My Hero Academia Vol. 23 from Viz Media concludes the brief training arc in which Classes 1-A and 1-B battled it out in a training exercise to test their teamwork and introduce the reader to Class 1-B’s Quirks. After a bit of tantalizing One For All lore and a hint at Shinso’s future, mangaka Kohei Horikoshi sets up the next major arc: My Villain Academia.
The volume is split between concluding the training arc and setting up the next chapter focused on the villains. There’s mercifully little set-dressing between arcs, so the pacing never takes a noticeable dip. Ever since the sports festival many chapters ago, it was clear Shinso would be a character we’d see again and it’s nice to see Aizawa take on a kind of mentor role as his Quirk is similarly unsuited to combat on its own.
The trip into Midoriya’s mind-palace expertly balances information and tantalization. We get the introduction of a past One For All user and a deeper look into how the Quirk works, but enough remains unrevealed to keep the reader wanting to know more. Horikoshi also sets up the workings of One For All in a way that future-proofs the series from running out of material for years to come, depending on how he wants to pace out Midoriya’s journey to becoming the #1 hero.
The villains’ arc opens with a bit of world building that continues to position the League of Villains members as more sympathetic than one-dimensional evil-doers. Spinner’s narration reveals the hate group the League is dismembering in the opening chapter is prejudice against people with heteromorphic Quirks like Spinner’s, which alter the physical appearance of the Quirk-bearer. This is a smart storytelling move on Horikoshi’s part, reminding the reader of the ways in which members of the League of Villains are disenfranchised from society before the reader spends the next major arc with them.
The art in this volume continues to showcase Horikoshi and his art team’s iconic style and character. If you’ve read My Hero Academia up to this point (and I wouldn’t recommend jumping on with this volume), you know what to expect. As the story transitions into an arc focusing on the villains, however, Horikoshi and the team are better able to explore darker imagery and stretch their legs into gnarlier sci-fi territory. For example, when a character key to the League’s progression as a powerful organization reappears (see if you can find them way back in the first chapter of the series), they bring with them a two-page spread of a mad scientist’s laboratory fit for a straight horror manga. From huge wiring like giant entrails to nightmarish Nomus in various states of disrepair and experimentation, Horikoshi and the team outdo themselves when it comes to nasty creature design. Both Deku’s new Quirk and the darker imagery in the second half allow for a lot more ink to be generously applied to the page.
If I have anything negative to say about this volume, it’s that by starting with the end of one arc and ending with the beginning of another, this is not a volume first time readers will find accessible. However, sometimes that’s just how the chapter allocations line up from one volume to the next, so I can’t hold it against the editors for including the chapters they did in this volume. If you’re a reader who doesn’t particularly like the League of Villains and wants the action to stay on Deku and the kids of U.A., you won’t love the second half of this volume as Deku and the gang completely disappear from the action.
Overall, Vol. 23 of My Hero Academia is another entertaining entry in the series. Transitioning from one arc to the next is always exciting and switching the action away from the heroes to focus completely on the villains makes for a risky change of course that pays off for readers looking for a darker turn in the series.