“My Hero Academia” Season 2 slows down to introduce Todoroki’s struggle

“Roaring Sports Festival.” My Hero Academia Episode 15 (Season 2 Episode 2).

Available to stream at Funimation.com, CrunchyRoll.com, and VRV.co

After an opener that was light on action but excelled at re-introducing its characters, Season 2’s second opening brings together what serve as the characters’ motivations that determine the action we’ll see in this narrative arc–as well as a cliffhanger for more action to come.

My-Hero-Academia-S2E2---Mineta-knocked-down-(GIF)-PART-1-v4

And hey, someone kicks Mineta’s ass–that’s a five-star episode already!

I was wondering, while reading the manga’s original presentation of this Sports Festival arc, where the episode breaks would occur. The season premiere stopped with All Might’s (Japanese: Kenta Miyake, English: Christopher Sabat) direction that Izuku (Japanese: Daiki Yamashita, English: Justin Briner) show the world his abilities and potential to be a hero for a global television audience. This episode continues immediately after the first one, where All Might is still speaking with Izuku, and where Izuku still consider Ochaco’s reason to become a hero–and contextualize her desire with that of his classmates’ desires. I wonder whether the production would have been better to have Episodes 1 and 2 of this season air as a one-hour special, ending with the approaching fight against the robot opponents.

“Roaring Sports Festival” likely appeals to people already familiar with the manga because they know the next episode will be more action-packed, as the characters continue to battle each other as they race for the finish line in this Obstacle Course. That combination, of a fight and a race, helps move the plot forward and allows for more creative moments for the characters, allowing them to demonstrate not only how their abilities allow them to move quickly, dodge, and overcome their classmates in competition, but also shows their personalities. For example, Mineta (Japanese: Ryo Hirohashi, English: Brina Palencia) cannot stop himself from bragging loudly before trying to get Todoroki (Japanese: Yuuki Kaji, English: David Matranga) out of the way. And Todoroki sounds almost apologetic when toppling the robot onto his classmates, hinting at that fire beneath his cool exterior. This combination of fight and race makes evident what Todoroki says to Izuku: the Sports Festival is about one hero excelling over the rest.

Granted, Todoroki’s claim that one hero will excel above all others will be subverted later in this arc, given certain competitions that require a bit more teamwork. But Todoroki gives these remarks, which oddly resemble Bakugo’s (Japanese: Hobuhiko Okamoto, English: Clifford Chapin) during his fight last season against Izuku, because he is the Bakugo of this season: he is the one who is going to gain awareness about himself based on his encounters with the calmer, more earnest Izuku. The music that builds up when Izuku responds to Todoroki is, as expected for this series, chilling, and helps viewers get behind him despite his innocence.

As for flaws in this episode’s structure, I think they are the result, as I wrote pretty much all last season, because of the Netflix-ifcation of television viewing and production. Both animation studios and anime viewers know that such content will available to watch all at once on Funimation or CrunchyRoll’s web sites, so the writers are leaning more heavily upon the plot structures of serialized narratives, as they appear in manga, because an awkward break at the end of an episode is not going to stop viewers from waiting a week or, with streaming video, a few seconds before the next episode.

If this episode is awkward, it’s because how closely it sticks to its source material. The first half of “Roaring Sports Festival” largely adapts Issue 23 of the manga, the second half adapting Issue 24. The anime even adapts a specific panel for storyboard, as I’ll show below.

Issue 23 itself had an awkward narrative structure: that issue began with Present Mic welcoming reporters to the Festival, then did a flashback to two weeks ago–where Issue 22 left off. It is an awkward structure, preferring a tease to continuing immediately from the earlier issue. The issue then continues as this episode does, before that episode adapts all of Issue 24: students from the other classes intimidate Class 1-A, the students train, current superheroes serve as Festival security, Todoroki confronts Izuku before Class 1-A enters the Festival, Midnight (Japanese: Akeno Watanabe, English: Elizabeth Maxwell) and Bakugo initiate the Festival, the Obstacle Course begins with Todoroki in the lead, while his classmates face the robots. Even the cliffhangers are the same: Issue 24 and Episode 2 both end with Izuku remembering his last fight against the robots.

Sticking so closely to the manga, flashbacks are repetitive. Whereas the inclusion of specific panels from earlier issues in the manga are used as decoration and tend not to disrupt the narrative flow, there is something about the flashbacks in the anime that attracts my attention in terms of saving on the animation budget. Knowing what comes later in the series, that’s understandable; given some problems with detailed animation in Season 1, and which were later revised for home video release, I’m anxious to see what comes next.

Manga vs Anime

  • When Eijiro (Japanese: Toshiki Masuda, English: Justin Cook) praises Bakugo’s “manly” confrontation with the other classes, the anime adds Under the Wave Off Kanagawa behind him.
  • Remembering his classmates’ motivations, Izuku also remembers how All Might just encouraged him–as he lying on the floor. While the anime takes a slightly more serious approach, showing All Might speaking to him, the manga is goofier, All Might blocked by the couch itself.
  • There are some differences between the training montages. Some are the same, albeit giving us a more extensive view: Iida is running, Eijiro is punching, Tsuyu swims, Momo reads, and Mineta…is practicing his victory speech. The anime adds Izuku not only training with weights, as in the manga, but also doing push ups in his room and going back to where it all began, the Dagobah Beach from Season 1 Episode 2, where he runs. All that’s missing is some Rocky music.
  • Other new scenes during the training montage show that Shouji is lifting weights, Sero is swinging on lightposts, Ochaco’s is firing rocks at Mina so she can practice dissolving with acid before they’re interrupted by Aoyama’s laser blast, Kouji is communing with animals before Satou’s (Japanese: Tooru Nara, English: Cris George) sugar rush scares them away, Tokoyami is trying to use Dark Shadow against bright lights, Jirou is using her earlobes to fire darts at the board (and even showing her drum set, which won’t appear until much later in the manga), then ending with Todoroki’s training, as he is the focus to this season.
  • The best moment addition to the montage is Hagakure (Japanese: Kaori Nazuka, English: Felecia Angelle) doing chin-ups–and thank goodness this show is avoiding some unfortunate parts with her ability. As she is invisible, her use of her power means she is usually running around naked. The brilliance is that it is a subversion of fanservice: you get your naked female character–but she’s invisible. Having these moments of her earnestness undermines the potential simplicity to her ability and to what she does later in the episodes, as foreshadowed with her cheer practicing.
  • In the manga, Mineta had a hero poster on his wall. In the anime, his room has posters and figurines of Mount Lady and Midnight. Figures.
  • The anime adds Izuku leaving his mother’s apartment for the Festival, as she promises to watch it on television. While the manga at this point shows her starting to watch, the anime already shows her more emotional viewing from later issues.
  • The anime shows Festival souvenirs for sale, including masks of All Might, Present Mic, and some dude with a fire beard. Hmm…Who else has fire powers in this episode…?
  • As well, the anime adds more context for Mount Lady’s snack. In the manga, she already has the meal. In the anime, we see her using her sex appeal to get the meal for free. The reason this does not come across as so much fanservice is because she is aware what she is doing and shows shrewdness how to use that appeal to benefit her. As well, the sexiness is then distrusted by the gag of not only the vendor freaking out but her similarly freaking out because her plan worked. That detail lends more complexity to Mount Lady: even as she is single-minded in this scene, she’s not just a character who uses her body for material gain, evident all the way back in the series premiere when she again made this similar face after capturing the villain.
  • Among other extra scenes of Class 1A in the pre-battle preparation room, Mina (Japanese: Eri Kitamura, English: Caitlin Glass) and Mashirao (Japanese: Kosuke Miyoshi, English: Mike McFarland) discuss why they can’t wear their superhero suits. This is relevant given a certain someone who seems to have her gear on her. And it’s an odd contradiction, as Mina is now sporting new sneakers with holes–leaking out to let her propel herself with her acidic ooze…which must suck for whoever is underneath her.
  • As well, while in the manga Ochaco and Tsuyu are talking over a drink, they don’t in the anime.
  • When responding to Todoroki, in the manga Izuku remembers training in the beach’s junk, while in the anime he remembers lying on the ground, begging All Might.
  • The anime shows the teachers, including a depowered All Might, watching from box seats.
  • The anime shows more students from the General, Support, and Business classes before their appearances in later issues of the manga.
  • The anime works in a moment for Midnight to lick her lips, because she is the R-rated superhero. The English dub even adds her talking about restraining students.

My Hero Academia S2E2 - Mineta knocked down comparison.png

  • Mineta in the anime gets more to do in his attempted attack upon Todoroki. In this episode, he launches his attacks and manages to disrupt him. In the manga, Mineta is too busy shouting to act before he is knocked away by the robot. On a related note, the image of Mineta being knocked away looks similar to how it appears in the manga.

Sub vs Dub

  • The English adds Izuku’s mother promising her recording of the Festival off the television will be in HD.
  • In the Japanese, Mount Lady requests her meal without seaweed. In the English, she asks for no salt. As well, in the Japanese, the reason she claims she cannot pay is because she’s short on money, whereas in the English, it’s because she ostensibly left her wallet in her other super suit.
  • In the Japanese, Mineta is preparing by repeating “person” and shoving them in his mouth. I’m guessing I’m missing a cultural idiom here, because in the English he instead is counting down his bits of discomfort then swallowing them. Me, personally? I would’ve had him trying to calm down by imagining the audience naked–which would be true to his character and, if you don’t include an imagined spot, would avoid stupid fanservice gags.

Random Observations

  • As colorblind as I am, I’m so happy the anime distinguished Eijirou from Tetsutetsu (Japanese: Kōji Okino, English: David Wald), who look so similar–and as we’ll see, have similar powers.
  • Speaking of which, in the newest issue of the manga out in Japan, Eijirou gets considerable attention. I am grateful to Kohei Horikoshi’s development of even minor characters: despite how unwieldy the cast size is for My Hero Academia, there are enough moments to make this feel like a real world, where these characters have lives, missions, and desires away from Izuku’s story.
  • I’m glad that Midnight is not just a dumb fanservice gag. Again, when a character has agency over their body and outfits, I’m fine with them acknowledging sex and desire exist. And if this is the extent of being R-rated as a superhero, that’s rather passive–given what I’ve had to watch, this is PG-13 at worst.
  • Plus, I’m not one to talk about sharing images of dominatrix women. In college, my campus literary club needed submissions, and someone designed an image of a dominatrix–fully clothed at that–with a whip. I was vice president and thought it was fine to post. Cut to a few days later, and there was a complaint that it was inappropriate for younger viewers (“R-rated,” I guess). Down go the flyers, and the college instituted a requirement that all flyers be approved. And now I’m here writing about fanservice in anime–funny how life works.
  • The anime does a really good job emphasizing something I hadn’t noticed initially in the manga: Mina now guides her leaps by excreting her acidic ooze out of holes in her shoes. That’s really reactive–although, that does bring up the collateral damage her ability causes, especially if you are underneath her when she oozes.

My Hero Academia S2E2 - Students possessed.png

  • We get foreshadowing as to what Hitoshi’s (Japanese: Wataru Hatano, English: Jarrod Greene) power is. Look at the faces of the people carrying him. How is he convincing them to do so?

My Hero Academia S2E2 - Masks.png

  • Who is Todoroki’s dad? You already met him. Remember: Todoroki has both fire and ice powers, but we’ve only seen him use his ice abilities. And look at the images in the previous and current episode for a certain person with fire abilities. That’s Todoroki’s dad.
  • Finally, thanks to Iida’s English actor, J. Michael Tatum, for sharing my review of Episode 1 with his followers on Twitter. Thanks as well to Thirteen’s English actor, Morgan Berry, for prior promotion of my earlier My Hero Academia reviews.
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