My Hero Academia: School Briefs, Vol. 4

By Kouhei Horikoshi and Anri Yoshi. Released in Japan by Shueisha. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Caleb Cook.

These books have gotten stronger as they go on, which is a good thing, and also expected of a tie-in series – they’ve gotten better at character development as there’s been more in the main series, and the novel author has more to draw on. The book takes place, with one exception (the first chapter takes place during Vol. 15) around the school festival arc, which conveniently makes it tie into the current anime as well. We get chapters showing the preparations, we get to actually read about Class 1-B’s play instead of just having it be a gag, we get a prequel for the beauty pageant, and we see cooldown post-festival for both students and teachers. I’ve talked before about how the series narrates events Horikoshi didn’t have time to write into the main series, and that feels especially true with this book, as a lot of these feel very in character. (That said, the art is more minimal and reused than usual – I think he was very busy at this time.)

The first chapter is not a school festival chapter, but does have Fatgum, Kirishima and Amajiki patrolling an Osakan float festival, where Kirishima meets a cartwright who is having seconds thoughts because of a past accident, something which makes Kirishima recall his own past with Ashido. We then see Shinso walking around campus during festival prep, seeing how the other classes are doing while trying to figure out how to tell his friends in the General Studies class he’s putting in for a transfer. We then get the 1-B play in all its glory, followed by a story just before the beauty pageant, which is from Kendo’s POV. We end with a few scenes showing Izuku’s candy apple prep and some other 1-A antics, and finally see the teachers having an alcohol-fueled after party.

The character work is the main reason this is so good. Shinso and Kendo get some excellent development here, getting inside their heads. Shinso still feels a little guilty and shamed about his own quirk, though this has improved post-Sports Festival, and eavesdrops on some folks who make him feel better. Kendo was even more fascinating, as we see her struggling with being the beauty contest competitor even as she’s uncomfortable with her own gender dynamics, feeling out-of-place in a dress and preferring activities most would say were for men. While she does say that she’s definitely a girl, it would not be a very broad leap to see her as a bit agender. I also really enjoyed the 1-B play, both for its copyringht-dodging elements and also for making Monoma look less obnoxious (always a hard task). Even the beauty pageant girl Bibimi Kenranzaki, written entirely as a one-panel gag by Horikoshi, gets to drive a tank and bond with Mei Hatsume (whose not bathing is the running gag of the chapter).

Flaws? Mineta is still in this, though less so than previous books, and Shinso wonders (as do we all) why he hasn’t been expelled yet. The teacher’s chapter at the end is also a bit weaker than the others, and Midnight’s whipping talents jar a bit given the rest of the book is easily accessible to 10-13 year olds. Still, overall this is the strongest entry in the series to date. We’re also caught up with Japan, so a new volume will be a bit.

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