Picking up where My Hero Academia left off at the end of volume 2, our young heroes find themselves cornered by the League of Villains, led by Tomura Shigaraki and including the overwhelmingly strong Nomu; a bruiser specifically built and designed to defeat the symbol of peace and the mightiest of earth’s heroes: All-Might. Volume 3 opens with an action-packed clash between All-Might and Nomu, who has inflicted some serious damage on instructor and former hero, Shōta Aizawa, also known as Eraser Head. Following a devastating battle and hard-won victory, the students are informed of the upcoming U.A. sports event, which in the world of My Hero Academia, has supplanted the olympics in terms of popularity. All Might challenges Izuku to use this opportunity to make a grand entrance to the world. Or, as he says it: “Tell the world ‘I am here!’”
The major star of Volume 3, or at least the lion’s share of the issue, is All Might. While we’ve gotten some insight as to his condition and why he remains secretive about it, this issue fleshes out more of his concerns, and also highlights just how thin he has stretched himself in terms of being the people’s symbol of peace, despite his degenerative condition.
All Might continues to demonstrate many characteristics of a traditional western superhero, particularly when it comes to his “muscle form” design and blunt-force “smash” combat techniques. At first I was a bit off-put by the generic powers that he displayed, as if western superheroes have little more to offer than punching really hard. However, this volume gave me a little more insight as to why that might be. As the world’s symbol of peace, All Might has to be an overwhelming force. When he arrives, the league of villains takes a step back and begin to doubt themselves simply by him showing up. No matter how skilled he might be, psychic powers or other “quirks” that might require more finesse wouldn’t have the same ability to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies. When his climactic combo against Nomu sends it flying away, the other villains are dumbstruck. Nomu was a force to be reckoned with, and quickly took down Eraser Head, one of the more skilled heroes from U.A. high. Yet, All Might is still able to overwhelm him with pure strength – a testament to his standing as the world’s mightiest hero. There were more sober moments, but overall the time spent on All Might is well-invested.
Transitioning to the U.A. sports event, MHA shifts its focus back to the students. Following the battle with the League of Villains, the students come away changed. Their encounter with the evils that threaten the world motivate all of them to be even better, and Izuku in particular feels this pressure as All Might gives him a daunting task for the event – to use that platform to make a grand entrance into the world as a hero they can rely on. Izuku continues to be a refreshing take on a shōnen hero, not because of his plot-armor or traditional “I’m the best!” attitude, but because he’s a fitting example of how hard work and dedication can pay off. Sure, there are some sprinklings of dumb-luck thrown in there, but he’s not an arrogant loudmouth who stumbles through victories, as is apt to happen when shōnen series are so dime-a-dozen.
In the midst of the U.A. sports event we find another character who gets a lot of attention in this volume: the newly emerging rival Shōto Todoroki. The fire and ice wielding hero in training is certainly on many peoples’ radar, as many consider him the strongest of the first year students. Shōto begins to notice that All Might has a particular interest in Izuku, and since his primary goal is to ultimately become the #1 superhero, he makes it clear to Izuku that they are rivals. His tragic backstory, which began to be unearthed in volume 2, lends emotional gravity of his actions. While an early weakness of MHA was its predictable hero/rival dichotomy, Shōto’s arrival certainly adds some dynamism to the competition. I did have one persisting thought throughout the sports event chapter – with all the great female heroes in the story I couldn’t help but think of how great it would be to have a female hero declare war on Izuku and the other boys in her quest to be the #1 hero. We definitely see some great heroes such as Ochako, Tsuyu and Momo… but here’s hoping that we see a bit more competition from them moving forward.
If I had one complaint about this volume, it’s that there are still a LOT of characters to try and juggle. At the end of the first event, 42 student heroes were spotlighted, not to mention the instructors, the league of villains and other peripheral characters. I certainly appreciate the diversity and it allows for quite a breadth of future content ideas, but in the short term it can distract from quality character and story development.
Overall, a great volume that further sets up the foundation of an engaging and interesting universe. The next volume will be out in May…so I’ll be doing my best to wait patiently!