Without all these inane backstories, this fight would be over in probably less than two minutes.
— In the spirit of buying time, let’s see what everyone else is up to. I think Itsuka’s dress is pretty modest considering what Nejire is gonna wear. But I guess she’s a tomboy, so we gotta make fun of her for being girly or something. Shrug.
— Not sure what I make of the reigning champion. Maybe her Quirk allows her to charm people, ’cause her look certainly ain’t doing it for me.
— Mirio continues to play the hype man. He kinda gets a half-smile outta Eri, so they’re getting there. This is why it’d be a shame if some jackass were to crash the festival and ruin it for everybody.
— I wonder if Mei’s kooky personality ever has an off button.
— Last but not least, the teachers scratch their heads over Deku’s request. Kind of a nothing scene, really.
— Alright, we’re back to the fight at hand. This time, Deku has finally analyzed Gentle’s Quirk, so he uses those air cushions put himself in an advantageous position. Even if Deku doesn’t have his power-up Quirk, he’ll always have his smarts.
— And just like that, Gentle and his partner has been subdued… but we can’t let this end without seeing La Brava’s Quirk in action! So you know what that means! Yes, it’s t-t-t-t-time for… uh, a backstory.
— So the girl was a bit of a social outcast. The story makes absolutely no mention of her parents, so we can just assume that they neglected her. In any case, she had confessed to someone in middle school, but she had the unfortunate luck to overhear him mock her to his friends. Yeah, that’s pretty bad, but let’s get some perspective. She did stalk him. That’s not a behavior that society generally condones and I’m putting that lightly.
— Like always, whenever young people are lost and in pain, they run the risk of falling into a bad crowd. Luckily, La Brava simply stumbled onto one of Gentle’s videos, and the rest is history. I think he’s a lousy villain, but this could’ve turned out a lot worse. When La Brava loves someone, she powers them up. If she really, really, really loves them, she powers them up even more! Imagine if she fell in love with Shigaraki, y’know? If he even knew of her existence, what would he do to get his hands on her love? Thankfully, Gentle is, well, pretty darn gentle to La Brava. A less-than-scrupulous individual could’ve taken her love and exploited it. But instead, Gentle embraced her because he needed someone just as much as she did. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, in a vacuum, La Brava’s actions are very dangerous and reckless. She just lucked out in meeting a villain who is not so bad.
— Hm, so she isn’t wearing a crapton of eyeliner…
— Anyways, La Brava powers Gentle up, who then knocks Deku aside. Nevertheless, the kid says that he’s fought stronger and faster. I’ll bet… I mean, c’mon, how can this dinky dude top someone like Muscular in terms of strength?
— Both Gentle and La Brava thought that her power-up would spell the end of the fight, but we all know Deku wouldn’t give up that easily. It’s at this point that La Brava starts to cry, because if Gentle can’t win, it means she didn’t give him enough love juice. And if she didn’t give him enough love juice, does that mean that there’s something wrong with her love? Obviously not, but she’s an insecure girl in general. This is probably the only time in the entire episode that I felt bad for either of them.
— Anyways, it’s time for Gentle to give his dumb villain speech. Blah blah blah, he wants to leave his name in history. Deku, of course, says exactly what I’ve been saying: why is he shitting on a bunch of kids’ happiness? Gentle’s response? Just absolutely stupid.
— And so it’s time for us to get Gentle‘s backstory. Like Deku, he desperately wanted to become a hero. Unfortunately, he kept failing the exam for his provisional license. More importantly, I think he lacks something very important: humility. Look at him beam with boyish optimism while his mother hides her face. He should pull back and reflect on what he can and can’t accomplish, but Gentle nevertheless pushes on without any self-awareness. You certainly can’t dock him for his passion.
— Later, Gentle saw a man who was about to fall to his death. Gentle had the right idea but his execution was flawed. Or rather, he jumped to the conclusion that no one else would show up to save the man, so he tried to help. Unfortunately, he ended up nearly killing someone. This thus brought even more shame to his family, so eventually, even his own mother started to hate him.
— Lost and dejected, Gentle stumbled across a former classmate who had gone on to become a pro hero. The latter, however, didn’t even recognize him. Refusing to fade away into obscurity, Gentle decided to turn to villainy. Sure, this sort of thing happens…
— I think, however, that we’re failing to address the elephant in the room. This would’ve been a good opportunity to talk about how even the most well-intentioned system can overlook passionate individuals like Gentle — individuals who originally wanted to be a hero but turned to villainy because they didn’t get the assistance and support that they needed. Look, it’s just like in the real world. You are not a failure just because you don’t get straight As in school. You are not doomed if you don’t do well in placement exams. There are a lot of people who have dropped out of school and gone on to do great things. I haven’t taken a single test since I graduated from college, and yet I can’t deny that my education had a heavy reliance on test-taking.
So in countries like Japan, where you have to take an exam to get into your desired high school, then take an exam to get into the best university, and finally do well enough to get into the best company, we can see how there is a rigid system in place that tends to cast aside talented kids who might not necessarily excel at test-taking. For all my knocks against him, Gentle certainly has the ability to be useful. He won’t beat Deku, but he’ll get some hits in and that should count for something. Nevertheless, it almost seems like if you fall off the hero track as a kid, you can just forget about it as an adult. There doesn’t seem to be a program in place to help wayward Quirk-users like Gentle and give them the opportunity to perhaps achieve their dreams. Do I empathize with his desire to ruin a high school festival? Of course not. But if this arc had been written in a different way — if Gentle had a less pathetic goal in mind — maybe I’d feel bad for the guy.
In any case, maybe this isn’t the most interesting topic for a shounen battle series, but it’s worth wondering how many kids have been spit up and chewed out by this pro hero process. No system is perfect, and this is why good teams regularly conduct retros to understand what they did well, but more importantly, what they could’ve done better. Did Gentle screw up his own life? Yes. Probably over and over. But whose responsibility is it to make sure that our youths realize their true potential? So in that sense, the system failed as well.
— Alright, back to the show… Gentle now asks Deku why the latter wants to be the hero, so we get to look back at the kid’s backstory! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh~!
— La Brava is devoted to Gentle, so even now, she hopes that they can pull this off. As a result, she tries to run closer to the school, because she’s unable to connect to U.A.’s security system from here. Unfortunately, this puts her right in the path of trouble. Whoops. Well, this was a hare-brained scheme from start to finish…
— After we finally get all those backstories out of the way, Deku simply powers up and kicks Gentle really, really hard. And just like that, the battle is over. Like I said, if it weren’t for the backstories, this entire fight would’ve taken up a minute or two at most.
— Still, as he holds the guy down, he goes, “You were harder to fight than anyone I’d ever fought until now, Gentle.” What does Deku mean? Certainly, he doesn’t mean this in terms of battle strength. C’mon, there’s no way Gentle can even come close to Kai. So maybe it’s something else. Maybe all those backstories — although they certainly didn’t work on me! — did a number on Deku’s feelings. From a certain point of view, it’s easy to fight a villain like Kai or Shigaraki. They’re straight-up evil so we need to stop them. No conflicting feelings there. On the other hand, you could encounter a villain who might elicit your pity. I don’t think Gentle is that villain… for me. But who the hell knows with Deku. Our sensitive lil’ boy probably felt real bad listening to Gentle.
— Anyways, Gentle realizes that he’s lost, but more importantly, La Brava will be arrested along with him. He has no problems committing his crimes, but he never really wanted the girl to go down this path. As a result, he shows humility for once. He knocks Deku away, then gives himself up to the police. In his mind, this was the only way to protect La Brava’s future. Welp… this sure was an arc…
— I guess when we come back next week, we get to watch Deku returning to his classmates in just the nick of time.