Whether you’re a reader who enjoys comic books of the Japanese variety or you’re a connoisseur of action-packed shonen anime, chances are high you’re familiar with the hit series Boku No Hero Academia (僕のヒーローアカデミア), or My Hero Academia as it’s called here in the States. Created by writer/artist Kōhei Horikoshi, the story – a class of students learning how to become the next generation of superheroes – has become a critical and financial success with interesting characters, solid artwork, and intriguing commentary on the concept of heroism. With nearly 200 chapters as of this writing, as well as an anime adaptation, a spin-off series (the first volume of which I covered here), and a feature length movie coming soon to theaters, My Hero Academia and Horikoshi show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
It’s easy to look at success stories like these and assume the people behind them came up with a winning concept on their first try, but of course the reality is that like many of Horikoshi’s peers in the creative fields, the path to stardom was a long and winding road. Case in point, while the first chapter of Academia was released back in 2014, Kōhei Horikoshi has been working steadily as a writer and artist since 2007. Academia is actually his third series to be published in the weekly Shonen Jump magazine, preceded by Oumagadoki Zoo (逢魔ヶ刻動物園) back in 2010 and Barrage (戦星のバルジ) in 2012. For whatever reason neither Zoo nor Barrage seemed to click with readers, neither of them lasting longer than a year or so before being cancelled, their failures ultimately enabling Horikoshi to pursue his most prolific work to date.
Being a big fan of My Hero Academia, I was curious if I could find any copies of Zoo and Barrage to peruse and see how Horikoshi’s work has developed overtime, though I didn’t hold out much hope. Sadly, as is the case with a lot of manga series that get cancelled early on in their runs, there is little chance if any for officially translated copies to make their way over stateside, not counting the underground efforts of dedicated fans. The results of my amateur search efforts bore bittersweet fruit; while there are no official English translations of Oumagadoki Zoo available at the moment, Viz Media has graciously released both volumes of Barrage in print and in digital format. Having sat down to read the complete series, I thought I could take a moment to discuss Kōhei Horikoshi’s second official series, Barrage, aka The Series That Had To Die So My Hero Academia Could Live.