Boku No Hero Academia 104 Review
Alright homies; I saw some pretty good response to the review I posted last week, so I figured I’d do another one after reading today’s release.
Last week I had a strong negative opinion of this whole exam scenario, but this week I ended up softening a bit; this chapter slows down a little bit in premise in order to open up the action, introduce some new faces/antagonists, and generally give people time to show off.
I liked this, mostly because speed of a story is something absolutely crucial to manga/comics. Narrative decompression is a real danger sometimes, where you’re saying or doing so much in an issue that you risk moving things along too fast or confusing the reader.
Shounen manga in general (likely due to its formatting in larger magazines instead of individual issues) seems to be much more inclined to have less stuff happen in chapters. This isn’t a bad thing, mostly because they understand that you need to have certain events have a consistent weight while other “big” moments will feel better when they’re set up properly. The “big” moment can fall flat without a necessary amount of context and narrative timing.
For the most part, that’s how I felt at the end of the last chapter; having this exam just start without logical setup to it felt rushed and I wasn’t a fan. This time we get to slow things down event-wise (count the actual events in this issue, and there’s not that many), and build pressure towards the next big twist or blockbuster (presumably the end of this test).
Stuff I liked:
Let’s GO. Giving more room to side characters to see how much they’ve grown is an awesome thing, especially when a criticism of the last issue was that we’d have trouble keeping the ensemble cast together from a narrative perspective.
As I mentioned, a lot of the cast only gets shown in small bits and pieces, but Jirou’s have always shown a lot about who she is; her insecurity about her femininity as well as her home life are established in single panels or few pages. Despite only getting to show off one attack, we can see she’s calm under pressure, confident, and aggressive enough to take what we thought was a utility/passive quirk and turn it into something offensive.
Thinking back, this chapter does a good job of pulling some 1-A students into showing they are competent in a combat scenario: Ashido’s acid as a defense tool and Sero batting away balls with his tape in the background show that they can think on their feet. I’m fine with knowing that certain characters are going to be featured more prominently than others, but I don’t want the secondary ones to be just there.
The same kind of thing happens here. It’s really easy to let Deku fall back into the “flailing and incompetent” stereotype, or have him be shaken up by the whole All Might/All For One debacle, but thankfully we’re seeing otherwise. If a story is like a sailboat, these kinds of panels are small, precise course adjustments; Deku gets to change from being the “shounen protag” and show what makes him unique from others.
This exposition is awesome because it’s the author reminding us that the protagonists aren’t supposed to be the “chosen ones”. Especially with so many people in a class, you either have to break the “prodigies” away from the rest, which weakens the concept, or remind people that the students are vulnerable, can/will fail, and people will be better.
So, I just had a thought.
Boku No Hero Academia translates to “My Hero Academia.” While Deku is the main character, the title doesn’t refer to him doing anything besides recounting or showing us how his school (and “education”) went. Interpreting that literally would mean that failure and learning are part of that story. The story has to remain about the experience of schooling, and not break off.
Contrast this to Harry Potter, where the title structure allows the story to be a bit more fluid and doesn’t confine it to a setting. If MHA pulls a HP and has a “dropping out to hunt the big bad” scenario, it can still claim what happens is a metaphorical “education,” but then I think the series loses a bit of its charm.
What I didn’t like
This guy’s intro was hella-underwhelming to me, and I’m not really feeling his whole reveal of power (both his quirk and his stature). Am I supposed to think he’s evil? Is his costume supposed to make me think of a villain? It’s a weird presentation issue that is kind of convoluted by everyone here wanting to be heroes.
The concept of the book gets strange when you try to introduce “soft villains;” they can’t be evil, because people who were would use these wind powers to punch holes in people and wouldn’t be attending a hero school. However, you have to make them threatening enough to produce a reason for readers to want to see them get beat, or the characters to overcome them.
Getting into Haikyuu!!, a sports manga, made me realize that it’s possible to have opponents (and threatening ones) without writing villains; you just have to show them being vulnerable to the same mistakes the main characters are. Because we see so little of other students, we don’t see much of the hardship, development or problems that keep them from being one-dimensional.
I’m really pessimistic we’ll see these guys after this arc; if that’s the case, how can they present a big enough threat for readers to get invested? If we wanted a premise where the entire class faces a unified threat, why not just have them take an exam on their own? Why involve so many other parties and have their unified front be the “good guys” in this case? The whole “100 pass” situation makes so much less sense than a “here’s some challenges to undertake to simulate hero stuff; losing doesn’t mean you fail, but know that you’re going to be individually evaluated and judged.”
I love Ochako’s character, but the panel on the left feels so weird. It’s her only line in the chapter, and the rest of her appearances are posing in group shots. The closeup/detail/emotion makes me feel like this should be more important, but there’s nothing allowing us to tie it back to her current state of mind or the romance narrative from before. It’s not like she’s reaching to save him with her quirk, or panicking, or doing anything.
She might as well have said “Oh crap, you fell!”
It’s just kind of… there. With 20 pages, I feel like stories need to have an economy of space, and that’s almost a quarter of a page devoted to one character emoting with little context.
This has got to be a reference to some X-Men comic, because I’m getting serious Kitty Pryde vibes from this costume and pose. As per usual, Kōhei Horikoshi panders to the male audience with some pretty impractical cleavage; her spine looks compressed in order to accommodate the pose.
Liked this issue; hoping to see more from other Class 1-A students in the next chapter, but it could be another “showing stuff off” because we need to establish opponents’ powers and eliminate more mooks to imply danger and tension. If we’re lucky and Horikoshi has some balls, we might even see some character eliminations eventually.
See you next time!