While its anime adaptation is just entering some of My Hero Academia’s most extreme story beats, the manga has already begun its final arc. However, it might not be heading towards an ending everyone will be happy with.
Since it started serialization in 2014, My Hero Academia has grown into one of Shonen Jump’s most successful properties. Thanks especially to its explosive anime adaptation in 2018, it has now become a household name in the anime community. The story of Izuku Midoriya’s(aka Deku) journey to succeeding his mentor All Might as the world’s greatest hero has come a long way, and genuinely earned its place in the Shonen pantheon. As we know however, the manga’s creator Kohei Horikoshi plans to end the story by the end of 2023 at the most. As such, the manga has begun its final arc, but several issues are holding it back from being a smooth path to the finish line.
Pacing in fiction is a subjective subject. What can seem like really fast pacing might seem normal to someone else and vice versa. However, many fans feel like the pace at which the story has been progressing has sped up, especially during key moments. For example, in the recent ‘Tartarus Escapees Arc’, Deku took on more of a vigilante, anti-hero role, roaming the city by himself in order to stop the recently escaped villains and save the panicking citizenry. Some fans felt like too little time was spent on this arc, especially as it showed such a different aspect to Deku’s character.
The controversial ‘U.A Traitor’ storyline also showed up again recently, despite having not been mentioned for over a hundred chapters. Many felt like the traitor had gone unmentioned for so long that it seemed like Horikoshi had abandoned the idea, and then once it was brought back, the traitor was revealed quite quickly, messing up both the buildup and the final reveal itself. Some will of course disagree that any of these are egregious pacing issues, but they are each small bumps on the road that make the story flow a bit less smoothly.
While it's currently unknown what each of MHA’s characters will go through before the story ends, there is only so much time left, and so many characters that need some spotlight. Especially when the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been, with our protagonists facing off against the likes of All For One and a powered up Shigaraki, it is hard to see how Horikoshi could fit in much needed development for characters like Tokoyami or Kaminari. These two are a great example, as despite being some of the most popular and important members of class A, neither of them have received backstories like their classmates Jiro, Uraraka and Iida. We still do not even know key details about Tokoyami, his motivations and his relationship with his quirk, Dark Shadow. This is despite many characters recognizing him as one of the most promising young heroes in the series. While he has recently been brought into the final confrontation with All for One, it’s fair to say that his character could’ve been explored far deeper over the course of the series.
The biggest talking point for squandered characters though, is easily Star and Stripe. Introduced as the number one hero in the U.S, Star was on her way to aid the Japanese heroes, when she was confronted and killed by Tomura Shigaraki. Even though she was able to use her quirk to damage and weaken Shigaraki and All for One, many felt disappointed that such a powerful and interesting character was introduced and killed off in such quick succession. Especially considering that she was revealed to be the little girl that All Might saved in MHA’s first movie, and one of his close pupils. The potential of Star meeting back up with All Might and encountering Deku could’ve created compelling scenes, but instead her death makes her feel like a plot device only meant to weaken the villains before the final fight.
Can It Stick The Landing?
Despite all this, Horikoshi is giving the fans much of what they want. Big confrontations like Dabi vs Todoroki and Toga vs Uraraka are happening. The setup for the final fight itself is also very smart, both from a meta-perspective and an in-universe one. Thematically, MHA has also recently shifted from the idea that Deku himself will become the number one hero. Through All Might’s failures, it’s being shown that the heroes of tomorrow need to act as a unit to safeguard peace, instead of relying on a singular figure to solve all their problems. This still presents a strong narrative message that can help carry the series to its conclusion.
However, with the aforementioned issues still in fans' minds, and the seemingly decreasing rate at which chapters are being released, it’s definitely not guaranteed to end satisfyingly. Of course, Horikoshi should not be writing more chapters than his health can allow, but it seems increasingly likely that My Hero Academia isn’t going to end with the flawless bang everyone would have wished for.