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Manga / My Hero Academia: Vigilantes

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Not everyone needs a license to fight for justice!

19-year-old Koichi Haimawari always dreamed of being a hero but didn't think he had a good enough Quirk. Instead, he spends his free time sliding around town doing basic good deeds like picking up litter or helping lost children find their parents. Content with his lot in life Koichi never expected to be thrown into the world of heroes, but an unexpected run-in with the Vigilante, or illegal hero, Knuckleduster changes his life forever.

My Hero Academia: Vigilantes is a spin-off series of My Hero Academia, which was serialized biweekly from August 20th, 2016 to May 28th, 2022 on the ShonenJump+ website and app (as well as Viz Comics’ Shonen Jump app in English-speaking countries and Shueisha’s Manga Plus app everywhere else), with occasional bonus chapters in the quarterly Jump Giga magazine. Written by Hideyuki Furuhashi and illustrated by Betten Court, this manga, set some time shortly before the events of the main series, details the story of a group of unlicensed heroes.

The manga's first three chapters and latest three chapters can be read in English for free on the Viz web site HERE.

Tropes presented:

  • Animal Superhero: Of a sort; a cat introduced in Chapter 17 has a Quirk called "Monster Cat", which allows it to take over a bus that Koichi, his mother and Makoto happen to be riding on, with some help from Trigger.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different:
    • Chapter 59 shifts to a flashback arc set many years prior, back when Eraser Head, Present Mic and Midnight were students at UA. It also prominently features Shirakumo, a character whose name and a glimpse of his face were first introduced in the main series.
    • Chapter 86 is the start of another flashback, this time focused on Knuckleduster back when he still got a quirk and was the pro hero O' Clock. It also features a few other characters from the main series.
  • And the Adventure Continues: By the end of the story, many of the characters are seen continuing on their chosen paths in life, with the only notable exception of Pop due to the injuries and reputation she sustained from her forced villain rampage. Koichi continues being a Hero that helps others, albeit in a more official capacity in the United States, and Knuckleduster still continues to stalk the back alleys even after being heavily injured from his final fight with Number 6.
  • Badass Normal: In their brief confrontation, Eraser Head finds that his quirk-erasing abilities have no effect on Knuckleduster, because he has no quirk to erase. In Aizawa's words, "he's just a tough old man". His lack of special abilities doesn't keep him from going toe-to-toe with villains several times his size. It's deconstructed when it's revealed that his body has been ravaged by his activities and he's constantly doped up on painkillers to cope. He also can't use traditional hero tactics, resorting to sneak attacks and the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique to get the info he wants.
  • Beware the Superman: Discussed by Number 6. Number 6 claims the reason he doesn't admire All Might like he does O'clock is because All Might is a slave to this trope. All Might has the power to do whatever he wants, but is instead largely reactive to when a Villain strikes, for if someone with his kind of power were to become proactive rather than reactive, people would be afraid of what he could do. With O'clock however, Number 6 admires that he's fast enough to throw the first punch before the Villains can even blink, and was proactive enough to be considered a legend before he disappeared.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Koichi manages to defeat Number 6 (though gets a scar from him on the cheek in their final encounter), stopping his bomber rampage and subsequently the Villain Factory in the process. But no one knows of All For One's involvement who just sees the whole Number 6 incident as a dry run for his Nomu project which is near completion. Pop recovers from being brainwashed, but, like Tamao, loses her left eye and will be awhile before she's back to doing shows but remains hopeful. Meanwhile Koichi, to avoid prosecution for doing heroics without a hero license, "interns" with Captain Celebrity overseas in America as his sidekick. Though due to bad translation and his involvement in the Number 6 incident, he's seen as a Hero with Bad Publicity, but is living out his dream of being a hero with Pop cheering him on and hoping to meet him again. Everyone they've met continues on with their lives. With the series ending by revealing Knuckleduster to be alive and continuing to prowl the back alleys against criminals despite the injuries Number 6 gave him.
  • Blood Knight: Knuckleduster loves to fight and mostly hunts down criminals in the hopes that they can give him a challenge.
  • Book Ends: Koichi's road to becoming a small-time vigilante began when he missed his exam to get into hero school to save a child drowning in a river. As a pro hero in the epilogue, one of his most publicized acts of heroism has him slow the descent of a plane to help it make an emergency landing in the Hudson River, only to be so out of breath that he starts drowning until Captain Celebrity fishes him out of the water.
  • Breather Episode:
    • After Knuckleduster's battle with Kuin, the vigilantes spend a chapter just dealing with a succession of annoying perverts instead of Trigger villains. Even this takes a turn for the emotionally stirring, though, with the realization that this was the last time Koichi and Pop ever saw Knuckleduster before he left vigilante work behind, after demonstrating that they still needed his strength.
    • Similarly, after the crisis at the Sky Egg is averted, most of Chapter 58 is dedicated to the aftermath, with a lot of wholesome moments. It however ends on a sour note, as Knuckleduster's fate following his battle with Number 6 is unknown, while Koichi, Mizuho and everyone else have never learned he had returned firsthand.
  • Brought Down to Badass: Eventually revealed to be a part of Knuckleduster's backstory. He used to be O'clock, a pro hero with an acceleration quirk, but became a Badass Normal vigilante after his quirk was taken from him.
  • Call-Forward: In chapter 48, Eraser Head wears a suit for undercover investigating and complains about wearing it. Monika Kaniyashiki tells him it is good practice in the event of needing to apologize for a scandal. Aizawa dismisses it saying that it would never happen.
  • The Cameo:
    • Many of the known heroes are seen throughout the series.
    • Nice Guy gives directions to Izuku's mother in Chapter 1.
  • Cast of Expies: Exaggerated — even the main character is wearing All-Might merch! More seriously, there are many expies from other series and a surprising amount of American ones at that — detailed on the character sheets, you'll find riffs on Shadow Lady, Bat Man, Booster Gold, the Monkey King, Totoro, The Avengers, The Naked Swan, Dragon Ball Z, Prince, Alice in Wonderland, Kamen Rider, the X-Men, Thomas the Tank Engine, and more.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Knuckleduster's agility and strength all come from training, as he is completely Quirkless.
  • Clark Kenting:
    • All Might tries to do this, using his weaker form to work as his own private life manager at All Might Productions. His constant leaving in the middle of talking to Naomasa clued him in on his identity, but he decided to keep the secret anyway.
    • Knuckleduster fares slightly better at this; wearing a suit and combing his hair makes him look surprisingly normal, despite the big scar on his face. He even has his own fake business cards to complete the disguise.
  • Darker and Edgier: While generally light-hearted, Vigilantes is overall darker and more violent than the main series, as even the first volume depicts an attempted rape and drug addiction. It's also Bloodier and Gorier during battles, specially when antagonists like Stendhal, Kuin or Number 6 are involved.
  • Dope Slap: Koichi tends to find himself on the receiving end of these from his mother, whose Quirk allows her to do it from a distance.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The main trio's primary goal is to hunt down the source of a dangerous Quirk-boosting drug called "Trigger".
  • Eagleland: Played with. The first American pro hero seen in either this or the main series is Captain Celebrity, a loud, boisterous Glory Hound (and serial philanderer) who waits for the cameras to show up before going into action against someone with a kaiju quirk with little regard for collateral damage that occurs during the battle. That said, the reason he's in Japan in the first place is because he was basically blacklisted from doing hero work in America because of these exact traits.
  • Exact Words:
    • Koichi is asked point-blank by a Living Lie Detector if he is the vigilante known as "The Cruller." He says no and passes, to her surprise. After all, he's "The Crawler."
    • Knuckleduster draws a line in the sand and claims that Stendhal won't be able to cross it. Knuckleduster never said anything about not crossing the line himself, and sucker-punches Stendhal, ending the fight immediately.
  • Expy:
    • There are a lot of minor characters who bear similarities to heroes from Marvel comics. The most prominently recurring ones are Ichimoku and Juubei, based on Cyclops and Wolverine.
    • In chapter 9.5, Stendahl attacks a yakuza group whose members have similarities to Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Winter Soldier.
    • A villain in Chapter 44 appears to have a certain famous tank engine for a head.
  • Foreshadowing: A rather roundabout example. The first shot of the chapter where the masked vigilante is revealed as a younger Stain who still has his nose is a manhole cover. This is foreshadowing because future Stain is visually very similar to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, specifically the original Mirage Comics version.
  • Forgot About His Powers: Enforced in Koichi's case. When he was a baby, he was able to use his Quirk to propel himself through the air. Out of worry that something would happen to him, his mother conditioned him by punishing him whenever he used his Quirk this way, causing him to forget that he could when he grew up.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: Turns out that Koichi actually had met Pop☆Step a long time ago when he rescued her after she fell into a storm drain, and even gave her one of his prized All Might hoodies before leaving her. However he doesn't remember her and when recounting the story, thinks she was actually a boy. She likewise has yet to reveal this to him.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Appears quite a lot, particularly when Stendhal or Number 6 is involved.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Via Foregone Conclusion.note  It is heavily implied that the whole significance of the events of the Prequel will be known only to the main characters, if they survive.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Koichi's Sliding Quirk seems relatively mundane; a simple mobility Quirk that requires three of his limbs to touch the ground if he wants to get anywhere... except that it enables him to climb walls at the speed of a bicycle, and allows him to take sharp turns that not even the pro hero Ingenium can manage. On top of that, Chapter 18 shows that he doesn't have to be on a solid surface to glide. Koichi can outright fly with his quirk. This part of his power was suppressed due to his mother being concerned he'd fly out the window and hurt himself as a baby.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity:
    • Makoto's survey of the area shows that as far as the public is concerned, Knuckleduster is a scary troublemaker, "The Cruller" might be well-intentioned but is also considered a bit creepy, and while Pop☆Step has the most positive feedback it's mostly about her butt.
    • Captain Celebrity has been essentially exiled from America's hero community due to the multiple lawsuits against him. He's also a massive Jerkass, which everyone acknowledges.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • When talking about Stendhal, Knuckleduster says that people who use violence to mete out their own personal idea of justice are nothing but trouble.
    • After Makoto Tsukauchi shows up to help Koichi study, Pop (who had been hiding the whole time) starts bad-mouthing her for barging in and having no sense of personal space despite her own Pretty Freeloader status.
    • While he’s chasing down Koichi in Chapter 106, Number 6 adopts a quadrupedal style of locomotion to get low to the ground and eliminate his air-resistance to allow him to close in and attack faster. When he sees Number 6 doing this, Koichi immediately calls it “creepy” and “gross”, not remembering that he’s gotten the same observations from countless civilians for essentially moving the same way.
  • Idiot Ball: Tsukauchi in Chapter 54. He's hesitant about calling All Might only until the situation at hand (the Sky Egg close to falling with thousands of people inside, including his sister Makoto) becomes desperate, while it was already bad enough he should have called him regardless.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Koichi mentions he wanted to be a registered hero but figures his Quirk was unsuitable for it. At least, that's what we were initially told. In actuality, he just never reached the hero exam in time due to rescuing a young Pop☆Step on the way there.
  • Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: Averted Trope, when Monika uses her quirk to free hostages, Fatgum worries if she will get in trouble since she is a cop and not a hero. She laughs it off saying she will just have to write a letter of apology.
  • Jumping on a Grenade: Fatgum heroically pulls this off in chapter 35. He survives (obviously, since he's still alive by the time of the main series) thanks to his Shock Absorption quirk.
  • King Kong Copy: In Captain Celebrity's commercial for Narufest, he is seen beating a villain who's "a giant gorilla with, let's say, an air of royalty about him" climbing the Tokyo Tower.
  • Language Barrier: Koichi struggles to speak English when he moves to the U.S. to work as a pro hero under Captain Celebrity's employ. Anticipating this, Makoto tries to help Koichi's flagging image as "the Destructor of Naruhata" by planting a reporter he can respond to with a punchy line. Unfortunately, he's mobbed by the press after helping a failing plane make an emergency landing in the Hudson River and mistakes people shouting at him to smash up Wall Street for the planted reporters because he can't understand them.
  • Living Lie Detector: Makoto's Quirk, "Polygraph", lets her see whether or not people are lying by touching them.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: The entire thematic premise of the spinoff. The manga storyline is about the seedy happenings below the radar of the world of professional heroes. Not only does it focus on new characters, but heroes whose careers are only briefly touched upon in the main series are given more spotlight.
  • Mistaken for Romance: When Koichi sees Eraser Head with Kaniko while the two are undercover he thinks they are on a date and accidentally starts a rumor that Eraser Head is dating an Idol.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Koichi aka The Skyscrawler is mobbed by the New York City press after helping a crashing plane make an emergency landing in the Hudson River. Being Japanese, he has no idea what anyone is saying as he's barraged with questions. In his panic, he mistakes a bunch of onlookers asking him to smash up Wall Street for the planted reporters he's supposed to make a scripted statement to, resulting in him saying that he'll do his best to smash up Wall Street. His bosses both Facepalm at the ensuing surge of bad press he just generated.
  • Not So Similar: Vigilantes shows that the Big Three of U.A. initially had strong parallels with a trio that attended U.A. fifteen years ago, made up of Oboro Shirakumo, Hizashi Yamada, and Shota Aizawa (also known as the "Rooftop" trio and the three Dumbigos). However, while the Big Three were able to grow into top-of-the-class third years, their predecessors experienced substantial personality changes during their second-year internships.
    • Shirakumo, like Mirio, is the confident and optimistic leader of the group, known for being an Ideal Hero with infectious positivity. Both have a speed-based close-range fighting style and embody the spirit of self-sacrifice required for a hero. However, while Mirio recovered when he sacrificed his Quirk to protect Eri, Shirakumo was killed when he gave his life to protect civilians. Worse, his corpse is eventually turned into the straightlaced Hypercompetent Sidekick to the Big Bad, leaving very little of the man he once was behind.
    • Aizawa, like Tamaki, was a quiet, awkward, and insecure Shrinking Violet, who lacked confidence in his skills. Both fight primarily by restraining their enemies and have repeatedly been told You Are Better Than You Think You Are by their friends. However, while Tamaki still deals with Heroic Self-Deprecation, Aizawa grew into an assertive hardass from the experience of losing his best friend (albeit one with his own struggles).
    • Yamada, like Nejire, is a flighty, hyperactive Motor Mouth with a tendency to annoy people. Both engage in large-scale destruction without being especially capable up-close and are much Smarter Than They Look. While Nejire maintains a genuine bubbliness, Yamada falls into Stepford Smiler territory after losing Shirakumo with a fair amount of anger and hurt Beneath the Mask.
  • One Degree of Separation:
    • Koichi's upperclassman Makoto offers to help him with his classwork in exchange for him helping her study the vigilantes for her thesis (without knowing he is one, of course). Her full name is Makoto Tsukauchi, because she's the younger sister of All Might's Friend on the Force who is himself investigating the vigilantes as part of the Trigger case.
    • It's revealed that Rappa of the Eight Precedents and Pro-Hero Mirko met five years ago in an illegal fighting ring, and helped Pro-Hero O'Clock (AKA Knuckleduster) stop several participants from having their quirks stolen by All For One.
  • Outside Ride: When Koichi discovers that he can ride up walls with his Quirk, he accidentally manages to cling to the side of a moving bullet train with it when he arrived just as the doors closed. As a pro hero, he repeats this feat but with a falling plane. The wind in his face blows him right off when he stops to try and reassure a child inside with a smile.
  • Panty Thief: The "Storm and Stress" (Sturm and Drang?) brothers shoot around flipping skirts, stealing panties, and putting them on (they've got it down to a tidy little system). Koichi, with his high-speed sliding, skirt-ruffling quirk, is mistaken to be another of their kind.
  • Passing the Torch:
    • Knuckleduster retires from vigilantism after saving his daughter, Tamao, from the queen bee attached to her brain, but Koichi keeps to the path that Knuckleduster set him on by continuing his unlicensed do-goodery for years afterward.
    • When Koichi gets in serious trouble because Pop has become the next Queen Bee, Soga gives him a letter Knuckleduster wrote for him. In it, he tells Koichi that he's one of the few real heroes, and whatever happens he knows Koichi will do the right thing.
  • Playing with Syringes: As the next phase of their plan, the mastermind behind the Trigger drug abducts "instant villains" that showed particular promise, and turns them into "Next-Level Villains", altering and enhancing their bodies to make them able to withstand massive amounts of Trigger. This leaves them drastically and indefinitely altered from the dosages.
  • Popularity Power: In-universe. According to Makoto, back in the early days of Quirks the first vigilantes to be accepted as officially licensed heroes were chosen primarily because they had public support.
  • Prequel: Set some time before the start of the main story, around 5 to 6 years prior. To wit, Ingenium is still Tensei, Iida's older brother, and hasn't been injured yet. All Might still has his powers, and Stendahl is a younger Stain before he started targeting heroes. Midnight and Aizawa are also shown to not yet be teachers at U.A., with Midnight saying she would begin in the following year.
  • Psychic Strangle: Not quite strangle, but Koichi's mother has a Quirk called "Flyswatter", which lets her slap things from a long distance. She uses it repeatedly to discipline what she sees as bad behavior. So much so that she conditioned Koichi to forget how to fly with his Quirk, stunting his development.
  • Psycho Serum: Most of the series is spent with our heroes trying to find the maker of a Quirk enhancing drug that causes its victims to turn into berserk monstrosities when they use it. A known sign of it's use is dis-colorization of the tongue.
  • Put on a Bus: After the Sky Egg crisis, Captain Celebrity returns to America with his family. To everyone's surprise, Makoto follows them to study there.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Pretty much every single pro hero shown has, in action, tolerated the assistance of Vigilantes and not bothered trying to arrest them, even if technically their actions legally constitute villainy.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: One of the final scenes in the manga features a plane above New York City that has lost both its engines and is being forced to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River. This is a clear reference to US Airways Flight 1549, which made such a landing after a case of double engine failure. The scene from inside the cabin also mirrors the event as told in the movie adaptation of the events, Sully. The major difference is that the plane's descent is slowed with Koichi's help as the pro hero, Skycrawler.
  • Shout-Out:
    • During a brief panel in Chapter 3, a background Quirk user is a stretchy-limbed fellow in a straw hat.
    • Also in Chapter 3, a couple of middle-school punks get into a brawl;one has a very hairy face and the other shoots EyeBeams from a special visor. Specifically, they look like Wolverine dressed as Jotaro and Cyclops dressed as Josuke.
    • In Chapter 5, a man in the crowd looks a lot like Ash Ketchum, complete with a friend that looks like a humanoid version of Pikachu.
    • In Chapter 12, it's established that the first official hero system was created in America, in the state of Rhode Island, and only seven of the state's 189 vigilantes were licensed heroes. The original headquarters of the Justice League of America, which was founded by seven heroes, was located in the fictional town of Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. 189 might be a reference to "The 198", the 198 mutants in the Marvel universe who still had their powers after House of M.
    • Chapter 17 features two to the works of Studio Ghibli; firstly, the cat injected with Trigger in this chapter uses its Quirk to take over a bus, and one of Ingenium's sidekicks, Enigma, greatly resembles No-Face.
    • Chapter 27 has a villain named Desire, whose Quirk, "Swan", makes him a dead ringer for the main character of The Naked Swan, another series running on ShonenJump+.
    • In chapter 32, the Hotta Brothers that Aizawa takes down are villainous versions of Kamen Rider 1 and 2. Also from chapter 32, the Kanidoge seafood chain inexplicably uses crab-themed power-loaders to move cargo.
    • In Chapter 38, four students who resemble Mazinger Z, Great Mazinger, UFO Robo Grendizer and Violence Jack's Jim Mazinger and Kouji Kabuto appear, proclaiming to be from the Mazinger High School Karate Club. Their Quirk is "Rocket Thrust", which allows them to mimic the iconic Rocket Punch.
    • The New York college Makoto states she's going to study abroad at is designed after the MCU's Avengers tower.
    • The "outfit" Midnight wears in the flashback chapters is the Nudist Beach uniform with the addition of Kamina's glasses and Simon's coat.
    • The Pro Hero under whom Eraser, Midnight and Shirakumo interned is called His Purple Highness. He's basically the late Prince (who was also known as "His Purple Badness") with some elements of Michael Jackson. He also takes some poses of Giorno Giovanna, a character whose Stand is named after one of Prince's albums.
    • The same chapter that introduces His Purple Highness features a small-time villain who produces smoke from several holes in his body and looks like a discount Majin Buu.
    • In Chapter 63, one member of the hero team Buster Union looks a lot like a Guncannon.
    • In chapter 103, Number 6 manages to escape from being restrained by the police by liquifying his body to slip through his handcuffs and reform himself, explaining that over half his body is formed from bomber cells that take shape based on his mental commands, meaning that trying to incapacitate him by wounding or restraining him won't work. He taunts Tsukauchi in his enhanced perception that if he wants to stop him, he should have aimed for the head.
  • Spin-Off: Focus on the side of heroism that isn't considered legal in the MHA world.
  • Start of Darkness: For Stain, who goes from a vigilante who targets criminals and gangsters to a Hero Killer.
  • Theme Naming: As with the main series, characters’ names almost always contain a hint about the nature of their Quirk. And keeping up the theme of locations being based on planets from Star Wars, the primary setting of Naruhata is a reference to Nal Hutta, the Hutt stronghold.
  • Trash Landing: This is Knuckleduster's idea of a heroic entrance. He apparently makes a habit of it, to the point of it being the first thing he teaches his new protege.
  • Vigilante Man: Stendhal, a killer vigilante who attacks villains with lethal force in contrast to the main trio. Soon after his introduction, it's confirmed that this is an earlier identity of Stain before he lost his nose and started targeting heroes.
  • Wall Crawl: Koichi's Sliding Quirk works on vertical surfaces.
  • Wham Episode: Chapter 95. Koichi is now officially a wanted criminal, and the police are moving to arrest him.
  • Wham Line:
    • In Chapter 74, Koichi finds a letter from Knuckleduster.
    "Koichi, do you remember what I said the day we met? I said I'd make you a true blue hero, but... that was a lie."
    • In Chapter 95, Tsukauchi gets some long-awaited news from Sansa.
    Sansa: It's just arrived. The arrest warrant for Koichi Haimawari, a.k.a. The Crawler.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Chapter 9.5 shows Stendhal licking the blood of the four Yakuza members he's fighting against to paralyze them— revealing that he would become the Hero Killer Stain.
    • Chapter 18 has Koichi, after diving off a runaway bus to save Makoto, can't quite reach Ingenium... and then starts flying using only his feet, with his hands gripping Makoto. Keep in mind that Koichi normally needs three points of contact to crawl, and he manages this with two.
    • Chapter 23 has Knuckleduster's daughter being revealed as the one who is distributing Trigger. Or rather, her body is. The actual bee-user has been using her as the host.
    • The final page of Chapter 44. The man in the Hong Kong drug supplier's shop removes his hood, revealing himself as none other than Knuckleduster.
    • The final page of Chapter 72. Number 6 is standing alongside the new Queen Bee host: Pop☆Step.
  • Worldbuilding: The comic focuses a lot more on the law towards quirks and what happens to a person arrested for illegal use of a quirk. Also, several characters from the main series such as Tensei Iida get cameos that offer a lot more background info on them.

Alternative Title(s): Vigilante My Hero Academia Illegals