Kohei Horikoshi’s opening Author Notes apologizes for Volume 24’s distinct lack of Izuku “Deku” Midoriya; actually, aside from forbidden photos or the occasional chapter cover, not a single hero’s spotted within the latest volume of My Hero Academia. Indeed, Spinner’s banner replacement on the cover illustrates this iteration’s intent: a celebration of the series’ ragtag League of Villains — the dysfunctional supervillain association left begging for scraps after All For One’s humiliating defeat. That their arc here’s a thinly-veiled parallel to the previous Joint Training Battle — another training arc disparaged for bloated pacing — might raise cause for concern, but there’s nothing to fear: the relevant themes of trauma and clashing ideals keep our villains in check; why, as they gradually achieve uninhibited prowess by demolishing their respective defense mechanisms, we shiver in recognizing we’re subconsciously rooting for them to overcome the Meta Liberation Army. Oogh!
Within reason, anyway — the League of Villains’ various psyches all reveal relatable upbringings, but whereas the pitiable likes of Spinner and Jin “Twice” Bubaigawara might certainly invoke sympathy, Tomura Shigaraki and Himiko Toga are irredeemable tragedies; either way, their individual pasts expose the flaws of a Quirk-dominated society — the very one that the Meta Liberation Army, a steadfast, resolute organization determined to de-regulate any and all Quirk usage, seeks to reform. Each starring member overshadows their respective Villain opponents out of sheer confidence alone: a testament to how downright pathetic and aimless the League’s become since they lost their mythical leader. For those disappointed in the league’s relative inaction over the past ten volumes or so, this arc may well be something of an apology from Horikoshi; for one thing, the unknowns populating the Liberation Army means there’s no time for any frivolous dream matches padding out this arc, so the highlighted villains are left only to tackle their own insecurities and inhibitions head-on. Disguised in the form of leveling up their quirks, My Hero Academia doesn’t fumble its focus in developing its villains.
Twice’s own struggles are the undeniable star of this volume — a down-on-his-luck sad-sack who became a criminal to escape loneliness, his rock-bottom descent already raises parallels to our own reality; namely, what makes someone turn to crime? Why do people find themselves in violent gangs? How does mental health come into play? To Twice, a disturbed individual with no familial connections, the despicable acts fueling the League of Villains are only a means to an end — as a more measured counter to Shigaraki, he doesn’t wake up every day going, “I want to kill everything”; nay, he simply wants a place to belong, clutching his treasured friendship with Toga as a gift more precious than life itself. Meanwhile, the group’s tagalong in Spinner — our lone avatar expressing frustration with the League’s inaction — exploits the hype and inspiration following Stain’s defeat as an escape from his discriminatory hometown, and he, too, might sacrifice his own ideals if only for fellow company.
I can’t be the only one who thinks Spinner is the TMNT’s long-lost cousin, right?
Sadly, while other members also possess sympathetic plights, they’re too far gone in their criminal lives; namely, Himiko Toga. Contrary to Twice’s reality-conforming mask, Toga’s own blood-siphoning device’s curbed by a psychological veil suppressing her blood-sucking Quirk in accordance with societal taboos: a byproduct of her parents’ panic-stricken commands. Alas, rather than encourage a healthier development of their daughter’s Quirk, her parents simply freaked at their sweet little girl sipping a dead bird’s innards and strictly demand her to be “normal”. Factor in the trials and tribulations of childhood naivete and hormonal adolescence, and that flimsy command goes as well as you’d expect, with Toga’s suppressed bloodlust and confused teenage emotions coalescing together into a malformed conception of love. From her life on the run to joining Japan’s most notorious terrorist group, we’re only left to wonder how this poor girl’s Quirk could’ve fed into a truly beneficial “normal”.
And yet, not even her whole “stabbing the popular kid I liked and drinking his blood” backstory holds a candle to Tomura Shigaraki’s on the Messed-Up scale. As bits and pieces surface within Shigaraki’s psyche, the one chapter we witness here grants only an eerie prelude to the next volume: Shigaraki’s father, having detested heroes since his mother’s death (Nana Shimura — All Might’s mentor and a previous bearer of One for All), coldly dismisses his son’s fondness for heroes to the point of disengagement and even abuse. The ensuing cycle — a father’s scolding, his family cowering in fear and left only to pick up the pieces with kindness — forge a family of empty complacency: no acts of true love rescue young Shigaraki from his beatings, and pressing engagements in his mysterious allergies afflicting are left neglected; once again, the perfect recipe for disaster.
As Mon’s bleak eyes stare into the depths of Shigaraki’s despair, the chilling reminder of the volume’s name — “All It Takes is One Bad Day”, plopped right in the final panel — leaves our hearts pounding with a cruel reminder; indeed, much like it took only one day to ruin the lives of Toga and Shigaraki, it can take just one flash of anger to ruin lives and destroy dreams. As My Hero Academia‘s villains fester in sorrow and adversity born out of unfortunate circumstance, we might be left to ponder who affirms our own love and trust — in these turbulent times of pandemics and lockdowns, they’re connections we need more than ever. Remember: criminals don’t just become psychopaths because they felt like it.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Full Disclosure: This review was based on a review copy provided by VIZ Media.