Volume 11 of My Hero Academia contained the series’ best chapters so far. With a climactic battle that ended in bittersweet victory, and a framework set for events moving forward, it seems that the series is going from 0 to 100 pretty quickly now. However, as with all intense arcs, there needs to be cooldown, and the twelfth volume of the manga provides this reprieve, though it still contains the shonen action we’ve come to know and love.
Volume 12 picks up after the relaxing last chapters of the previous one, with Class 1-A acclimating to their summer training. After an intense and harrowing arc of battles, the group spends some time in a controlled environment honing their skills in order to create ultimate moves. Main protagonist Midoriya ends up having an identity crisis as he struggles to create a move that differentiates from his master’s legacy. The first few chapters of this volume combined with the last two of the previous volume act as a breather to help ease readers after the harrowing events of the last arc.
This little interlude sets up the next major arc: The provisional exams. In order to become full-fledged heroes, the cast must participate in a grueling test to get their provisional licenses, which allows them to conduct heroic activities legally. This is a big thing, since it’s been established that Midoriya and the crew have been fighting battles that, if not for the dire circumstances of the current setting, are technically illegal to join. This volume covers the first stage of the exam, with only 100 students going to the next round out of a prospective batch of over 1,500. Due to the vast size of the playing field, most of Class 1-A is split up and different teams have to fight separate battles among their foes.
While the action centers around Class 1-A for most of the volume’s pages (as UA is the premier school, and therefore target number one for opponents), there are numerous character introductions from rival schools. Notable additions include hot-blooded Yoarashi from Shiketsu High as well as one of Kerubetsu Academy’s teachers, Ms. Joke. There are a few one-shot enemies and allies that are included as well, which opens up the world a little more; Class 1-A at UA need to learn to cooperate with each other if they’re to make it to the next stage.
Compared to the previous volumes, this collection emphasizes the ensemble cast that’s been building up since the first battles. Fans of Mei Hatsume and Denki Kaminari will be pleased to know that a couple of chapters center around them, and brings some development to some minor characters as well (my boy Ojiro represent!). The chapter spotlighting Mei Hatsume (whose last major appearance was in the tournament arc back in volume 4) makes her shine in her support role. I really enjoyed the lesser known supporting cast of heroes, and the worldbuilding outside the main cast is appreciated.
However, with newer characters introduced as well, it does spread the coverage a little too thin here. I do appreciate the focus of the groups dozens of chapters ago, but here it seems like everyone is mashed together as the story goes at a breakneck pace. I wish the action centered on a few characters this time around, as it could have fleshed said characters even more rather than brushing them off after a few pages. This also unfortunately feels like this volume is sandwiched between two important ones, and in comparison acts as filler, even though it’s canon. I would have liked a few more chapters to flesh out the different groups’ battles, but for the most part it works.
As for the art itself, I really loved the action shots here; since the action takes place around a wide battlefield, with some of the newer characters having attacks that span the landscape, it leads to some beautifully drawn setpieces of destruction. Yoarashi’s quirk demonstrates that he’s not one to mess around with the competition, and the enemy in Kaminari’s focused chapter does some grotesque handiwork that’s equal parts cute and disturbing.
My Hero Academia Volume 12
Featuring lighter material than the previous chapters, My Hero Academia Volume 12 does suffer from the problems of pacing and spreading new characters thin, but offers a great jumping on point as well as some much needed characterization for established minor characters. Here’s to the provisional exams!