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– by Donovan Bertch

It’s been a long time coming, but the day is finally here. Bakugo’s been itching to deck Deku something fierce since…well, childhood, but no more so than since he started attending UA. Deku has been sitting back and taking Bakugo’s crap for years, but things have finally reached a boiling point. Now, in the shadow of All for One’s defeat, the two duke it out in a brawl that sets the stage for the new school year. Between this duel of the fates, a surprise meeting with a group of incredibly powerful students, and trying to get into a work-study program with All Might’s former sidekick, Deku has a lot on his plate as-is.

Sure would be a shame if there was a new baddie out there, ready to make life a living hell for him-and, ironically enough, the League of Villains.

Let’s talk about the best part of this volume first: the fight between Deku and Bakugo, continued on from the previous volume. There are so many things to like here-the way Bakugo just rockets from the bottom of panels with that distinctive “boom” sound effect, Deku’s speed and the impact of his attacks (the 8% kick he deals to Bakugo is a particularly stunning image), and the emotional undercurrents propelling the battle along just make for one of the most memorable moments in the entire series. Its conclusion-and the aftermath with All Might-was just the wind down that last arc needed to really feel complete.

Not long after Deku and Bakugo’s fight, Class 1-A is introduced to The Big Three, Goku, Ichigo, and Luffy Mirio, Amajaki, and Hado, who stand atop UA as the school’s top three students. These three mainly appear to be there to give the class something to strive for, i.e. a goal post for their school life, but they are all pretty interesting characters so far. The main one the series seems to be pushing is Mirio, likely due to his connections to All Might and his burgeoning friendship with Deku, but it will be interesting to see how the other two come into play (and which characters they bounce off of). The fight with Mirio is definitely a nice display of both his powers and just how far the kids of 1-A have to reach, and his off-kilter personality really makes him shine out of all the new characters this volume introduces.

Speaking of, over at the League of Villains, Shigaraki is holding an impromptu interview with a villain going by the name Overhaul, an heir to an old-fashioned mafia empire. The idea that no one even remembers the mafia existing is an interesting one, as it shows just how reliant on Quirks and their powers the world of My Hero Academia is. However, we don’t really get much with that for Overhaul so far other than “he’s a young upstart who needs money, and has minions.” It’s clear he’s meant to be some kind of funhouse mirror for Shigaraki, but it just doesn’t hit that well. Additionally, while his display of power is impressive and shows that he is not to be trifled with, who author Horikoshi chose to face the brunt of that power… without spoiling anything, let’s just say it’s a bit of a disappointment and leave it at that.

The last major revelation from this volume is that All Might had a sidekick. Sir Nighteye is definitely a unique character, with his design being far lankier and dead-eyed, with his overall demeanor far more unsettling than most other Heroes in the series. His Quirk also offers up some fun scenes in his introduction, and the potential for more All Might backstory is always a fun prospect. That being said, he is an example of Horikoshi having characters do uncomfortable things to others and calling it a personality tic. You’ll know the moment when you see it, but needless to say, it feels there’s just something off about the character period. Whether or not this gets followed up on or dropped, we’ll have to wait and see.

Additionally, if the series hadn’t been clear about this before, it seems to really enjoy following Deku having to interact with/being impacted by an All Might-adjacent character while on some kind of trip or outside project, leaving the school scenes to be the more mellowed-out and down-to-Earth moments. It’s not necessarily a bad routine (and having a sense of structure you can expect is nice in a long-running shonen), but it will be interesting to see which direction the formula takes the series in this time around.

My Hero Academia Volume 14 kicks off the next major story arc with quite a few bangs, both in the more emotional side of things and in the literal sense of the word. It feels as though the series realized it used its big trump card early on in the series (for good reason, as the Bakugo Rescue Arc is a pretty stellar time), so it’s trying to up the stakes and scale up the threat. The problem is, after a villain like All for One, it’s hard to match up. Let’s hope that the series pulls through and really gives us an arc to remember.

Grade: B-

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