Given its quick boom into popularity, it’s unsurprising that My Hero Academia has amassed several spin-offs. AiPT! has already reviewed the most serious, Vigilantes, and this week we turn our attention to one that’s far, far sillier: My Hero Academia Smash!! This gag manga is by Hirofumi Neda, and its debut volume depicts humorous alternatives to the events of the main series’s first few arcs. Is it good?
Visually, Smash!! is fairly standard for a gag manga. It consists almost entirely of 4-koma strips that tell smaller gags while also fitting into the narratives of longer chapters. Neda’s stylized versions of the characters here are simple and expressive, well-suited for over-the-top reactions and turns of phrase. The most enjoyable panels art-wise are often ones in which Neda commits to creative metaphors with the characters re-contextualized in new fantasy settings and the like. Take for instance a shot of Aizawa dressed as a vampire and holding a chalice full of blood. There’s also a series of genderbending strips at the end that feature fun redesigns of Class 1-A’s students. There are some occasional clarity issues with the cramped panels but for the most part everything flows smoothly enough.
As previously mentioned, much of the (admittedly loose) story here spins out of the manga proper’s story. This results in all manner of odd happenings like Deku becoming an oil baron instead of the Symbol of All Might’s protege. There’s also a surprisingly large amount of page-time devoted to bit parts from the main series like Kamui Woods, which is fun. Fan favorites get plenty of love as well. Ida in particular is the subject of some great humor that takes his serious, studious personality and amps it up to eleven. All in all the humor throughout works because it feels natural coming from the characters, exaggerated though their mannerisms may be.
Unfortunately, Smash!! also stays true to the main series in the worst ways. Namely, by using objectification of women as a frequent source of comedy. If you’ve ever wondered “What would My Hero Academia be like with even more page-time devoted to Minoru Mineta?” then Smash!! is your answer. The problem isn’t delegated solely to him either, since Mt. Lady makes frequent appearances just to be hyper-sexualized. There are some gags involving her that are less harmless since her body isn’t always the joke or there to be gawked at, but it happens several times. Add in other scenes that just elicit responses of “Really?” and you get a book that frequently shoots itself in the foot as far as being a feel-good read goes. Besides this, the comedy’s other main fault is just a number of jokes don’t quite land.
Overall, My Hero Academia Smash!! is a solid gag manga that fans of the main series will likely get at least some chuckles out of. The art is good and conveys the humor effectively, and there’s some great use of lore and characters’ personalities to deliver over-the-top scenarios that are truly funny. Unfortunately, the series is even worse about its sexualization of characters than MHA proper is. I would primarily recommend this volume to fans of the main title; the humor is so situated in the franchise’s plot and context that readers unfamiliar with it likely won’t get much out of this.