Review: My Hero Academia – School Briefs I (vol. 1)

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With Parents Day looming, our group of teen heroes-in-training are preparing for their visiting families by writing thank you letters. Before that though, Todoroki has to figure out who he wants to attend the event, and how to avoid his father, Flame-Hero Endeavor, from finding out; Ida has theme park tickets to share with some of his classmates; and Uraraka wants to take advantage of the recent mochi deal at her local supermarket. The normal day-to-day lives of Class 1-A are threatened though, when they find their parents taken hostage by a villain—and only our young heroes can save them!

My Hero Academia: School Briefs is the latest in a long line of shonen manga spin-off light novels licensed to English. Written by Anri Yoshi, the books are inspired by the smash-hit Weekly Shonen Jump series My Hero Academia, written and drawn by Kohei Horikoshi—who also provides artwork for the novel. The series also has a popular anime adaptation by Studio BONES, with its fourth season set to start in October 2019. This first volume of School Briefs was published in Japan in 2016, and has been recently translated by Caleb Cook for Viz’s print and digital release this month (April 2019). There is also a short preview available for this novel on Viz’s website.

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The manga story is set in an alternate Japan, where strange superpowers—or Quirks, as they’re known as—have become the norm. Eighty percent of the population now has a unique and weird power; and with these superpowers, both heroism and villainy have risen. At the beginning of the story, the protagonist, Izuku Midoriya, is a dedicated hero enthusiast with dreams of becoming a hero himself someday, despite having no powers of his own. After a run-in with Number 1 Hero and Midoriya’s greatest inspiration, All Might, he has the opportunity to do just that… by inheriting his idol’s powers and attending the revered hero training school U.A.! Now, Midoriya has to gain control of his newly-acquired Quirk as he and his classmates learn what it takes to be a hero.

Like most light novels of this ilk, My Hero Academia: School Briefs provides fun side-stories to the manga series without directly impacting the main plot. For those already following the comic, the events within this novel slip in just after chapter 59 (vol. 7) and provide a relaxed interlude with many of the series’s most iconic characters. If you don’t read the manga, but are perhaps interested in the light novel (although I’d be surprised if there were many of you out there!) the book is fairly successful in making sure you won’t be lost—ensuring to explain the setting and many of the characters through interwoven exposition. The light novels are largely considered to be canon to the My Hero Academia story thanks to Horikoshi’s involvement, so this is definitely a complimentary addition to the franchise.

We start the book with Class 1-A’s homeroom teacher Aizawa, the Erasure Hero: Eraser Head, telling the students that the school will be inviting their parents to sit in on a class. For this, each of them will have to write a thank you letter to their parents, to read aloud on the day. The request is met with grumbles and embarrassment all around, but the group of teens has long-since stopped questioning the strange things that the school puts them through.

Although Parents Day—a day during the school year where parents can come observe their (usually elementary-aged) children in class—is the main framing device for the book, more than half of the novel is dedicated to other things. There are multiple short plot threads within the book, with many of the chapters feeling like self-contained short stories.

Once classes are done for the day, Midoriya walks home with Tenya Ida: the staunchly straight-laced class president with engine-powered legs, and Shouto Todoroki: the aloof powerhouse of the class, with his twin Quirks of fire and ice. Their discussion turns to their weekend plans, and both Midoriya and Todoroki have to turn down the invitation to a theme park, busy with other things.

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After splitting up with his classmates, Todoroki heads to the hospital to see his mother, who has been institutionalized there since his childhood. His family situation and the relationship between his parents is far from normal, and the teen struggles with broaching the school’s invitation with his mother. He knows she won’t be able to attend, but he refuses to invite his father, who he hates with a passion; luckily his older sister Fuyumi decides to go in loco parentis, hopeful to film the event for their mother to watch.

Meanwhile, their teacher Aizawa is in the staff room calling the parents of his students whilst the rest of the staff discuss villainous deeds and the mischief they could get into with their powers. It’s an easy introduction to the the various teachers at U.A., and their usual interactions, including: Present Mic, Midnight, Thirteen, Cementoss and Ectoplasm.

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As the weekend starts, Midoriya attends a Hero exhibit that he’s been excited about, but runs into his childhood friend and class bully Katsuki Bakugo, who’s heading the same way. This inclusion to the story is brief and feels like the author just needed a place to include the protagonist in the first half of the novel.

The first real self-contained plot starts as Ida attends the theme park with three of his classmates, Mineta, Kaminari and Tokoyami, who all have their own motivations to go. Mineta and Kaminari split up from the other two early on, hoping to pick up some girls. They are, as usual, unsuccessful. Tokoyami has never been to a theme park before, but loves apples, so wanted to try the park’s signature food. He is also perplexed by how all the rides seem to spin. As the two groups head to meet up for lunch, Kaminari and Mineta are approached by a lost little girl, and the four boys have to try and reunite her with her mother. This story is fairly well-done, and it’s funny to see Tokoyami’s bewilderment of rides and the other oddities of theme park culture. I do wish we had less time spent with Mineta, as he’s by far the most unlikable character in the manga’s cast, and reading his desperate perverted antics in prose is just as painful as in the comics (perhaps even more so).

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The second short story follows Ochako Uraraka, who is grocery shopping in preperation to cook for her dad, who will be visiting for the Parents Day event. Her local supermarket is having a huge discount sale on her favorite mochi, but it’s limited to one package per customer. As if feeling her despair, two of her friends arrive, Momo Yaoyorozu and Tsuyu Asui. They offer to join her in grocery shopping, helping the frugal girl to buy three packages instead of only one. Yaoyorozu is enamored with the “commoner’s” supermarket, and is excited to visit one for the first time; whilst Asui mentions how hard it must be to prevent shoplifting in a Quirk-filled society. Coincidentally, the three girls witness someone shoplifting and give chase, being attacked by a Quirk-induced pollen storm once the thief realizes. This story, like the other, feels very much in-line with the manga’s tone and humor; an extension of the familiar characters in their typical lives outside of school.

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Finally we have the Parents Day event itself, where the class’s family members suddenly get kidnapped by a surprise villain! Under threat of the hostages’ safety, and unable to contact any of the teachers, Class 1-A has to save their parents themselves. Whilst fairly predictable as to the true motivations behind it, this chapter ties everything together nicely—reminding readers of My Hero Academia‘s origins as a superhero action manga.

My Hero Academia: School Briefs functions exactly the same way as other manga spin-off light novels do. It’s a fun extra for existing fans of the franchise, but is self-contained enough to be approachable to new readers as well. Nothing within this book has any lasting impact to the manga’s story, but there is plenty of reference to past events for those following the Weekly Shonen Jump comic. The book is a collection of loosely-connected vignettes that could each serve as fairly decent filler-episodes of the anime, and give a little more exploration of the students outside of their hero training. Anri Yoshi is successful in preserving the tone of the original manga (perhaps thanks to Horikoshi’s involvement), and Caleb Cook’s translation retains it well. This book isn’t a must-read for light novel fans, but it does provide a fun new collection of stories for people who already love these characters.

Gee’s Rating: Good for fans

You can purchase this book online via sites like Amazon (available in paperback or as an ebook) and Book Depository (which offers free worldwide shipping). These are affiliate links, so a small percentage of sales goes toward this site.

2 responses to “Review: My Hero Academia – School Briefs I (vol. 1)

  1. Thanks for the in-depth review. As a fan of the anime, I was kinda curious about this. Good to know what it is about.

  2. Pingback: My Hero Academia: School Briefs | English Light Novels·

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