Reviews

The acting, music, and Stain’s introduction save a less thrilling “My Hero Academia”

“Fight on, Iida!” My Hero Academia Season 2 Episode 24
An adaptation of Issues 40 to 42 of the manga, available from Viz
Anime available on CrunchyRoll and Funimation

I told you things would get less interesting after Todoroki defeated Izuku–and I’m happy to be proven mostly wrong.

As I had said, following a climax, the descending action has to be less emotionally exciting in order to arrive at resolution. With yet another episode opting for a recap of the previous episode, rather than the traditional cold opening (and to save minutes for new content), we have our resolution: Izuku realizes there are ways to be heroic rather than just victory in combat, and Todoroki is on his way to recognizing he is not fated to be like his parents. The rest is falling into place, and it’s kind of boring: members of Class 1A are in the semi-finals, we don’t get to see much more of Class 1B, it’s all male combatants in the last round, and since the protagonist Izuku is not one of them, attention on how that Sports Festival wraps up is less interesting. Even the animated battles presented that eliminate Mina, Ibara, Tokoyami, and Iida are shorter and hence less visually impressive just on the basis of time, characters, and budget.

What I neglected to emphasize is that often the resolution is tied to closure–and boy, did All Might’s revelation bring closure and hit an emotional target that, if not exciting, with the acting in the English dub by Justin Briner and Christopher Sabat, and accompanied by the musical score, was cathartic. Add to this episode the continued work to make Bakugo more complex, the introduction of Stain to set up the next arc, and the witnessing of Stain’s brutality and how it will put titular character Iida into the spotlight, and My Hero Academia continues to surprise.

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In its Season 2 climax, “My Hero Academia” is on fire

“Shoto Todoroki: Origin.” My Hero Academia Episode 23 (Season 2, Episode 10)

There is a lot to cover to cover in this episode, from how it deconstructs the “stuffed in the fridge” trope and the brooding superhero’s tragic backstory, as well as adding more to the analysis by others of animator Yutaka Nakamura, Studio BONES, and yutapon cubes.

While the animation is what will bring new viewers to this series, as with any story, its success depends first on plot, then characters, before its production–in this case, animation, acting, and music–can be appreciated. Without this plot, in which Izuku and Todoroki are both motivated to be heroes by All Might, there would be no episode.

And, unfortunately, as we have given Izuku and Todoroki their resolution, like after any climax, things are going to get a bit less interesting.

Tagging for spoilers, as well as trigger warnings about spousal abuse, rape, violence against children, scolding, and me cursing out Mark Millar.

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Ochaco shows badasses wear blush stickers in “My Hero Academia”

“Bakugo vs. Uraraka.” My Hero Academia Episode 22

This is a challenging review, as I want to be more self-reflexive about what I am getting wrong about My Hero Academia–and then can’t come to a solution to those problems. I’m trying to get a better grasp on what this episode does with Ochaco and Bakugo, yet I feel like I so bound up in my thinking as a man that I am missing something–because I won’t shut up and just listen.

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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.

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In Episode 19 of “My Hero Academia,” everyone’s a fool

“The Boy Born with Everything.” My Hero Academia Episode 19

Trigger warnings: There will be discussion of representations of domestic violence and rape.

Spoiler warnings: This review will cover content up to Episode 21 of the anime. Spoilers are not marked.

Is my title too mean? I don’t intend to beat up on the narrative structure, as I see where the story is going, and given the result I know as occurs in the manga, all of this makes sense. I’m just gobsmacked at how so many characters, all at once, can act so foolishly.

To summarize:

  • Why do the girls listen to Mineta, a known pervert, to put on the obviously fetishistic cheerleader uniforms?
  • Why did Izuku and Todoroki reveal so much about themselves and risk giving their opponent ammunition to use against them in their inevitable face-off?
  • Why did Shinso press his luck by trying to hypnotize Izuku earlier than necessary?
  • Why did Izuku talk when Ojiro told him not to?
  • Why did Ojiro decide honor was more important than accepting his advancement?
  • And why is Endeavor making it obvious he is a wife-beater–and why hasn’t anyone thrown his ass in prison?!

Let’s break down each problem separately before acknowledging what the episode does very well. And I think it will help lend some clarity about the characterization of, at least, Momo, Ochaco, and Izuku.

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“My Hero Academia” reminds me why I hate sports

“Cavalry Battle Finale.” My Hero Academia Episode 18

I analyze stories for a living. I like knowing the beginning, middle, and end so I can look at the story as a whole. That means I tend to jump ahead in a book or read spoilers before seeing the completed work.

I don’t like sports. Unlike literary analysis, the rules of the game are much more restrictive. This is not like Derrida, Foucault, and others talking about the game-like nature of wordplay in literature: if you break a rule in a sport, then you expect the referee will hold you accountable. There is less room for interpretation. But most of all, sports are not predictable. I’m not as big a fan of the excitement of the score changing moment by moment as I am knowing what the outcome will be. I like reaching a stable ending rather than being held in suspense.

I know how this arc to My Hero Academia ends, and this episode’s attention to the goals and methods of Izuku, Bakugo, and Todoroki–the three characters with the most change upon the completion of this arc–has me cringing knowing how this story will wrap up. That’s not to ignore how this arc also develops the other main characters, Ochaco and Iida, but when it comes to this storyline, the focus on those three characters.

My heart goes out to Izuku, as he is the one learning the most how to acclimate to a new set of abilities while holding onto his optimism and using his knowledge and intelligence to solve problems. But as Todoroki says (in the subtitled version of this episode), “Things don’t always go as you wish.” With sports, you got that right.

It kind of leaves you feeling like this.

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My emotions.

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MY EMOTIONS.

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“My Hero Academia” slows down for horseplay

“Strategy Strategy Strategy.” My Hero Academia Episode 17 (Season 2 Episode 4)

After the excellence set by the previous episode, what came after, by comparison, would be less interesting in My Hero Academia. This is a reality, not a flaw: you can’t have that kind of an explosive climax with Izuku’s victory in the Obstacle Course and follow it with another over-the-top moment, lest you exhaust the audience. Moving to the more stable ground of the Cavalry Competition allows “Strategy Strategy Strategy” to focus on the abilities of the other characters, while forcing the show to draw upon its other strength: comedy.

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And hey, we learn Izuku had a Quirk all along: drowning his enemies with his tears!

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“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.

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

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