One of the first dynamics we get introduced to at the start of My Hero Academia is the friendship between main characters Izuku Midoriya and Katsuki Bakugo. While the friendship is seemingly one-sided (with Bakugo’s hot-tempered personality shunning Midoriya at all times), there have been times where the two cooperate and settle their differences in order to succeed. With volume 13 of the manga, we get a meaningful callback to the duo’s inner conflict with each other, with great character development as well as some interesting dualities with other characters.
Volume 13 begins with the second part of the provisional license exam, where the remaining students (serendipitously including the entirety of Class 1-A) must conduct a simulated rescue mission with the rescued inhabitants grading the students’ success. This leads to some realistic lecturing as the people needing rescuing talk about how the students aren’t doing their job correctly. For example, Uraraka tries to rush in to help someone stuck in rubble, which would have been a deduction since her presence could have compromised the foundations of the ground. It takes Yaoyorozu’s intervention to prevent this from happening. These chapters were a pretty grounded look at hero work, and established the concept of being a rule-abiding hero instead of heading in blind with no information of a situation. There’s also a moment where Midoriya cracks under pressure, which humanizes him as a main protagonist; it’s a scant few panels, but it highlights how big a burden rescuing people can be.
Of course, it’s not an exam without some obstacles in the way; top hero Gang Orca disrupts the crowd as a simulated villain in the battle, and the action shifts to the team dynamic of fire-and-ice guy Todoroki as well as Yoarashi, the wind user who was introduced last volume. Initially, the duo get involved in some infighting and will have to get out of it in order to succeed. While the main event is the rescue mission, there are a couple of chapters that shine a light on new villains, as well as a reappearance of an older one that was involved in the forest raid a few volumes back. These chapters are a good dramatic shift from the action-oriented scenes and highlight the impending threats that the prospective heroes will have to fight in the future; it also helps that we get some interaction between All Might and All for One, who seems docile but carries his menacing personality within the conversation. Finally, the volume ends with a personal battle between Midoriya and Bakugo, as their personal motivations are tested and fists fly.
Much like volume 11, this set of chapters references inner turmoil and character arcs that encompass the whole series, and the buildup is worth it. While a relatively minor event compared to the hideout raid arc, the provisional exam and aftermath are character-driven chapters that delve into the motivations of some of our favorite characters. While we get to see deeper looks at the characterizations of Midoriya, Bakugo, and Todoroki, the volume also manages to put some depth to Yoarashi and Twice, which is a nice feat to accomplish especially since I found the introduction of too many characters in the previous volumes a detriment to the narrative structure. It helps that unlike the previous chapters, only a select few characters are given the spotlight to drive the story’s pacing rather than it running thin. That being said, this arc does suffer from not having that much narrative weight and stakes, but it makes up for that deficiency through other means.
The concepts of contrast and duality are explored here, as there are three pairs of characters portrayed: Todoroki and Yoarashi, All Might and All for One, as well as Midoriya and Bakugo. Each of these pairs have conflicting ideals and beliefs, yet feel like they’re two sides of the same coin. It’s interesting to see how a scant few experiences can change a person, and yet we’re given these moments through backstory or flashbacks, which is masterfully done without bogging the pacing down. In fact, I teared up at one of the panels during the Midoriya and Bakugo fight, as it really shows how the latter has grown and wrestled with the fact that the friend he bullied is now overpowering him. Both of the characters share their main role model as well as their insecurities, yet are drastically different in terms of moveset and personality. This volume brings some of the most evocative art as well, as it ramps up the wind effects from Yoarashi’s wind power and combines them with Todoroki’s fire-based powers to create some flashy ultimate moves.
My Hero Academia Volume 13
My Hero Academia is shaping up to be another shonen classic, and volume 13 of the manga proves how it can bring some great characterization to its ensemble cast. With flashy sequences and some meaningful dramatic conflict, this is the perfect time to go beyond!