WARNING: This review contains major spoilers for Volume 25 of My Hero Academia, which contains chapters 236-246 on the Viz app.
Volume 25 is a pivotal moment for My Hero Academia, because its main focus, like Volume 24, is on the villains. While the last story focused mainly on Himiko Toga, Jin Bubaigawara (Twice), and Spinner, near its end, it marked the beginning of Tomura Shigaraki's backstory. I was happy to see that Shigaraki's origin got a whole book to itself, and am looking forward to seeing how this volume takes My Hero Academia further out of the light and into the dark.
One thing I've noticed about the villains is that their quirks manifest during times of strong emotion. Toga's was born out of love, but more so obsession and envy, Twice's was born out of loneliness, and Shigaraki's was born out of hatred. But, at the root of all of them, is the wish to belong. As a result, their quirks presented themselves in a way that fulfilled their individual wants and needs. Shigaraki's origin is the most heartbreaking yet, but there are still a few, like Dabi, that have yet to be revealed.
Volume 25 continues where its predecessor left off, picking back up on that cliffhanger of little Shigaraki hanging onto his dog, Mon, as he weeps. This left me with an unsettling feeling, because I just knew something was going to happen to his dog, and much to my dismay, I was right. Mon, one of the few beings he loved in his life, was Shigaraki's first kill. And how this scene is pictured is gruesome for MHA, and while it's difficult to look at images like these, I think they are pertinent to show just how destructive his quirk is.
You see him crying, begging for help, because he didn't mean to kill Mon. Those "allergies" he had for so long was his growing hatred for others overflowing and attacking his body. All of these feelings built up over time, and manifested because of his negligent and unsupportive Father, Kotaro, but also his family, who as he stated, "rejected him with kindness". His father took the anger he had for his mother, Nana Shimura, All Might's mentor and the seventh user of One For All, and took it out on Shigaraki. As you find out, she wasn't around much and her death really took a toll on Kotaro. This in turn took a massive toll on Shigaraki, who seemed to receive the brunt of his anger.
Because of all this, there was an itch growing inside of Shigaraki and an impulse he needed to scratch, and in that moment of anger as he screamed that he hated everyone, Mon decayed in his arms. Just as sad was the fact that he was calling out for his sister, Hana, for help and she looked at him like he was a monster and ran away from him. She is killed presumably on accident by Shigaraki, and then the rest of his family, one by one, meets the same fate as well. The only intentional kill Shigaraki makes on this day is his Father. These incidents marked the death of Tenko Shimura and the birth of the villain we know as Tomura Shigaraki.
How he got that name, however, comes later on in the volume in a scene with All For One, who explains that Tomura means "mourning". Shigaraki is All For One's last name that he passes on to Tomura. It is also in these scenes you see both the meaning and importance of the hands that Shigaraki adorns his body with. They are the hands of the family members he killed, and they are given to Shigaraki as a gift from All For One. But, everything All For One does has an ulterior motive, because as you find out, these hands keep Shigaraki and his power under control. There's something so unnerving about the fact that Shigaraki, who's longed for his family's love and embrace this whole time, is now embraced by their severed hands. It is in moments like these that you feel the menacing pull All For One has on Shigaraki as he manipulates him by telling him what he needs to hear. Society really does have the power to create a monster, and as Shigaraki cried for help as he walked the streets after losing everything, the only one to reach out to him unfortunately was All For One.
I think this is the saddest revelation you'll come to in Volume 25. Even on the hero side, you have people who could of just as easily become villains, but were lucky enough to have external factors that kept them from going down that path. Shigaraki just wasn't lucky enough to have that, but this creates an interesting narrative and further showcases the division in society that the Age of Heroes has created. For some it brought fame and fortune, but for others it brought about nothing but ostracism and pain. This is further touched on in Shigaraki's fight with Re-Destro and as more is revealed about the mission of the Meta Liberation Army, which I'll talk more about later on.
All of the villains backstories that have been revealed thus far made me sympathize with them, but none as strongly as Shigaraki's. His quirk has a hold on him just as much as All For One does, and, like the others, you can see why he was lead astray. But there's something about the fact that he accidentally decayed his entirely family--aside from the intentional murder of his Father--that hit me harder than the others. I have to say that I was impressed with the way that Kohei Horikoshi illustrated these more grotesque scenes. He didn't water anything down, and he showed the true unravelling of Shigaraki in a way that while unsettling, displayed just how grim and tragic his origin was.
I'm a huge fan of series that make you like the villains just as much as you like the heroes. Naruto comes to mind when I think about this, because they did a great job of giving the "bad guys," like the members of the Akatsuki, valid reasons for their actions, and MHA is heading in this direction as well. There's no question that they are going about it the wrong way, but I can see why they are the way they are, and I actually feel for them and the lives they've been forced to lead. Up until this point, I thought the League of Villains were cool and had interesting quirks and personalities, but I had no emotional connection to them as characters. Now, I do, and it has made My Hero Academia even more amazing of a series, and it was already amazing to begin with.
Shigaraki's origin story comes at a perfect timing, because it is told amidst a battle that shows him coming into his own. He liberates himself from his own shackles, and that is shown through him breaking the hands--all aside from one--that previously bound him. From earlier chapters, you knew he was struggling to garner the full support of All For One's trusted colleagues Gigantomachia and Daruma Ujiko, who have yet to see Shigaraki as a strong successor. As a result, they back him into a corner to see if he'd rise to the challenge against Re-Destro. And he succeeded with flying colors, arising out of the ashes of the town he utterly destroys in a new, stronger form of himself.
While this is very much a Shigaraki story, it's also a story about the Meta Liberation Army, a group of individuals that believe people should be able to use their quirks as they see fit and seek to liberate themselves from this society, which regulates their use. I have to say that at first I wasn't 100% sold on the whole idea of the Meta Liberation Army. They come across as antiquated and their ideals and mission were boring to me; In addition, their people were quite preachy and cocky. Since their main players weren't all that interesting to me, I was struggling to really get behind the idea of this new organization coming into the picture. Luckily, their time in the spotlight, as well as Re-Destro's, was short-lived.
After Shigaraki defeats him and he bends his knee and pledge's loyalty to the new "king", you see their purpose was to further strengthen the League of Villains, or as they're now known, "The Paranormal Liberation Front". The League of Villains were hindered by their lack of money and support, but now with the support of the 100,000 strong army and All For One's colleagues, they can go head to head with the heroes not only financially, but in fighting power as well. This fight skyrocketed the League of Villains into a whole other league, and allowed Shigaraki to finally take the throne as All For One's successor.
There's a lot of heavy reveals in this volume, but I love how Kohei Horikoshi breaks up the events and balances the intensity of the chapters. He does a masterful job of separating the intense moments with more light-hearted ones. For instance, right after the fight between Shigaraki and Re-Destro, Class 1-A receive interview advice and instruction from Mt. Lady. Todoroki and Bakugō, in particular, provide a lot of comedic relief here, and it's nice to have this break in the story that allows you to breathe a little easier and take a mental refresher before the trials that are sure to come.
Shortly after the incidents at Deika city, you also see leaders and teachers of UA talking about a request from the Public Safety Commission for every student to head out into what they call "practical field testing" with another set of work studies. But as Aizawa points out, what they are really saying is they want to mobilize them for a coming war. They even plant the seed that one of the students may be a possible mole working with the League, which makes you question everyone.
This hints at a difficult future for the students, but it very quickly flashes to a scene of Class 1-A having fun together at a Christmas party, which offers yet another needed break in the serious with light-hearted moments and funny commentary. Eri even makes an appearance at the party as seen in the image above. It almost feels like the calm before the storm, but even so, you can't help but feel the terror and weight of what's to come and the threat that's looming in the shadows. They are blissfully unaware as of now, and for the moment, it gives me solace in knowing that they are safe and enjoying their lives, even if its ever-so briefly, as normal, high school kids.
It's a testament to just how much you'll flip flop in your support of the villains and the heroes when they are at the center of your attention. One minute I was feeling for Shigaraki, because of his story, and the next I found myself in fear of what he could do to some of my favorite heroes. They are going to have to get much stronger, and as you later learn from Hawk's message to Endeavor, they only have a meager four months to do so... Flash-forward to work studies and you see Todoroki, Bakugo, and Deku, who all look to the current No. 1 hero Endeavor to grow stronger.
As Hawks plays double-agent, he'll have to navigate the two worlds of heroes and villains. And while the series would have you fooled that he killed Best Jeanist, who's still MIA, to prove himself to the villains, his actions elsewhere with trying to help Endeavor say otherwise. With all this mystery and spying around continuing to happen in the background with Hawks, it adds yet another layer of complexity to the story. As I mentioned earlier, this volume packs a lot in only 192 pages, but it never comes across as confusing or convoluted.
Volume 25 starts out showing off the villains growth and rise in power, but ends showing the power and untapped potential of the students of UA. Because the villains underestimate them, they aren't quite prepared for just how strong they'll grow in these coming months. This volume contains a lot of information to consume, but it has pushed the story in a direction that I'm excited to read more about and sees things coming to a head between the villains and heroes. Now, each side is preparing their ranks and we are on the heels of the Meta Liberation War.
This was one of my favorite volumes to release from My Hero Academia so far and I can't wait to see what's in store for us in the volumes to come.