I won’t say that this episode has bad execution. I can tell that a lot of people will enjoy the hell out of it. I’ll just say instead that it isn’t to my taste. Yeah, that’s right. I can enjoy shounen storytelling, but I don’t think I can ever love it. I like the main ideas that the episode is trying to convey, but it’s the little things that drag the whole experience down. Well, maybe they’re not so little.
— The episode opens with a young All Might telling his master that he intends to become a symbol of peace that everyone can believe in. This is reminiscent of what Bruce Wayne had said to Alfred at the start of his vigilantism:
“People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I’m flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed; but as a symbol… as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.”
So All For One’s main goal here is to shatter that pillar, stealing everyone’s hope away from them right before their very eyes.
— Oh hey, here’s a better look at Nana. Japanese stories love that name. Does a female character play an indispensable maternal role?!
— Luckily for the kids, they’ve managed to save Bakugo and gotten away to safety. But we later learn that there are a bunch of victims still stuck in the rubble. This leaves an odd taste in my mouth. No, I get it. The kids broke the rules by even showing up. They got their friend, and they got out. They shouldn’t try to do more… right? Well, I’m not so sure about that. It’s not like being trapped under debris is a walk in the park. “Oh, I have a huge slab of concrete on top of me. I guess I’ll just nap until someone saves me!” Nah, man. They need to be saved, and they need to be saved as soon as they can. I feel like if you’re going to break the rules and save your superhero friend with superhero powers, you may as well do all you can to save helpless people as well. Blah blah blah, rules, rules, rules. Fuck it, man. But that’s just how I feel about it. As an aspiring hero, I just wouldn’t be able to rest easy knowing that I did all I could for just a friend.
— Bakugo being as charming and grateful as always.
— So my big beef with shounen storytelling is that there’s always got to be commentary from the sidelines. God, I hated that so much in Dragon Ball Super. I was trying to enjoy a good match, but the show kept cutting away to the jobbers sitting in the stands. Sadly, the same thing happens here. It’s like listening to Madden, because they never have anything to say but the painfully obvious.
— Not only that, we get to listen as the entire country weighs in. And again, I get what the episode is trying to do. For the first time ever, the people’s symbol of peace is wavering. They’ve slumbered ungratefully under All Might’s protection, and now they have the audacity to be shocked that everything eventually grows old and dies.
— There’s also too much chatter. All For One just isn’t a cool villain. He sounds like a huge dork to me, and he talks like a huge, petty dork. As a viewer, sometimes you want to indulge on the dark side, but I can’t see myself doing that here. Neither he nor Shigaraki make me ever want to root for the villains. And you’re probably like, “That’s the point! You shouldn’t like villains!” But like I said, this is why I’m not saying that the episode (or the show in general) is poorly executed. Rather, I just don’t think it’s to my taste. I like compelling villains — charismatic enough that I can’t help but understand where they’re coming from. Unfortunately, I don’t give a shit where All For One is coming from. He’s just a dumb asshole with no interesting ideology.
— Anyways, his latest attack wears All Might out so much that the world’s greatest hero can no longer maintain his appearance. As a result, he’s exposed; his secret is out and the whole nation is in utter shock. The scrawny man that everyone sees before them is All Might’s… well, it’s not his true form. It’s just a form. But what My Hero Academia has taught us is that appearance matters a lot.
— Here comes another bombshell, and this time, it’s with regards to Shigaraki’s origin. I should’ve put bombshell in quotes, because as a revelation, it doesn’t emotionally resonate with me. I don’t particularly care for the guy, and I’m just now learning anything at all about Nana. I get that All Might has a certain level of emotional attachment to his master, so to lose one of her relatives to All For One must feel like a major defeat. But I dunno, I guess I just don’t care. At the end of the day, we’re ultimately responsible for the path we choose in life. Could Shigaraki have avoided becoming a villain if he had had better guidance as a child? Sure. But he ultimately chose to be a bad guy, and it’s too easy and lazy to just blame it all on his upbringing.
— Y’know who smiles all the time? The Joker.
— So the entire nation cheers All Might on, including two of his pupils. These two are fine. I’ve got no bones to pick with them. I’m wary of the people, though. They cheer All Might on because they have to. If he can’t protect them from All For One, no one else will. If the situation wasn’t so precarious, I bet they would mock his appearance. Yeah, I’m being cynical as fuck.
— With the people’s support behind him, All Might summons up every last ounce of strength he has left.
— But we get more commentary, and in my opinion, they only serve to ruin the episode’s pacing. Aw man, this is so hype, look at All Might only partially transforming, because that’s all he’s capable of right no– CUT TO OLD MAN AND HIS OBVIOUS OBSERVATIONS.
— I was wondering when the other pro heroes would finally be done with the Nomus and lend a hand. Unfortunately, they only help out by clearing the immediate area of survivors. They don’t actually help All Might battle All For One. In fact, the story makes it seem as though no one else is even close to being strong enough to help out.
— Eh, you guys didn’t let Mt. Lady do much of anything.
— Oh look, Gran Torino wasn’t always a midget.
— Guys, c’mon, look how sad everyone is!
— So even though All For One stole all these Quirks, at the end of the day, he simply channels them all into one punch. Yep, let’s grab all of these interesting and varied superpowers and just emulate the guy you’re fighting. It’s not very imaginative. There’s a certain purity to All Might’s superpowers. He only punches, because his strength as the symbol of peace will overcome everything. On the other hand, All For One’s strength is derived from an unholy amalgamation of his misdeeds… but I still think an all-out punch-out to decide the whole battle is lame. Plus, someone who is supposedly a genius like All For One shouldn’t have tried to best All Might at his own game.
— Also, the story totally tortured the metaphor of All Might’s dying flame.
— But in the end, All Might gets in his United States of Smash, and it defeats All For One for good. The “of” part is the best part of the name. Unfortunately, he has to use up everything he has left in the tank, so he’s done for as a pro hero. The entire nation just watched a pro hero die on TV without realizing it. Everyone but Deku is cheering. He knows he must now fill All Might’s impossibly huge shoes, but he isn’t even close to being ready.
— Oh hey, All For One isn’t a roided out freak anymore.
— In the end, All Might raises his fist to do his iconic victory pose. He even transforms. Again, appearance matters. You’d think that by defeating All For One in his deflated state, All Might should’ve just stayed as he is. But whatever.
— When the sun comes up, we see All For One being hauled away and taken to prison. So the big, bad baddie shows up for one arc and is immediately arrested. Unfortunately, we’re back to Shigaraki being the top honcho.
— All Might points to the camera and says, “Next, it’s your turn.” Again, this pumps everyone up, but Deku finally realizes his master’s all-too-delicate mortality. As he weeps, Bakugo looks on with… what looks like sympathy on his face. This is probably the most character development that the kid has ever undergone.
— Welp, it’s time to pick up the pieces in next week’s episode.