Shinso gets a backstory in a quick but satisfying “My Hero Academia”

“Victory or Defeat.” My Hero Academia Episode 20 

As I catch up with My Hero Academia reviews, this is a shorter one–not because the episode is not good (it turned out very well, in itself and as an adaptation of the manga), but because the content is rather quick to look over. Little action takes place, so a summary can be short:

Upon seeing the spirits of prior holders of One for All, Izuku is shocked by them and his own ability out of Shinso’s mind-control, manages to Bakugo-flip him out of bounds to win; he explains all of this to All Might, who is both scared and relieved; Shinso is acknowledged by his classmates and superheroes for the heroic value of his mind-control ability, rather than being seen as only potentially villainous; Todoroki is intimidated by his father’s presence and his desire to show he only needs his ice abilities, but over-doing it when defeating Hanta in their duel.

That’s it. I don’t say this as an insult. But when I have had to write pages just to summarize one episode of an anime or one chapter of a manga, that is a short description. Aside from a very awkward flashback-inside-a-flashback, the episode has a straightforward narrative path that achieves its effects in a clean manner.

I’ll focus on two parts of this review: how well it portrays Shinso, and how I’m still frustrated that Izuku fell for such an obvious trap.

Horikoshi challenges himself with each issue of My Hero Academia, juggling such a large cast of characters. Look at the variety of designs he creates for not only main and supporting characters, but all the characters populating the audience. That’s ignoring those characters he has incorporated in recent issues of the manga based on fans’ designs. The benefit Horikoshi has over long-running large-cast series such as Naruto is that, much like his mentor Oda on One Piece, he can establish arcs that bring in and take out characters as necessary. For this arc in Season 2, the opening credits show which students get the attention: our protagonist Izuku, his rivals Bakugo and Todoroki, and his friends Iida and Ochaco. Todoroki hardly had any focus in the previous season, whereas his role as a foil to Izuku–two boys struggling with whether to follow the paths of their male adult mentors–draws him into this story. And while Ochaco has been on the sidelines for many arcs in the manga, she has made a recent return as she continues her path to heroism–and, as will be revealed in this arc, it has to be one without depending on Izuku.

All of that said, it is disappointing more has not been done with Shinso recently. Given how useful his ability is, as superheroes in the audience are quick to acknowledge, he has a style of fighting that can be fascinating to animate: a puppetmaster, alternating between different people he mind controls, all while having to protect himself from afar. He’s like a superhero version of Kilgrave from Jessica Jones. And like Kilgrave, his weaknesses are realistic enough to make fights interesting. While he certainly could continue to work out to improve his speed and strength, he is not physically superpowered like Izuku, so one Bakugo flip is all that is needed to knock him on his ass.

This season has drawn out the mystery of Shinso’s abilities and his motivation, and the payoff is sufficient. It reminds me of the thought process Andrew Stanton had with Finding Nemo: in earlier versions of the film, the backstory of Marlin losing his children and wife was spread out in flashbacks throughout the film, to the point that it was obvious to any viewer paying attention–so the mystery was pointless. As comics writer Ty Templeton advises, if you’re going to have a twist, get it done in the first two-thirds and, like Aristotle, make it one twist, not two twists, and not so late as to insult the audience (unless, I think, you make it such an excellent twist it forces re-watching for the foreshadowing).

Shinso’s backstory is like that for Finding Nemo’s Marlin: there is very little mass to his backstory, yet what is there has significant weight. We get his backstory when we need it, and the flashback fits the narrative, coming after the commercial break–and, in the case of the original manga, at the beginning of the next issue, after Izuku has already won their duel. And his ability was hinted throughout this arc, if you knew where to look: the blank eyes of the people lifting him in the air in the Obstacle Course was foreshadowing. It’s a sufficient payoff, and it makes sense for the narrative: rather than dole out his backstory throughout this season (I’m looking at you, Savitar in The Flash), give it to us when we need to know so that it produces its desired effects. First, it attracts viewers’ sympathies. Second, as with the monstrous “hero” Endeavor, it complicates who gets to be a hero, when a mind-control ability such as Shinso’s is so easy to abuse. Finally, the unease of Shinso’s classmates in the past contrasts with the praise his current classmates and even pro superheroes have for him right now.

My Hero Academia S2E7 067.png

What is less effective is the flashback to what Ojiro told Izuku. This explanation was shown, silently, in the previous episode–because the original manga as well showed only Ojiro advises Izuku before the next issue gave us a flashback to that discussion. Like Shinso’s backstory, the episode decides to postpone this flashback until it is needed–when we need backstory about how Shinso’s ability works and how he controlled Ojiro. Where I find the flashback awkward is when, within Izuku’s flashback to Ojiro’s explanation, Ojiro himself has a flashback when bumping into an opposing team knocked him loose from Shinso’s mind control.

As well, my complaints still stand regarding how foolish it was for Izuku to respond to Shinso, when the flashback in this episode shows Ojiro just warned him, with the incentive to win this duel to bring honor to both of them. Great job listening to your classmate, Izuku. But hey, at least his naivete led to the great joke of getting mind-controlled after the duel by Shinso–twice. And despite having Izuku at his mercy, Shinso did not abuse his power to humiliate Izuku after the battle, which means Shinso is a better character than that pain in the butt Mineta.

Oh, you thought I still wasn’t upset about the cheerleader outfits from the previous episode? Yeah, hell no–I’m still pissed.

Manga vs Anime

My Hero Academia No 33 vs E20 - Shinso.png

My Hero Academia No 33 vs E20 - Izuku 2.png

My Hero Academia No 34 vs E20 - Shinso.png

My Hero Academia No 34 vs E20 - All Might.png

My Hero Academia No 34 vs E20 - Todoroki.png

My Hero Academia No 34 vs E20 - Hanta and Todoroki.png

My Hero Academia No 34 vs E20 - Todoroki 2.png

  • As with the previous episode, this one’s storyboard is far less similar to the original manga panels. As the next episode expands on much content from the manga, I wouldn’t be surprised that Studio BONES decided to stop looking at the manga for inspiration and start experimenting a bit more with the storyboard. And I feel underwhelmed in this episode. Whereas the manga has these long rectangular panels to communicate the separation between Izuku and Shinso–with so much blank white space between them–this episode prefers to keep the shots inside a more square television screen or computer screen, depending more on pans that don’t have the same effect of seeing everything all at once.My Hero Academia No 33 vs E20 - Izuku defeats Shinso.png

    Just look at this comparison: the image of Izuku over Shinso is so good, as he stand over him with the crowd cheering, and instead it is a blink-and-you-miss-it pan-and-scan in the anime.

    My-Hero-Academia-E20---Izuku-defeats-Shinso.gif

    Just look at that. Come on…This is one problem with widescreen animation.

    EDIT, May 30, 2017, 12:19 PM EST: Upon re-watching, no, this is not “instead of”: the anime _did_ adapt that image, and I missed it. I was wrong. Here’s the comparison below. The pose is not the same, although I appreciate how the anime shows Shinra shocked at his own victory so that, as he stands over his defeated opponent, he does not come across as arrogant.

my-hero-academia-no-33-vs-e20-izuku-defeats-shinso v2.png

  • Another detail that was more effective in the manga was the faintest of visual hints that Bakugo remembers when Izuku flipped him as he does Shinso: Bakugo has a brief “Oh?” at the end of Issue 33 when the flip happens, and there is no flashback to it in Issue 34, whereas the anime does so for no good reason except to remind forgetful viewers, not let the moment stand on its own, and to have an excuse to cut away so Denki can put on his creepy sad face, whereas the manga at least had the gutter between panels for that temporal break.
  • But whereas the manga only showed Todoroki from his light-hair right-side, the anime complicates this image to flip the shot, showing him from that angle before flipping horizontally to show him from his dark-haired fire side before switching back to Endeavor. It is an effective editing to end with the link between son and father.
  • In the manga, Izuku says One for All was passed onto him like an Olympic torch. Perhaps given some copyright issues by the notoriously litigious Olympic committee, the sub and dub don’t include that reference.
  • The anime adds some scenes with Ojiro. First, before the flashback to his explanation about Shinso’s Quirk, we see Ojiro stand up in the audience. Later, when Izuku re-joining his Class 1-A colleagues in the audience, Izuku and Ojiro give a silent acknowledgement about his victory over Shinso. None of these moments are presence in the manga.
  • The anime also shows far more reaction shots from Ochaco, Tenya, Bakugo, their classmates, and Midnight than the manga.
  • When Todoroki freezes Hanta, the anime adds Ochaco with Izuku and Iida when they are shocked at the display of power.

Sub vs Dub

  • In the sub (and the manga), Bakugo calls Denki “dunce face.” In the anime, he calls him “Sparky.” I have a bit to say about the ability-based jokes below, but how is “Sparky” that bad of an insult?
  • In the sub (and the manga), All Might refers to Izuku’s vision of the prior holders of One for All as scary. In the dub, All Might is scared that means he’s going to die…which is some potentially unintentional but dark foreshadowing given that All Might is injured, and the manga has hinted his death has been predicted by a superhero.
  • I’m going to write more about this, so for now I will say I am not a fan of the script writing on the English dub when it comes to writing about the abilities. The Japanese script, and even its translation into English in the manga by Viz, is dry. To spice it up, however, Funimation has had lines by Present Mic in this and the next episode referring specifically to the students’ physical appearances. I don’t mean their demeanor, their costumes, even their hair–I mean how they look. In this episode, Present Mic makes Hanta’s arms. In the next episode, he questions Mina’s horns. And this is after the English dub for Episode 16 had Jiro mock Tokoyami’s avian appearance. One detail I love about My Hero Academia is how this society up to now has avoided these kinds of appearance-based insults. When the society has on-site immediate tailoring at department stores given how varied everyone’s body type is, and varied entrances to anticipate heroes of different sizes, it is frustrating to see the English dub stoop to such name-calling. It’s not like there is not a precedent in the manga: Shinso does call Ojiro a “monkey.” Yet I can acknowledge that Shinso is purposely goading Izuku to speak, whereas Present Mic’s showboating and Jiro’s insult have no ulterior motive–they are just outright mockery to get attention or to lash out, neither of which has a twist to make the offensive insult interesting. As a show that has some allegorical potential in representing disabilities, these choices in the original text and in the English dub are disappointing.

Random Observations

  • The episode title comes from No. 34 of the manga, which is adapted as the second half of this episode.
  • I didn’t have much in this review to say about Todoroki. It is obvious his father, who finally speaks with him in this episode, has so unnerved him that his anger is rising to the surface and demonstrates how dangerous his abilities are. He needs help, he will get it–and it is disturbing how no one has intervened up to now. But a lot of teachers don’t get involved in students’ lives, for very good reasons. And All Might, already the unconventional teacher, tried to intervene by speaking with Endeavor–and got blown off.
  • Oh, I never realized Todoroki got his blue eye not from his ice-based mother but his hotheaded father. The blue eye then becomes symbolic of Endeavor’s moral frozenness.
  • All Might shows more and more that his claim Izuku is a lot like him is not bunk: he is muttering just like his mentee, and they even have the same frizzy hair. Granted, Shinso has that hair thing going on, too, so Todoroki is probably mapping out one heck of a family tree right now.
  • The power of One for All is rainbow color. Badass.
  • Holy crap, Shinso did not hold back in clobbering Izuku–before Izuku did the Bakugo-flip on him. I just wish the anime hadn’t bothered with the flashback to when Izuku flipped Bakugo: the moment was clear, just let it be a reward to viewers.
  • Like the Dagobah Beach in Episode 3, Shinso’s school has another Star Wars reference: its Nabooh City Middle School.
  • Among the superheroes complimenting Shinso’s ability is Smile Hero, who makes an appearance in both the manga and anime versions of this arc–but actually gets a more official introduction (and a different design) much later in Issue 103 of the manga.
  • Actually, this episode was largely faithful to the manga in designs for superheroes in the stands, such as the lizard person, the robot butlers, and the flower woman leading the encouragement chant for Hanta.

My Hero Academia S2E7 224.png

  • Notice Recovery Girl hits All Might on his right side, so not to hit his deliberating injury on his left side.
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