Because of the holiday season, “Weekly Shōnen Jump” has had a particularly irregular release schedule over the last month. As a result of this, there are only two chapters of mangaka Kōhei Horikoshi’s “My Hero Academia” to discuss through this analysis. As such, while I will begin by doing this, I will then look to end this fantastic year for the series by briefly discussing my top 10 chapters of 2017.
Anyway, starting with Chapter 163 (titled ‘Smoldering Flames’), we are greeted with the results of the third Japanese popularity poll for the series. What is interesting to note with this poll, is that while the year’s manga chapters had some effect as to the outcome, the second season of the anime appears to have had an even greater impact. This is particularly noticeable given the inclusion of Shinso at #10 and Iida at #5, both of whom received significant spotlight in the anime’s 2017 run. Kirishima however, who sits at an impressive #4, is likely to have garnered additional attention through the role he played in the manga this year. After all, in 2017, the hero-in-training Red Riot received: his first solo fight, a team-up with the pro hero Fat Gum, a quirk power-up with the unveiling of Unbreakable, the beginnings of a rivalry with a villain in Rappa, and a substantial backstory. With these collective results in mind, it will be very interesting to see just who Horikoshi intends to focus on in the coming months, and whether this will then boost that character’s chances of breaking into the top 10 of the next series’ popularity poll.
Following these results, the next thing of note to me is the chapter title itself. It would appear as if Horikoshi’s penchant for meaningful chapter titles and continuous themes strikes again, with Chapter 163. ‘Smoldering Flames’, as a title, appears to harken back to Chapter 111 after all, which itself is titled ‘Smoldering Start’. In this chapter Todoroki and Inasa allow their history and differences to divide them, thereby ruining their chances of appropriately dealing with Gang Orca, and thus consequently failing the Provisional License Exam. Therefore it makes perfect sense for Chapter 163 to make reference to this moment, at a time in which both the Provisional License Course and the Shiketsu students (including Inasa) are reintroduced to the story. These two characters are also linked intrinsically by their respective histories with the current #1 Hero, in Endeavor, who has a particularly fascinating moment at the end of the most recent chapter, which I will touch upon later.
Before that though, still in Chapter 163, I’d like to comment on how thrilling it is to see all of Class 1-A return, with the one exception being Tokoyami (whose absence has been noted, and I’m interested to see if Horikoshi uses this detail to foreshadow a potential upcoming plot thread). It’s been such a long time since we were treated to a slice of life moment such as this, so seeing genuine interactions between the friends as they donned their casual clothes was a true treat, and almost served as a reward for making it through such a prolonged period of intense action and serious consequences. We also get some development, regarding the relationships of both Deku and Iida, and Kirishima and Ashido. While these small interactions may not seem like much, the depth behind the subtlety is testament to the character work Horikoshi has done thus far with his cast.
Another small scene that should be acknowledged is the nod to the development that Uraraka is shown to have undergone. While her role in the Yakuza raid was minimal, the fact that she held Nighteye prior to his passing appears to have affected her deeply. As someone whose end goal was made apparent early on, in that she wishes to become a successful rescue hero as a means of financially supporting her family, it is clear that Uraraka is more committed now than ever before. She has come to understand from this harrowing experience that wanting something, and being equipped to achieve it, are vastly different things. As such, I’m intrigued to see what steps Uraraka will take to ensure that next time she is in a similar situation, she is better equipped to be a truly competent rescue hero.Continued below
A final aspect of Chapter 163, which should certainly be mentioned before proceeding, is the slight attention given to the villains. While the vast majority of the chapter is hero-centric, we are briefly informed as to the results of Tsukauchi and Gran Torino’s encounter with Gigantomachia, which had been cut away from previously. It was undoubtedly surprising to see that the police indeed managed to apprehend the League’s mode of transport, Kurogiri, who has been intercepted when attempting to meet with the aforementioned behemoth, but this turn of events has me hooked. Kurogiri’s utility to Shigaraki’s group is unparalleled, given his warp quirk, so I’m intrigued to see what the League does now that he has gone. After all, given the havoc that Gigantomachia is clearly capable of wreaking, it is possible that the manner in which they look to achieve their goals will shift drastically from covert operations to shows of force.
While this section of Chapter 163 makes me look fondly to the future, Chapter 164 (titled ‘Masegaki’) ensures that I very much adore the present of this series. This chapter was frankly a blast to read. It was filled to the brim with humour, contained particularly poignant undertones, and reintroduced everyone’s favourite aquatic hero in the guise of current #10 hero, Gang Orca. For a character recycled from Horikoshi’s previous work, it is testament to the improvement Horikoshi has made over the past few years that such enjoyment can be had with this same character. Although his gimmick is one of striking design and intense interactions, credit should be given to Orca’s dialogue in this chapter, as it manages to strike a fine balance between hilarity and thought-provoking rhetoric relating to the fabric of the series’ hero society.
This message of heart, and of communication and connection with those that need saving, is beautifully mirrored in this chapter with the beginning of an All Might and Endeavor conversation that was hinted at in Chapter 163. With a sombre look and a tug of frustration at his sleeve, this most recent chapter ends with Endeavor asking All Might, his former rival and the former #1 hero, what it means to be the Symbol of Peace. The crumbling of this societal pillar, following the retirement of All Might, has been foreshadowed since the very beginning of the series. Endeavor’s role in this, and his lack of ability to succeed as All Might once did, was also seen as early as Chapter 115. Given that the Provisional License Exam was the first event we saw following the battle of Kamino Ward, and that Mera made it very clear at the time that the world was changing and the vacuum left by All Might needed filling promptly and effectively, it seems very fitting for Horikoshi to layer this specific conversation over a lesson being given to the promising heroes-in-training who failed that very exam. Moving forward, I’m excited to see exactly what Horikoshi does with the characters of both Endeavor and All Might and the interactions that may arise from the shift in their relationship dynamic, alongside the hopeful progress that will be made by Bakugo, Todoroki, Inasa and Camie as they tussle with touching the hearts of the Masegaki Public Elementary School pupils.
Putting this month’s two chapters to one side now, before I conclude this piece, I would like to highlight my top 10 chapters of 2017. It should be said though that doing this was no easy feat. After all, there was a number of high quality chapters that just missed out on the final cut. As such, before moving onto the top 10 itself, it only seems right to mention these contenders in passing: Chapters 123, 140, 143, 154 and 164. With the top 10 chapters themselves however, I’ll be chronologically listing the chapter’s number, name, and a brief reason as to why that chapter in particular resonated with me. While I tried to organise these ten chapters into a more comprehensive ranking, doing so was simply too difficult, in what was a year of sheer excellence for Horikoshi’s work. Not that I’m complaining though of course, as I would happily take, and now even assuredly expect, a similar outcome from the “My Hero Academia” chapters of 2018.Continued below
So the first of the bunch is Chapter 125, titled ‘Overhaul’, and features a gripping villain standoff between Shigaraki’s League and Overhaul. Through this we witness the truly terrifying nature of Overhaul’s quirk in memorable fashion, as he brings about the death of the first named character in the series in Magne.
The second is Chapter 131, titled ‘Fighting Fate’, in which we see: the conclusion of a highly charged conversation between All Might and Deku, the captivating introduction of both the #9 hero Ryukyu and the quirk of Big Three member Hado, and the confirmation of what was an upcoming team-up between three hero agencies (being Nighteye’s, Ryukyu’s and Fat Gum’s).
The third is Chapter 133, titled ‘Catch Up, Kirishima’, through which we are introduced to the series-changing quirk-erasing bullets, and additionally for the first time, Red Riot is given significant attention that then climaxes with the reveal of his new form (Unbreakable). This was a jaw-dropping moment, and demonstrated the admirable intent Horikoshi has in looking to develop the extended cast members of the series.
The fourth is Chapter 135, titled ‘An Unpleasant Talk’, which features the hero briefing prior to the instigation of the Yakuza raid. During this time, the contents of the quirk-erasing bullets are revealed, as are the assumed plans of Overhaul, and the existence of the Plus Alpha mechanism. All of this fascinating information is portrayed brilliantly by Horikoshi’s evocative art, and despite a lack of action, cements the chapter’s position as a highlight this year.
The fifth is Chapter 141, titled ‘Hassai Gang: Behind’, in which Suneater’s fight with three Yakuza thugs is concluded. We are treated firstly, in 141, to the fascinating application of Suneater’s highly versatile quirk (as seen with the Chimera Kraken technique). This though isn’t all, as Horikoshi also subverts expectations by having the bonds of friendship that are tested in this battle, be those held by the three villains. The fact that Suneater is able to not only overcome, but also exploit these villainous ties, in order to emerge victorious, encapsulates much of what Horikoshi does right with the series.
The sixth is Chapter 148, titled ‘The Anguish of Young Twoga’, and while the skirmish seen between Nighteye and Rappa’s clone is brief, the following development displayed for the League of Villains is truly remarkable. The combination of Shigaraki’s development, and the exploration of Toga and Twice’s positive relationship in this chapter, augments its significance for me this year.
The seventh is Chapter 152, titled ‘Lemillion’, and this chapter is a truly engrossing read from start to finish. The imagery seen here, particularly that of Lemillion’s heroic inspiration and upbringing, alongside the phenomenal art and panel-work exhibited by Horikoshi, makes this chapter an undoubtedly edge-of-your-seat experience.
The eighth is Chapter 157, titled ‘Infinite 100 Percent’, and while all the elements contained within this chapter may not have been particularly awe-inspiring, the combination of Overhaul’s second monstrous form, Deku achieving a state of 100% with the help of Eri, and the moving dialogue, elevates it to a place on this year’s top ten chapters list.
The ninth is Chapter 160, titled ‘Expressway’, and this chapter hits all the right notes in a similar vein to Chapter 125. The development and characterisation that Horikoshi gives to his many villains, in tandem with the truly shocking scenes their ideology gives them the chance to follow through on (in stark contrast to much of the heroic actions seen in the series), indubitably hoists this kind of chapter to the top ten of this year’s collection.
The tenth and final chapter is Chapter 161, titled ‘Bright Future’, in which we see the passing of Nighteye. The emotion that Horikoshi is able to invoke, through the first death of a named hero we are privy to, is highly impressive. The imagery and dialogue all meld seamlessly into a beautifully touching scene, that does justice to the characters who Horikoshi had cultivated well up to that point, thus enabling them to connect with the series’ readership so effectively.
And that is the end of my top ten chapter list for “My Hero Academia” in 2017. While I’m very much interested in seeing where the story goes from here, in the next month and beyond, I’m also intrigued to hear everyone’s thoughts on the chapters I selected for the aforementioned list. If you feel I have omitted any particularly strong chapters, please be sure to let me know. And also be sure to send me your own list of the best chapters of the year. There are plenty to choose from, after all, and let’s just hope we can be so lucky at this time next year too.