Man, that last episode. What a doozy, huh? But we’ll get to that in a second. I basically sat on my butt and watched thirteen episodes in a short amount of time. Naturally, I jotted down some notes, but a quick caveat before I get to them. I’m not a huge fan of the series. I do enjoy it, but I’m not here to gush. Furthermore, I’ve never read the manga. I haven’t seen the last movie. And whenever a season comes to an end, I essentially go on an information blackout regarding My Hero Academia. As a result, there are bound to be things that I have long forgotten about the story or its characters. If I get something wrong, well so be it. Alright then…
Things I liked:
— The fight between Deku and Kai? Fantastic. Utterly fantastic. It feels like the first time that My Hero Academia has felt epic to me. It’s what I’ve been missing from the show until. None of the previous fights did it for me. Not even the one between All Might and his arch nemesis All For One. And in my opinion, this epicness is the sole reason to tune into any shounen series. They don’t have the best stories. They don’t have the best character development. They don’t have the most thought-provoking discussions about life and death. But by god, when everything comes together, you feel like the heroes do — you return to this childlike conviction that you can take on the world and beat all odds. And Deku does just that. Even though I never really accepted Nighteye’s premise — I think he scared himself into a corner when he saw his idol die with his Quirk — Deku essentially fought an immutable future and won.
— One of the key themes of the show is the inevitable death of a hero — if not literally then at least symbolically — and the passing of the torch. We see this not just in stories but in real life too. The veteran takes the rookie under their wing. The veteran loses to Father Time because we all lose to Father Time. The rookie picks up where the veteran left off… but are they ready? Are they even deserving? And if they are not ready, what are we supposed to do in the meantime? So therein lies the big question of this entire arc: All Might has passed the torch to Deku, but does the kid actually deserve to hold it?
I only wish that My Hero Academia would go even further. Should the torch even be passed to a single person? Why is the Symbol of Hope even a singular concept? Why is it that someone like Nighteye can idolize All Might and worship everything that the latter has come to represent in the eyes of the people, and yet believe that only a single individual can carry his former sidekick’s burden? I mean, think about it. He thinks Mirio should’ve gotten One for All, but the kid is making an impact all on his own. He doesn’t need to become the symbol; he become a symbol. This is a show about heroes so we should democratize the idea.
— I’ve always liked exploring the idea that unless you solve the root cause of a problem, you’re simply driving the problem into hiding. Heroes stopped the yakuza, but the latter still exist. There are still those who respect what a yakuza stands for even though you’re essentially a gangster. As a result, while a few of them have gone on to accept the new world order — the stark reality that the yakuza could never rule the underworld again — cruel individuals like Kai are able to step into the vacuum and scheme. So what are we to do? Well, we simply beat them again. Deku wins. He has to. He’s the hero. But will this stop the yakuza from ever rising again? Hm, I wonder. And of course, we still have the League of Villains on the sidelines. You get big guns, they get bigger guns. When will the escalation end?
— Right off the bat, we see one of the villains die at Kai’s hands. This is good on two levels. First, the villain who died was completely disposable. Seriously, it’s hard to take the League of Villains seriously when they’re comprised of clowns. Everyone wants to love the crazy yandere girl, because crazy yandere girls are fun when kept at a safe distance (i.e. fictional), but do you really take her seriously as a villain? I sure don’t. And I feel the same way about her colleagues. They’re all just too silly. I don’t doubt that Shigaraki or Toga can take a life if they want to, but they rarely want to. C’mon, you’re villains. We need someone who is ruthless. We need someone who is menacing. We need someone who I can be scared of.
Second, a problem that has plagued the show even now is that it lacks consequences. All Might losing his powers and retiring isn’t really one, because that was always inevitable. We need a good and proper tragedy. This is about good versus evil for Christ’s sake. If sacrifices aren’t made, then the stakes aren’t high. And if the stakes aren’t high, we may as well be watching a bunch of kids playfight on the playground. The tricky part is that tragedy can’t be forced. It has to be an organic result of the storytelling. In order to hit higher highs, you need to have crushing lows. And this arc takes a good shot at this. Not only does Mirio loses his Quirk, I doubt Nighteye will somehow survive being mega impaled through the abdomen. But are these events sufficiently tragic enough? Hm. See, I dunno. I felt like I didn’t get to spend enough time with either of them, especially Nighteye. I don’t feel as invested in them as I should be. If a member of Class 1-A suddenly met their unexpected end, that’d be one thing. We’ve been with them and cheered for them since episode one. On the other hand, I barely know Nighteye.
— Deku’s All Might impersonation made me laugh.
— I like that All Might is the Symbol of Peace and the strongest hero, but as a father figure and as a person, he’s far from perfect. He’s just a regular person. He withholds information from Deku with the best of intentions, but that doesn’t mean he’s right. He avoids Nighteye due to a falling out in the past when in his old age he should probably be more mature than this.
— At least the girls get to see some serious fighting action this time. It ain’t much though…
Things I didn’t like:
— The first episode of every season might as well be a recap. If all twenty students were equally important and equally impressive — or even just at the same relative level — I could understand this. But let’s be honest: there’s only a handful of them that’s worth giving a shit about.
— For me, the villains mostly still suck. I’ve mentioned this before, but my favorite superhero stories are the ones with a great antagonist (with an equally great motive) to oppose the hero. I still have the impression that the League of Villains are just screwing around. Like gosh, there’s a hero society, so we may as well band together and create the opposite.
— And I know Shigaraki is supposed to be this nihilist dude who wants to destroy heroes and everything that they stand for, but for some reason, his nihilism seems paltry to me. It’s not scary in action. But I guess if you want to be charitable, he’s still a villain-in-the-making. He’s a lil’ babby who still needs to grow up much like Deku.
— So if Bubble Girl fails to make Nighteye laugh, he binds her down and tickles her against her wishes? That’s fucked up. And why is her outfit so goddamn revealing? And on a related note, even though Uraraka and frog girl got to join the big mission with Deku, they still feel like afterthoughts. Hell, Eijiro gets this big emotional fight with flashbacks and shit, and I’m left wondering when the hell one of the girls will get the same treatment. Obviously, female heroes are doing cool stuff. For example, that dragoon lady is apparently the ninth place hero. I assume she didn’t get there by accident. But do we get to see their exploits? That’s my point. I semi-enjoy My Hero Academia — I mean, I milk as much joy from it as I can despite its flaws — so I only hope that it can defy my expectations. At the moment, it hasn’t.
— Deku passing Nighteye’s test because he avoided stepping on the All Might junk was a groaner. Yes, I understand why it impressed Nighteye. It still made me groan nonetheless.
— I know this is typical of shounen series, but the pacing slays me sometimes. I got to watch an entire episode of Deku and Mirio clenching their fists, telling us over and over that they’re gonna do it! They’re gonna save Eri for sure this time.
— The experience of watching episode 71, i.e. watching Tamaki step up and prove himself, could have been more impactful if I had gotten to know him better than I did. I would have preferred to see a good chunk of his character development before the raid as opposed to during.
— On a similar note, I also know next to nothing about Nejire. I guess I just thought there’d be a bigger focus on the Big 3.
— I feel the same when watching the B-tier heroes (for example, Fat Gum) take their turns in the spotlight. I don’t feel like I’m in the middle of a multi-course progression where every dish is as good as the last. Instead, I feel like I’m dying to get to the steak (Mirio and Deku’s inevitable clash against Kai) but I need to finish my… uh, undercooked brussels sprouts. I stand by this even if Fat Gum’s final punch was pretty badass.
— The constant flashbacks seriously killed the momentum for me. Seriously, episode 72 is like half flashback. Then right in the middle of the fight between Kai and Mirio, a flashback! Goddammit.
— I just wish Kai’s ultimate plan was a little more… dastardly. In the end, he just wanted to rule the market or whatever. Lame. I thought he’d force everyone to essentially “devolve.” Fuck evolution, because human advancement is not conducive to crime! But alas, that’s not really his aim. He deserved to lose.
— Sadly, Shigaraki appears to be the main guy no matter what. He’s going to be here from start to finish whether I like it or not. So at best, all I can hope is that Kai teaches Shigaraki to be less of a whiny, petulant kid and more of a proper villain. In fact, that’s exactly his job and function in this arc. The reality is that Shigaraki is also undergoing a series of training much like Deku and friends. I expect Kai to be disposed of by the end of this arc. Or arrested. It’s all the same to me.
Random thoughts and observations:
— Did it never cross these reporters’ minds that they might endanger the students by trying to figure out whom All Might was pointing at? One of them only wanted to find out for his own sake, so… I guess he’s fine.
— Where is the villain who wants to do it alone? Where is the villain who doesn’t work well with others? I guess that was Stain, but I feel like we need another one. Stain hasn’t been in the picture for a long while.
— I forget if the anime has ever answered this question, but wouldn’t it be safer to simply execute All For One? I know Japan still has a death row. And normally, I would be against capital punishment, but supervillains are literally the best argument in their favor.
— Where are the bad guys without superpowers? It’s not like evil discriminates. Anyone can be evil.
— I just wish there was a single kid with the demeanor and characterization that I find truly appealing. With a roster this large, you kinda want to pick out your favorite to root for. Someone to cheer on from the sideline. There’s no one in Class 1-A for me, though. It’s not that I dislike Deku or even want to root against him. He’s fine. He’s also the typical shounen hero. He’s meant to have broad appeal. As such, he’s vanilla. Sometimes, you can cheer for vanilla, especially during that kickass fight in the most recent episode, but I want something to go with my vanilla.
— If All Might is the father that Deku never had, then I guess Mirio is the big brother he never had. And now big bro can’t fight anymore. But I guess hope isn’t lost. Assuming that Eri can control her Quirk one day, in theory she should have the ability to restore Mirio’s Quirk, right?
— When Deku and Mirio run into Eri for the first time, the former really wants to help the girl. The latter doesn’t think, however, that this is wise since they’re trying to observe Kai. I know they’ve got their mission, but abandoning someone in desperate need (especially when they appear to be a defenseless, abused kid) looks bad. It looks real bad. I know what logic dictates. I know that Mirio doesn’t want to undermine the mission by getting emotional. And this is why Mirio ends up regretting his actions so much in later episodes. But isn’t this exactly why All Might chose Deku?
— RIP the conservation of mass.
— I like the bed hair.
— When you think about how Quirks are determined by genes, it’s so weird that some dude can see your (highly probable) future by just touching you.
— Imagine getting your ass kicked by bubbles. Sure, there are probably nasty shit in those bubbles… but the optics are terrible. “S-sorry boss, the bubbles got me.”
— If frog girl took one of those Quirk boosting drugs, what would happen? Would she just be froggier than ever?
— I wish I had a bigger monitor. It would make it easier for me to browse the web whenever a show dips into one of its lulls. And sorry, but I don’t think the anime needs my fullest attention when Aizawa and gang are running down a concrete hallway for a minute straight.
— So it seems that not all of Kai’s underlings are fond of him, because he’s not acting like a proper yakuza. Meh. Gangsters are gangsters. I enjoy the Ryū ga Gotoku series for its zaniness and gameplay, but I have to roll my eyes every time the games (or any Japanese media for that matter) romanticize the notion of what it means to be a yakuza. Puh-leeze. Brotherhood isn’t so brotherly when it comes at the expense of others.
— I don’t remember seeing Shigaraki’s face before, so I guess this is new to me.
— Even villains can respect people’s pronouns, so what’s your excuse?
— Some dude’s Quirk is the ability to make others around him feel drunk. He could’ve chosen to be the life of every party he goes to, but instead, he decided to turn to villainy. What a loser.
— Aizawa got knocked out so goddamn easily. Dude, I expected better.