This series finished up quite a while ago so this review has been on the backburner for a minute now. My Hero’s done a good job of fleshing out the franchise by having several spinoff manga and this is certainly the most popular one of them. It helps that the story beats here would actually end up being important to the main series and the final battle is legendary for how long it was. In the end this was definitely a pretty good title and one that was getting better the longer it went on. I still hope we get to see Koichi appear in the main series some day but until then at least he got plenty of adventures here.
The story starts by introducing us to Koichi who is a big fan of All Might. He even has a hoodie based on the guy and so he does his best to save people and lead a good life. Unfortunately civilians are not allowed to use their powers unless specifically authorized. That makes Koichi a vigilante and someone who must be stopped. His powers allow him to slide across any surface which is why he’s called the Crawler but he’s not really an offensive type fighter so going up against the heroes would be tricky. Fortunately he meets up with Pop, a vigilante who likes to sing and dance, and Knuckle Duster who is a brawler that beats up villains. Together these 3 would make for quite the fighting force.
Before we get into the big story arcs we get some introduction stories to help get you used to the cast and they work rather well. The artist is also able to improve quite a lot. You can see a good amount of difference from the first chapters to the last ones and that worked out really well since you want a lot of great spectacles for the climax. The series does not hold back there at all. You can always tell what is going on here so I give the art a lot of credit there and the characters all tend to be very distinct. I’d also note that the art was never bad even at the start, I liked the shading, particularly for Knuckle Duster as it really helped him be like Batman. There was just more and more detail as the series went on.
The series had a mild fanservice issue initially as it would seem to follow Pop wherever she went. Her outfit definitely isn’t combat ready as they would say but as the series goes on that basically vanishes which is great. This is a series that can absolutely stand out on its own merits and doesn’t need to rely on any tricks like that. Since this is a spinoff that takes place before the main series, the author is able to really make the most of the timeline by adding in a bunch of references and foreshadowing. Quite a few heroes appear here from time to time including a rather large role for Aizawa. Even Endeavor and All Might join in on the fray and we also have a flashback arc which brings more in. There are important plots like Aizawa’s backstory that you have to read in this series to get the full context.
It’s rare to have a spinoff that is so important but Vigilantes pulled it off. So lets talk about the first main arc. Even though I was talking about the pre arc adventures, the first arc’s story is ongoing in the background almost immediately as the series starts. Basically there is a drug known as trigger out there and someone is giving this to a lot of people with quirks. This causes their quirks to massively power up but its at the cost of their sanity and this starts turning people to the side of darkness. Knuckle Duster’s mission is to get this off the streets and he may even have a more personal reason for wanting to get rid of the stuff. Koichi and Pop end up agreeing to help out and that’s how they all get mixed in with this. They have to stop the ringleader at all costs!
This was a good way to kick off the series. We meet a whole lot of characters and there are also a good amount of villains for the heroes to all fight against. Between the guest stars and original characters there was something to be enjoyed for fans of each part. Tensei gets to appear in a few stories here and since we heard a lot about Ida’s big brother but never got to see him fight before, that was definitely a lot of fun. He seems like a good guy and isn’t quite as strict about everything as Ida is.
Stain also gets to show up here and he leaves quite the impact. His fight with Knuckle Duster is really good and we really got to see how this battle helped to shape his ideology for later on. Stain got to keep his hype all the way through and even stood up to Kuin, the true final boss of this arc. It made for a really solid event during this arc and one that you weren’t likely to forget afterwards. So like the other guest stars this was enough to enhance the story without taking the spotlight away from the original characters too much.
For one original character that was rather low key the whole time, we have Soga. Soga is someone who is around for the entirety of the series but it’s easy to overlook him because he doesn’t fight all that much and doesn’t have any real powers. He basically becomes something of an assistant for Koichi. He makes sure that things go without a hitch whether it’s dodging the cops or fighting villains. He handles the strategy element so Koichi can focus on just landing attacks and taking out villains. I can’t say he ever really stood out to me but he’s effective at what he does.
Makoto is a character who gets a really big role. She takes over as Koichi’s agent of sorts and helps him quite a lot. Her stance on vigilantes isn’t nearly as drastic as the police officer’s but ultimately she is still on the fence about the whole thing. When the chips are down she does help Pop and Koichi though. The series tries to spin in a little romance here but you could interpret it as her just testing Koichi to see what he would say. It’s a little hard to say, I remember it feeling ambiguous. Vigilantes isn’t afraid to throw in some romance in general as there is some with Pop as well but ultimately it never becomes a focus and that’s for the best. I don’t think there is really a lot of time for romance here.
Captain Celebrity makes his first appearance during this arc although he would return later on. Think of him like a discount version of All Might. He’s got the strength, speed, and flight but all to much smaller extents. His powers may not work the same way as All Might’s but he can make them appear like that which is the important thing. I like his confidence and thought he was a quality character right from the start. If anything I’m surprised he didn’t do more in the climax or show up in the main series yet as this is the kind of international hero that would make a lot of sense to appear. Captain Celebrity can be a bit vain and you can probably tell that from his title but he is the kind of character that is fun to root for.
Finally we get to the main villain Kuin. She’s the mastermind behind the first big chunk of the series and definitely does really well. She can use her bees to great effect whether it’s fighting at close range or going for a more long range assassin type of attack. Kuin gets a full backstory and everything and lasts longer than you may have expected. The series did a good job of really developing her so you definitely aren’t likely to forget her by the end. Her power set was also unique and let her go toe to toe with several fighters. Even by the end of the series I would say that she could still be considered rather powerful in her prime and the power creep effect never really happened to her there.
In this arc is when we start to see the professional heroes showing up but unfortunately I would say they tend to come across as really annoying. Yes the vigilantes aren’t going through proper channels so the cops do need to do something about them but half the time they’re actively helping fight the villains so shouldn’t you prioritize getting those guys out of the way first? That feels like it would easily be the most efficient way to do it right? Of course it ultimately goes higher up to the very laws themselves. I always felt that the laws in the MHA verse are super restrictive with how civilians can’t even help each other without breaking the law even in an emergency setting. It’s no wonder that the Vigilantes become so popular.
Koichi lives in a rather small town that is apparently often overlooked by the police. So if he doesn’t help them then odds are that nobody else will. So he just has to put on a disguise and help out because otherwise they would be after him too. It’s a rather stressful way to operate and you just feel like that shouldn’t be necessary. So the pro heroes aren’t fully to blame here but they could handle things better either way. At least Aizawa will pretend to look the other way at times which is a decent start.
He skirts the line the most there and he should understand that the casualties would be worse without the vigilantes. Fans of Aizawa will appreciate that he also gets his own flashback arc so there is a lot of room for development there. Someone like Endeavor is solidly back in his antagonist days so he shows up here just to throw some fire around and doesn’t care as much about collateral damage. He’s lucky that Koichi isn’t one of the more aggressive characters because by the end of the series I’d say that he surpassed Endeavor by a longshot. This is one guy who wouldn’t go down easily.
All Might’s role is much smaller than most of the heroes because he would end each arc too quickly but he looks good. It’s nice to see how he just shows up and dominates the field at any given moment. That’s what you would expect from the #1 hero, particularly since he hasn’t been too weakened yet and should be at full strength. The cop who always follows him around (Tsukauchi) also gets a fairly big role. This guy is more of a stickler for the rules though so I can’t say that I was a big fan of him. He’s the kind of guy who absolutely would try to arrest a vigilante even if the city was burning down all around him. He needs to work on his priorities a little better.
After that arc we start to set up more seeds for the future. Villains using the trigger drug are still around so someone appears to still be mass producing the drug. A mysterious speedster known as Six also starts to make some moves and this villain is difficult to stop because of how crazy fast he is. In an instant he can land any number of blows and fighting anyone with speed like that is difficult. The main plot is about Captain Celebrity though and he is targeted by the new mastermind. Koichi will have to try and help out while Knuckle Duster takes care of Six but are they ready for this?
This arc was especially good for Captain Celebrity because he got a whole lot of character development as a result of this. We got to see his true heroic side. He may posture a lot for the cameras but at the end of the day he’s still a hero and certainly didn’t lose sight of that. Koichi also started to slowly improve his powers. Perhaps a little too slowly as he tries to be really careful about not causing any harm with them which is good but when he even fires a tiny blast Pop and some other characters always get on his case. I feel like it’s a bit overdone. As long as Koichi is pulling his punches and just knocking people out then I don’t really see the issue with it. This saga was a little more low key than the first one but it was definitely solid.
Then there is the Aizawa arc with Oboro, his old childhood friend. We get to see how the two of them and Present Mic were the best of friends. The 3 of them aimed to really take the hero world by storm and they had the quirks to do it. Aizawa was still more on the quiet side like in the present but Oboro had a way of getting everyone excited and so even Aizawa bought into it. Unfortunately as Oboro isn’t in the main series you can probably guess that things don’t go very well for him. It does make things very interesting for a character in the main series though and it’s an emotional arc. I had a good time with it and while Oboro may not have been around for very long, he definitely left quite the impact. I’d enjoy seeing more adventures with these 3 in the past, it actually gave me a lot of Naruto vibes.
After that we go into more of a romance focused arc. Pop is still confused about her feelings for Koichi and this allows her to be in a vulnerable state which Six takes advantage of. He turns her into an evil mind controlled fighter so Koichi has to try and stop her without hurting her. The tough part about that is the pro heroes aren’t so lenient, particularly Endeavor. So Koichi in a way has to take this guy down as well and it won’t be easy but at this point his powers have continued to evolve. The tough situation really helped to speed up his development on that front quite a bit.
Props to the series for trying to focus on the romance here but ultimately they were good friends so you’re cool with it staying that way. I was glad that we got to see Pop fight with her powers now that she was on the dark side though. As a hero you didn’t get to see her battle all that much at all so this way she can really go in. It was also nice seeing the pro heroes so that’s why this made for a very well balanced arc and further helped set up Six as the big villain to come up.
As the series prepared to enter the final stage we finally got Knuckle Duster back in his younger days. We saw how he used to be a very powerful hero and he got to go undercover to check out an underground fighting circuit. We get some fun guest stars here like Rappa, Mirko, and the High-End. There are quite a few solid battles in here and all of these fighters are quite powerful. It really makes for an impressive collage of characters here. So this flashback didn’t feel like some minor flashback.
Instead it was a great showing of the heroes working together back in the day and how Knuckle Duster could even convince villains to help. You get the feeling that Rappa was really close to becoming a full hero if things had turned out differently. The High-End was also really powerful even back before he got powered up further by All For One. Mirko being here for the fights also makes a lot of sense since she loves to get in on the chaos. The arc may not have had Koichi and friends but it was a really fun change of pace.
Then we enter the final arc which is rather massive as you would expect. It’s finally time for Six to make his big move and he holds nothing back. He has half of the city exploding and with his speed even the pro heroes don’t know what to do. It’s fun to see Endeavor and all of the pros but you know that they stand no chance against this guy. Only Koichi can possibly do something but even he is at the end of his rope. With Pop currently out of action that makes the stakes a lot more personal as well. We get to see a lot of teamwork between all of the heroes that Koichi has helped out in the past and the civilians as well so it’s really a great team effort.
You may figure that Koichi is completely out of his depth here since Six ends up being one of the strongest characters in the franchise but fortunately like Deku, Koichi is effectively able to use multiple quirks at once. In a way it’s even more impressive because it’s technically one quirk that he mastered so well until it could act as multiple. He found so many uses for the glide ability that it would make you surprised to see how far he had come. It definitely made for a great climax and this arc has a whole lot of memorable moments.
The author also did a good job of handling Six’s speed. When someone can move this fast you will always find some issues with it but Six’s speed has some defined limits and the characters make good use of it. So the climax ended up working out rather well. Six is also my favorite villain in the series and it was nice to see him getting so much action. This is definitely a villain that you won’t be forgetting anytime soon. He’s really memorable and the series even gave him some ties with All For One. It really helped make the finale more and more grand. At one point I thought it was going to tie in with the first chapter of the main series in a specific way but didn’t go down that route.
As a main character Koichi is really solid. He’s fairly unassuming and may not have that Shonen aggressiveness that you’ve come to expect from a lot of heroes but he gets the job done. Even by the end of the series he thinks of himself more as an everyman who will help to take down the villains but isn’t expected to be the main act. He is a supportive fighter for most of the series so that makes sense and it’s only near the end that his powers really begin to go crazy. So he’s very consistent and ranks fairly high up there in the verse. In terms of power level he’s absolutely on the highest tier but even in terms of character he’s one of the better ones. That was important since you need quality characters to keep your series high up.
Then there is Pop as the main heroine. It’s a little unfortunate that she got sidelined for so long since it kept her from appearing more. She did well as a villain but as a hero she never really got to use her powers to the max. I suspect that she would have been quite good in combat but we didn’t really get to see to what extent that would have been true. Pop helps to encourage Koichi throughout the journey though and he would not have made it nearly as far without her. She’s a good friend to have.
Finally we have Knuckle Duster to round out the main trio. He’s a really tough fighter and should remind you of Batman. I’m pretty sure that’s the whole idea and it works well. While All Might takes out villains during the day and makes a big spectacle of it, Knuckle Duster works as a vigilante by night who takes out any villains that happen to get in his way. That’s just how he rolls and he gets a lot of the best stories here. He is often fighting opponents who are out of his weight class and so he has to fight smart.
Upon first glance you may figure that he’s your average bruiser but he does use his head a lot and fights strategically. That’s what separates him from the average character and it works out quite nicely. He may not get the most screen time in the series but he gets enough to leave you very satisfied the whole time. It’s always easy to root for an underdog like this who has no powers but is mixing it up with all of these crazy fighters anyway. Knuckle Duster is someone who absolutely will not back down!
I have to give another shoutout to the final climax. I just can’t end this review without talking about it because that was so much fun. This is one of those times where reading the series live was so neat because the fight just kept on going and going. I can’t recall a fight that was so much fun to see live like that since probably one of the final Bleach fights. A long battle where the villain is surpassing his limits as well as the hero makes for a very satisfying conclusion because you know that they both gave it their all. You want a villain to be determined in his goal and to keep on giving the match 100% or it just wouldn’t be nearly as high tier. It helps that Six was the best character in the series, that guy was intense!
Overall, My Hero Academia Vigilantes is a great series. It may start off a little slow but each arc keeps the series moving higher and higher and that’s the kind of trajectory that you want your series to take. Better to start off light and get great by the end than to start off great and slowly go downhill to the end. You always remember the ending after all and a satisfying one goes a long way. The series is a bit long for a spinoff so if you decide to read through this series you will definitely have a lot of content. I definitely recommend jumping in whenever you can. This is one title that you don’t want to miss!