture festival. There are musical rehearsals, debates over what activities to put on, and more. Even the students of Class 1-A remark on how the festival is an actual school-like activity.
The scale of the conflict has also been scaled down considerably. Midoriya is determined to stop Gentle Criminal not because lots of lives are in the balance, but because if the festival gets interrupted then his friends’ hard work will be wasted and Eri won’t get to enjoy herself. When I first read this arc as the chapters came out from week to week I thought it seemed like pointless filler. Now, however, I can appreciate how it places the importance on the characters just getting to enjoy themselves rather than dealing with a major crisis.
My favorite parts of this volume are all the brief but charming character moments. There’s Hatsume showing up to help Midoriya out with new equipment, plus a chapter that provides insight into Aoyama’s unique and sparkly mind. Bakugo and Tokoyami fit into their band roles naturally and comedically. Kirishima’s extremely over-the-top devotion to the concept of manliness is also great. Ida remains the lovably tight-laced hall monitor type, telling his peers not to run, but rather to power walk as quicky as possible. All in all this volume gives a lot of page-time to the characters just being themselves, showing off the traits that make them one of the best casts in manga. On the down side Mineta remains the absolute worst, just like how water is still wet. Though they’re a nice step down from the intense Overhaul, La Brava and Gentle Criminal are also a bit boring.
Is it good?
My Hero Academia Vol. 19 comes hot off the tail of the Overhaul arc and leans into the series’s most lighthearted aspects. By and large, this works. The artwork is fantastic and there are more charming character moments than one could count. The cons here are those that have remained across the comic’s run: drawbacks, sure, but vastly outnumbered by all the good things going on.