My Hero Academia is one of the hottest manga on the market, with its slowly-but-surely-expanding list of spinoffs, a third film underway and an anime adaption celebrating its fifth anniversary that's still going strong. The series has been lucky to receive an unusually strong lineup of adaptations and spinoffs which has no doubt bolstered its worldwide success.
Given that My Hero Academia is already served well by Vigilantes' shades-of-gray storytelling and Hirofumi Neda's genuinely funny Smash!!, new spinoffs set in its world have a high bar to clear. My Hero Academia: Team-Up Missions is the latest series to try, and although it's a decent popcorn read, it fails to be a fresh take on the young heroes of U.A. High School.
The premise of Team-Up Missions itself has undeniable potential. Volume 1 opens with the Hero Public Safety Commission starting a new program in the wake of All Might's retirement. Called Team-Up Missions, the program pairs hero students with pro-heroes from all over Japan to bolster their field experience. Each mission becomes the focus of a chapter as a few students work together with a pro-hero to keep society safe. It's a clever way to spotlight My Hero Academia's expansive and colorful cast, with its legion of fan-favorite characters who are unlikely to get time to truly shine in the main series. As writer and artist Yoko Akiyama puts it, "If you've ever wondered, 'What if these characters teamed up?!' this spinoff series is for you.'"
Unfortunately, the characters are the most underwhelming element of Team-Up Missions. Their personalities are shallower compared to the main series, and it sometimes feels like a mission could be written almost identically if Akiyama had chosen a different roster of characters for it. The team-ups are a golden opportunity for little personal dramas or showcasing new details about the lesser seen students of Class 1-A, but instead, the manga goes for filler-style action. Part of this is perhaps the fault of the format – the chapters are too short to have real depth – but even the appearances of popular dark horse characters like Suneater and Mirko fall flatter than one would expect.
The team-up choices in Volume 1 are likely going to disappoint readers looking for something different from the main series as well. The first mission teams up Midoriya, Bakugo and Uraraka; the second has Midoriya and Bakugo team up again and boots Uraraka off the team. Though the team choices improve for the final two missions of the volume, it's baffling that a series based on cool team-ups would spend most of its time on ones readers can see each week in My Hero Academia.
This isn't to say Team-Up Missions is without charm. Akiyama is a gifted artist who stays impressively true to the My Hero Academia style, and her Melissa Shield one-shot at the end of the volume, "Everyone Is Someone's Hero," proves she can write character dynamics with a lot of heart in them, too. The hints of injustices we see in hero society are intriguing – even if it's somewhat jarring the students don't seem to think anything of them – and if built upon could bring some astounding moral complexity to the series. All the elements of a memorable spinoff are there, but it's clear Volume 1 falls short in significant respects. The good news is that this isn't the end -- future Team-Up Missions volumes could easily surpass what we have now.
Overall, Team-Up Missions Volume 1 cannot be called a must-read, but it's not a bad way to pass the time for dedicated My Hero Academia fans. It's a spinoff that could easily rank up there with Vigilantes and Smash!! if it comes into its own in the future. For now, though, it's the unassuming cousin in a family of superheroes.