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.

My Hero Academia: School Briefs, Vol. 3

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

Another volume of giving the readers what they want, which is more light and fluffy stories that Horikoshi would like to tell but doesn’t have the time for. This time they’re set in and around the move-in to the dorms, and indeed “Dorm Life” is the subtitle. That said, the volume is bookended by non-kids in dorms stories, as we see All Might attempting to bond with his fellow teachers at an izakaya, giving us a chance to see most of the faculty completely drunk off their asses (except All Might, who is a teetotaler and also the world’s most awkward man) and the final story, which is a “what if My Hero Academia were an RPG fantasy?” based on the color pages Horikoshi drew of the kids in that style of costume. This story did remind me how often the novel author refers to Uraraka’s poverty, but is relatively cute and breezy. It’s also nice to know that Midoriya still collects All Might figures even in alternate worlds.

The other stories are, as you guessed, set in and around the 1-A dorm rooms. The weakest story in the book features Iida trying to have a normal day while the rest of the class avoids him and makes stuttering excuses. At the start of things the reader guessed “oh, one of those surprise birthday party stories” and waits to see if anything will be subverted. Nothing is, it is a stupidly predictable tale. The story from the POV of Koda’s rabbit is not quite as predictable, if only due to the fact that it’s from the POV of a rabbit, but doesn’t really add much to the narrative except giving us a chance to see more of Midoriya and Bakugou cleaning the dorms as part of their post-fight punishment. There’s also a “scary stories” chapter that tells us, unsurprisingly, that Tokoyami is the best at being scary. I also liked the anti-Mineta measures the girls have set up for the dorm.

The best stories are earlier in the book. We see Todoroki’s extreme discomfort with the generic Western-style room and how he managed to get the Japanese-style flooring and furniture to renovate his. This also involves him meeting Hatsume, who as always is very over the top and working on inventions that are not quite as perfected as she would like. The best story in the book also indirectly features Hatsume. Monoma shows up at the 1-A dorms, ready to be obnoxious and disdainful. Fortunately Kendo, Tetsutetsu and Tsunotori show up to stop him, and things settle down a bit. Highlights include seeing Tetsutetsu’s room is almost a carbon copy of Kirishima’s (these two really need a “same hat! same hat!” gag) and Todoroki bringing out a Pop-Up-Pirate game that Hatsume had given him when Monoma, as always, suggests a challenge. The game, being made by Hatsume, ends up being more like a “dark nabe” sort of thing, with every participant getting some form of punishment. I also enjoyed seeing Pony’s room as, as you’d guess, filled with anime crap.

These books are designed to not affect canon all that much, though we do see the Big Three in a brief cameo from before they meet 1-A. They’re fluffy and fun, and should be enjoyed by most MHA readers. This volume also had less Mineta, which I appreciated.

My Hero Academia: School Briefs, Vol. 2

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

The second of the My Hero Academia light novels is set at the training camp, so around Vol. 8-9 of the main series. It ends right before the villain attack. As such, as you might gather, it’s as light and frothy as its predecessor. The goal here is to tell standard “summer camp” stories that Horikoshi would like to do in the main series but hasn’t got the time for. So we see Momo tutoring the left-behinders of the class at her palatial mansion; the long bus drive to the training camp; Mineta being the worst – again; The girls of 1-A and 1-B (well, half of 1-B) having a combined slumber party; the boys of 1-A and 1-B having an arm wrestling contest/pillow fight; and Iida trying to find his glasses without waking anybody up. There’s no earth-shattering character revelations here, but if you want more of the cast being fun goofballs, you’ve come to the right series. It also reads more like it was written for teens rather than younger kids, which the first volume had an issue with.

Let’s just get this out of the way; Mineta is in this, and has just as large a role as the first book, including the third story being dedicated to his continued efforts to try to peep on the girls. I get that the author wants a comedy pervert in the cast for humor reasons, but you can’t have Aizawa bitching about how half-hearted heroes will be expelled from UA on the spot and keep Mineta around as a serial sexual harasser. The girls beating him up is not really sufficient punishment either, nor is having him groping Tiger, the transgender man from the Wild Wild Pussycats. It’s frustrating because, in the bus trip chapter, we do see that he does have the power to tell a compelling (if perverse) story, and keeps the rest of the class on tenterhooks waiting to see what comes next. There’s more to do with Mineta than this. If he’s only going to be this, get rid of him.

The main reason to pick this volume up, as someone who also dabbles in the fandom of My Hero Academia, is the shipping. There’s nothing “official”, no, except for Uraraka’s crush on Deku, but there’s lots of subtext if you know where to look for it. The first chapter sees Jirou worrying that Momo’s mother disapproves of her, and it reads exactly like meeting the girlfriend’s parents. Likewise, Bakugou tutoring Kirishima will make fans of that ship happy, and I was also pleased to see Bakuygou’s two middle-school bullying friends show up, and observe how much he’s actually mellowed out, despite getting thrown out of TWO studying places. As for the slumber party, Ashido is of course trying to make it all about romance, but unfortunately the girls in UA aren’t really into that right now. Aside from the brief IzuOcha I mentioned, there’s some KamiJirou tease, some Kacchako tease, and, perhaps most oddly, Ashido/Dark Shadow shipping from the rest of the girls, a ship so rare I don’t even think it has a name. This was fun.

These books are meant to be something that are fun to read (Mineta aside) and supplementary to the main storyline. This one does a good job. The next volume seems to be set right after moving into the dorms, so that should be fun.