– by Donovan Bertch

The entirety of My Hero Academia up to this point has been leading to the very last page of this volume. The series is at the precipice of its biggest turn yet, and things are ramping up to one hell of a showdown. For an book that’s mostly set up to this battle, Vol. 10 is surprisingly intense. Part of this tension is the sheer downer it kicks off on, and an even bigger part is the sense of combined hopeful optimism and impending dread that permeates throughout the volume. Every series that has one of these arcs tends to play its plot up as the point where nothing is ever the same again, but My Hero Academia feels like one of the few to really go ahead and possibly through with that threat.

With the League of Villains’ assault during the class training trip finally coming to an end, the students and faculty of UA, Deku especially (now one hospital trip away from winning his next one free) are rattled by the strike’s true purpose: spiriting away everyone’s favorite hate sink, Bakugo, to try to convince him to join their cause. Why they’d want to recruit the human equivalent of a rabid chihuahua is beyond me, but this sends All Might and the rest of the UA staff and Heroes from around the city scrambling to launch an attack on the League’s hideout. Hearing this, Kirishima and Todoroki the bright idea to take Deku and a few classmates to break Bakugo out from the League’s clutches themselves. Without the Heroes’ knowledge. While Deku is fresh out of recovery. Barely a month, if that, after Iida got his ass handed to him by a villain cause he did the exact same thing Kirishima’s suggesting. It’s reckless, dangerous, and-as Tsuyu points out-downright illegal. Deku decides in the end, however, that it’s worth the risk.

These scenes are crucial turning points in quite a few characters’ arcs. After the events of the exam and training trip, Todoroki and Momo are taking on more active roles in the story after they took a backseat during the school trip, which is nice to see. Iida’s experience with Stain has soured him on any kind of vigilante activity, making for some serious drama early in the volume. As well, while Kirishima may be made of the most classically shonen character out of the whole cast, I’ll be damned if his roaring determination to save Bakugo doesn’t make a case for why that still works in this day and age. The only one who really doesn’t get much of a turning point is Deku himself, oddly enough, as he’s already dead set on saving Bakugo and had his big moment of the arc in the last couple of volumes. However, the story does introduce an interesting plot point regarding his recovery that may become a debilitating setback as the series goes on, though it’s underplayed compared to the rest of the volume’s revelations.

The biggest turning point, however has to be for the walking grenade himself. Bakugo has never been much of a team player, and his violent attitude towards the people around him makes him a bit of a loose cannon. His elitist attitude and downright disdain for anyone he considers to be “lesser” is perfectly in line with Shigaraki’s tastes, and while the other villains in the League have their strengths, Bakugo’s power would make them the deadliest foes UA would ever have. I won’t say exactly how Bakugo responds here-simply because no one puts it better than the hothead himself-but it makes for a radical change from how he’s been portrayed up until now. It may even make a few of his haters at least raise an eyebrow for a brief moment. At least, until he shoves his foot straight in his mouth again.

While these moments are the volume’s core set pieces (along with a major battle and the aforementioned final splash page), there are a lot of things to like about this issue-and an unfortunate amount that just doesn’t land. The art is overall solid in this volume, with a heavy emphasis on close-ups and detailed facial expressions that really sell the desperation and drive the cast cycles through over the course of the volume. The overall quality tends to vary from chapter to chapter though, with some panels coming off extremely rushed compared to exceptionally well-drawn shots, sometimes back to back.

Horokoshi also tries to shoehorn in some mild comedy elements that, while normally welcome to bring some levity into the situation, don’t quite jive with the rest of the story — you could strip them out and the scenes would barely be changed outside of quickening the story’s methodical pacing. It’s also a shame that only a few characters get the spotlight out of class 1-A this volume, though it is clear that only a select number of Bakugo’s classmates have enough of a connection to be willing to come to his rescue. Still, getting a bit more of the lesser-seen cast might have made for a fun change to the norm.

While My Hero Academia Vol. 10 still has its rough edges, it works hard to deliver some of the series’ best scenes yet and set up a climactic brawl. It pays off plenty of character arcs (and starts off a few more to take their places), and it manages to keep a consistent tone of hopeful fear throughout its pages. This series is setting itself up for a major change in status quo-now it just has to land the knockout punch.

Grade: A-

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