WARNING: The following contains spoilers for My Hero Academia Vol. 25, by Kohei Horikoshi, Caleb Cook and John Hunt, available now in English from Viz Media.
The 25th volume of My Hero Academia is finally out in English, and it's among the most important installments in the series yet with its focus on Shigaraki's rise through the underworld. The volume covers chapters 236-246 of the manga as it builds towards the inevitable clash between Shigaraki's forces and the heroes. The League of Villains' battle against the Meta Liberation Army (MLA) sees its dramatic conclusion as Shigaraki overcomes his own limitations. Meanwhile, the No. 2 hero Hawks walks a delicate line as a double agent and Class 1-A experiences a blissful winter of training.
The volume opens amid the League of Villain's battle against the MLA, continuing Shigaraki's flashback to his childhood. His father had just punished him after Hana blamed him for unlocking the photograph of their grandmother, Nana Shimura. Full of hatred, Shigaraki -- then named Tenko Shimura -- doesn't realize what's happening as his dog withers in his arms. Hana arrives in the backyard to apologize, but upon seeing the dog, is horrified. He grabs her arm before she can run away, and she withers too. Tenko's Quirk had finally manifested itself. Roaming the house full of bloodlust, he decays his mother and grandparents, saving his abusive father for last.
The high of killing his father doesn't last long, and he soon takes to wandering the city. Not a soul is brave enough to help the bloody child. The society Tenko lived in was supposedly brimming with heroes, yet right then this seems a lie to him. Society wasn't protected by heroes at all; they were just a fiction to make people believe they were safe even while millions became invisible victims. The man who does finally extend a hand to Tenko isn't even a hero -- it's All For One.
Time passes as All For One and Dr. Ujiko oversee Tenko's maturation into an adult. They remark that Tenko seems to have repressed the memories of both the slaughter of his family and his Quirk's full power. All For One bestows upon Tenko a platter of his family's severed hands for him to wear, subconsciously keeping his Quirk in check. He gives him the name Tomura Shigaraki as well and tells him Shigaraki is his surname too.
Shigaraki frees himself from the flashback with the realization that, as a child, he'd truly wanted to murder his father. "My heart became unencumbered as I watched the rest of my family crumble too. No. That was not a tragedy." Facing his repressed memories allows him to dispose of the severed hands he'd worn as shackles for so long, letting him unleash waves of spreading decay with his Quirk. Thanks to this, the League of Villains is able to conquer their foes.
The aftermath of the battle has the MLA and League of Villains uniting under Shigaraki. Resdestro abdicates his position and announces to his 100,000 followers that they'll henceforth be known as the Paranormal Liberation Front (PLF). Now that Shigaraki has won the support of the PLF, he returns to Dr. Ujiko to receive the power he'd been promised if he proved himself. The procedure will be excruciatingly painful and last months, but at the end of it, Dr. Ujiko says, nothing will be beyond Shigaraki's grasp. Not even One For All.
Meanwhile, Class 1-A is enjoying their final days at U.A. High before winter break. It's been two weeks since the Joint Training arc, and now they're practicing media interviews under Mt. Lady's guidance. The students are surprised at how much Mt. Lady seems to have matured, causing Aizawa to note every hero out there is being pulled up by the number one hero's rising tide. Endeavor's dramatic stand against Hood inspired the pro-heroes of Japan to step up in the wake of All Might's retirement.
Once classes are over, Aizawa reports to a meeting where he learns work studies are starting up again. Principal Nezu tells the teachers that the Hero Public Safety Commission (HPSC) has mandated every hero course student participate in work studies. The teachers are shocked, and Nezu surmises the Commission is anticipating great danger in the months ahead. Later, Nezu and All Might discuss the traitor hidden among the students. No clues have turned up, causing All Might to conclude all the kids have "the heart of a hero." But Nezu isn't so sure.
As Class 1-A holds a Christmas party in the dorms, Shoto invites Izuku and Bakugo to intern under Endeavor with him. They also note that Eri's horn is getting bigger -- though no one is quite sure what the significance of this is yet. Come New Year's Day, Izuku is off to his new work study.
At the same time, Hawks is acting as a double agent within the PLF in an attempt to gather intelligence for the HPSC. He's slowly putting the puzzle pieces together about the danger Shigaraki now poses to the heroes, but an encounter with Skeptic causes him to realize his every word is going to be monitored by trackers. From this point on, Hawks concludes, all communications need to be in code.
We return back to Izuku to find him working beneath Endeavor, alongside his fellow interns Shoto and Bakugo. Endeavor takes down the villain Starservant, and the interns are chasing down some lackeys when Hawks swoops in to apprehend them just before they can. Hawks asks Endeavor if he's read the Meta Liberation War book, saying if he doesn't have the time, he's highlighted the must-read parts in a copy for him.
Endeavor returns to his agency, settling himself in his office to contemplate his encounter with Hawks. Paging through the book, he realizes the words Hawks stressed to him contain a clue -- a clue which lets him uncover the code contained in the book's highlighted excerpts. The second word in each highlighted excerpt forms a message: Four months from now, the Paranormal Liberation Front will strike.
The villains are planning an all-out war to topple Japanese society. To prevent this outcome, the heroes will have to preemptively attack in such a way that every last PLF member and their hidden strongholds and their moles among the pro-heroes are caught in one fell swoop. That's why the work studies programs have re-commenced. The interns are how the HPSC intends to bolster their numbers.
The volume ends with Hawks speeding off into the skies, contemplating the danger awaiting them all. Yet despite the grim tidings he bears, seeing the next generation of heroes rise to the challenges before them has given him hope. "Let's just hope," Hawks prays, "The next time the cherry blossoms fall ... we will all be smiling."
Only the coming volumes will tell if his dreams will be realized.