By Kouhei Horikoshi and Anri Yoshi. Released in Japan by Shueisha. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Caleb Cook.
There is a certain give and take with adaptations like these. The author of these light novels is Anri Yoshi, not Kouhei Horikoshi, and they are allowed to do some things but not others because, well, this is an ongoing manga and there is a limit to what one can do in a side story that won’t break the main story. Thus, in the last volume we saw Shinso look disparagingly at Mineta and wonder why he wasn’t expelled yet, but that’s all he did because the actual answer is Horikoshi has admitted he loves to write Mineta. This volume dances around the many revelations about the Todoroki family we’ve had since the last one, but does not actually allow the family to meet up in full again, because, well, the manga covers those times. That said, there’s still good stuff here. We see Izuku and Bakugo bond as much as they’re ever going to. We see the reader struggling to remember which classmate Shoji is. Oh yes, and we see Monoma straight up almost murder 3/4 of the cast, then try to cover it up.
The book has 5 larger stories interspersed with short vignettes of Jiro, Asui, Uraraka, and Yaoyorozu going home for the holidays. These are mostly short but cute, with some ship tease (and ship sinking) and a brief horror when you realize Momo’s parents are even worse than she is in regards to money sense. In the main stories: a) ida, Kirishima, Shoji and Tokoyami explore an underground dungeon under UA, filled with weird traps; b) The faculty all try to give Eri Christmas presents at the same time without waking her up; c) The Todoroki siblings get together for New Year’s, and Shoto realizes he is a terrible cook; d) Izuku and Bakugou try to mend the relationship between two fighting kids which is a mirror of their own; and e) after the 1-A hot pot party begins (as seen in the manga), 1-B show up and the party becomes a competition, then a yamanabe party… with potentially fatal consequences.
The stories get better as they go along, with the start of the book being the weaker side. The best are the stories with our “main three” heroes, as they dig into the deeper characterization we’ve seen from the manga and examine the tortured relationship Endeavor still has with his family (and the book does not shy away from using the word abuse). Bakugo too is very well used here, still angry at Izuku for anything and everything but realizing that this is mostly on him and trying not to actually make it worse. The most bonkers story is the last one, where Monoma accidentally feeds poison mushrooms to 3/4 of the cast, then the ones not affected have to go out into a blizzard and find the antidote. It’s good development for Kaminari, and has the best joke in the entire book (Shiozaki’s ingredient for the yamanabe), but I felt the author had trouble finding the balance Monoma desperately needs to be fun and not irritating, and the “please cover this up” ending left me slapping my head.
Still, overall I thought this was a decent volume in the series, which can never be as good as its source but is good enough.