All posts by Andrew

My Hero Academia: Episode 55

As I noted last week, it appears we’re spending time with several other members of Class 1-A to see how they’re faring during the exam. While technically “filler” to some, this is more like expanding upon content that wasn’t shown in the manga, and I for one enjoyed it.

First things first. Todoroki fights a bunch of ninjas. He fights them and comes out on top by using his surroundings and catching them off guard. After that, we get a glimpse at some brewing tension with him and the Wind Boy Inasa. Wind Boy  gives IcyHot a mighty dirty look, and proceeds to pay him no mind. Hmmm. Curious.

NINJA FIGHT!

After that we focus on a small group within the class, consisting of Tsuyu, Jiro, Shoji and Momo, as they begin a battle of wits with All Girls Hero Academy. The girls group is led by a a tea-drinking ojou-sama ringleader in the form of Ms. Sai. For an anime-original character, her design is really cute, and it’s kind of amazing watching her cool, composed personality turn into full-on sadism; meanwhile, her classmates are totally into it. Also, her quirk is literally making herself smarter by drinking different blends of tea, so that’s a fun ability. [Editor’s Note: Why does this not work with coffee? WHY??????]

This moment of strategic genius brought to you by Darjeeling Tea: when you really need to double your IQ to destroy your enemies, accept no substitutes.

As for her plan, effectively it’s a strategy of rendering her four opponents’ quirks unusable, or immobilizing them entirely. Jiro and Froppy are specifically targeted, while Sai plans for Momo to overexert her quirk while trying to salvage the situation. It’s pretty interesting to watch this play out: it gets tense for our group, and Momo has to adapt fast and come up with a plan that will get them out of this messy situation, while also ensuring they pass the exam.

Don’t freeze Froppy, that’s mean.

It’s a big scene especially for Momo, who last season feared her own  intuition facing off against Aizawa, and to see her come into her element both as a leader and a strategist (under a ton of pressure, no less) is great. She’s inspired by Deku’s iron will, of course. To see that level of personal inspiration shown among many of the students, but in a big way for Momo in particular, was fantastic. And when she does succeed in finally getting the best of the team from Girls Hero Academy, it’s a great, satisfying moment. She incapacitates all the opponents camping outside the door with a giant soundwave, opting to attack rather than defend. Seeing her fend off Sai once again with a clever trick, at the last minute, is just icing on the cake; all in all, great character development for her this week.

I care too much about you to let you become a meatball! I will take one for the team and become a delicious entree! **slurrp**

We then see Bakugo, Kirishima, and Kaminari cross roads with a guy from Shiketsu, who has a gross ability to turn people into meatballs. [Editor’s Note: WHAT. Just WHAT.] Kirishima sacrifices himself for Bakugo’s sake, showing how much he cares. All the while Deku, Ochaco and Sero are busy formulating a counterattack to try and pass this exam. I really love how– even setting the romantic element aside– Deku and Ochaco now demonstrate so much trust and respect in each other’s abilities. Meanwhile, we see Aizawa explain to Joke that he’s not even worried for his students, because he sees that every time Bakugo or Deku are involved, the entire class works to match their level, bringing out the best in all of them. He’s not scared, he’s excited to see it all play out, and that’s a nice beat that works really well on top of all the other character development we see this episode.

Next week: More fighting! More unconditional trust between Deku and Ochaco! More of that gross Meatball guy! Well, not so much looking forward to Meatball guy, but you get the idea.

My Hero Academia: Episode 54

As the events from last week alluded to, the battle between U.A. against the world commences in the tournament. Everyone holds their ground against opponents from Ketsubutsu with some really neat powerups that range in effectiveness. One of the dudes can stiffen items, and is able to stiffen his balls (no I’m not giggling, you’re giggling, shut up) to make them more powerful and effective, while a dude who looks like Android 17 can Boomerang objects back and forth in a really cool animated sequence. And then there’s a cutie who can fold her body in and out just like that of a turtle which is, uh….man, you really gotta wonder how some of these abilities work. The class manages to fend them off real good with new upgrades and additions to their costumes, like Jiro’s cool sound gauntlets and Mina’s Acid Veil.

And then there’s Dark Deku Boy, Yo Shindo who’s quirk is basically to make giant earthquakes with the neat side effect that the strength of the aftershock transfers back to him. It’s a very powerful, very excessive display of strength.

And SPEAKING of excessive displays, let’s talk Inasa. The passionate gust of wind who’s SO PASSIONATE he decides to just…steal the balls of hundreds in a giant tornado and just…knocks out 120 people in one fell swoop, showing just how strong and crazy this enthusiastic mad man really is. Time starts ticking down as people start passing the exam filling up the 100 person quota quicker than anticipated, making the entire thing feel like a real rush for time.

Deku finds himself recovering from the aftermath of Inasa’s attack, tangling head-to-toe with a femme fatale from Inasa’s school. She succeeds in overwhelming him, messing with him, and potentially coming on to him all in one fell, acrobatic swoop. He’s narrowly saved by everyone else coming to attack her.

I’ll say this: as much as I enjoy this show, this feels like an episode that they definitely had to pad out a tad. They were cutting in and out of flashbacks we’ve already seen, some as recent as just a few minutes prior. It’s not a major detriment to the show, but MHA has managed to do better than this for so long that if feels genuinely distracting when they do pad for time this way.

Ochaco runs away with Uraraka, but she’s on the move to ATTACK! That said, Deku ain’t no dumbass and is aware that she’s trying to pull something. He KNEW that she would be able to make herself float, and wouldn’t be dumb enough to reveal herself out in the open with no plan whatsoever. Camie, the femme fatale who had been hitting on Deku, shows off her ability to transform into other people, even if it meant transforming her clothes into an admittedly kind of awkward-looking white bodysuit (for broadcast censorship purposes, I imagine.) Deku is then saved by Tape Boy Sero and the real Ochaco, Uraraka, who manage to get him out of a pinch as they plan their counteroffensive.

What’s interesting about the last segment with Shoto Todoroki is that it’s actually material that was not in the manga. One could argue this is technically “filler” material but to be honest, in a giant tournament event where everyone is doing things on their own, there’s a fair bit of material to be explored and expanded upon. So seeing Todoroki get to face off against a ninja clan is actually pretty entertaining and cool to watch. And if next week’s episode preview is to be believed, we’ll get a little more hands-on with the rest of Class 1-A as they get to do cool things on their own, and frankly, it’s ALWAYS exciting to get more of that.

Pacing issues aside, this was still a pretty fun episode with some cool fight sequences, and I’m psyched for next week.

My Hero Academia: Episodes 52 and 53

Episode 52:

Going to be doing a bit of a double duty catchup for this one. The new cour of My Hero Academia’s third season has started and we begin it, like any other, with a brand-spanking-new opening: Make my story, by Lenny Code Fiction. It’s got a really sick opening riff, along with a lot of really cool foreshadowed visuals and some nice bits of animation. Good tune and strong visuals, so I give this one a Plus, not necessarily a Plus Ultra.

We begin the first episode with a demonstration of life going back to normal, while the students adjust to their new lives at UA’s Alliance Heights dorm halls. Classes resume, and the first thing on the docket is to work towards achieving provisional licenses. One of the first things they need to do towards that goal is doing the very thing this episode is called: “Creating Those Ultimate Moves.” In practice, this means that the teachers offer students advice about how to reinvent their own understanding of the quirks.

A superhero’s ultimate move is about more than just looking cool and flashy. It’s also about cementing your identity, refining your abilities, and showing something that represents what you are as a hero. It’s like how the Kamehameha wave is so ingrained with the image of DBZ and Goku; you want a move that’s so synonymous with who YOU are that making a move is equivalent to screaming out out “I Am Here!” to the world, and that’s a really neat thing.

Some of the students are able to gradually come up with new cool uses of their abilities, like Bakugo’s AP Shot, Mina’s Acid Nozzle, Tokoyami’s Shadow Stand, and Mineta’s…Sword of Grapes (which honestly just looks suspiciously inappropriate in it’s design, and was super intentional). But we’re shown two major conflicts in the form of both Deku and All Might’s recent developments.

All Might has to deal with the fact that he’s officially a teacher first and foremost, not only to Deku but also to the other students of 1-A, as he does his best to offer critical advice without overstepping his boundaries and showing favoritism. He even got himself a copy of a  Teaching for Dummies. But you can definitely tell it is still rather difficult for him to adjust to his newfound role as a mentor while being completely retired as a superhero.

As for Deku, he’s trying to find a new way to both be a hero and stop imitating All Might, especially with news that if he overexerts his arms any more he’ll have permanent, irreversible damage. That problems leads him to rediscovering an old friend from the Sports Festival, Mei Hatsume. She’s at the center of this episode’s comedic levity, leading to some solid visual gags, expressions, and potentially even some romantic tension in the mix for Deku and Ochaco. She’s a mad scientist excited to use any and all available test subjects for her experimental “babies,” and she’s just an absolute riot every time she appears.

After spending some time with her, Deku has a breakthrough about how to both reinvent his own fighting style and his costume: Instead of trying to just be All Might, he decides that he should try being Sanji instead, by fighting with KICKS! While kind of silly, it’s actually a genuinely cool moment where he has to step in and save All Might from falling debris, revealing his a snazzy new costume in the process. Deku’s new SHOOT STYLE technique is a logical reinvention of his fighting style; it both makes sense and works within consideration of his weakened arms.

This episode features a lot of setup, but it’s still really neat to see the way these characters continue to evolve regularly as this show goes on. It’s pretty standard fare, but there’s some solid jokes and visual gags, plus interesting stuff about the importance of Ultimate Moves and how one goes about updating one’s costume. It’s a lot of worldbuilding, but very importantly, it’s good worldbuilding.

Episode 53:

We see the aftermath of Deku’s reveal, alongside quick reveals about Kaminari and Kirshima’s new costumes (and I especially like Kirishima’s new design) but they don’t have time to explain it as Class-B has to train now. They’ll take the exam while at a different location from others in the school, so that no group has to clash too much. Monoma, the ass face from the Class 1-B, is both happy and relieved by this.

Plus we also get some casual banter among the ladies of 1-A about their training, while they don some casual garb, with Momo’s hair down and Tsuyu’s froggy bun style, alongside some romantic conversation. Ochaco admits to spacing out a bunch while Mina is able to tell clearly that yeah, she’s got feelings for someone, and she floats away in embarrassment. Small thing: while we, the viewers, know it’s Izuku she’s into, I appreciate there’s enough plausible deniability here that the girls feel it could be either Izuku or Tenya, as the trio all hang out regularly together. That’s just a nice little detail that could have been easily overlooked.

As the day of the exam arrives, there’s several new characters to introduce; naturally, since this exam has about 1500 applicants from all over the place. [Editor’s Note: Oh my God, how long is this series gonna be? I thought I could catch up!]

First up: Inasa. An eccentric guy who jumps into the conversation, and SLAMS HIS HEAD IN APOLOGY from a super popular school in the West: Shiketsu, one that rivals UA in its elite hero program. He’s got a splitting headache, but he’s strong and impressive enough to have been considered to apply to UA via recommendations, much like Todoroki and Momo. Goofy and charismatic, but strong enough to have been considered for UA, he has potential to be interesting.

Next up: a pro-hero who serves as the bane of Aizawa’s existence. She enjoys messing around with him, constantly expecting a major reaction out of him and often asking to get married. She’s eccentric and goofy, while he’s stoic and tired, and they make a great comic duo. She herself is a teacher at another school, Ketsubutsu Academy with a class of second-years, with slightly more experience than 1-A.

Then there’s one of her students, Shindo, A friendly guy with a pretty face (who kind of looks like a Dark, Cooler version of Deku in a weird way). He tries to be friendly and spark a conversation, but Bakugo quickly catches on that he’s being disingenuous and doesn’t truly mean what he says.

This arc is big with a lot of moving parts and new characters, and some weird exam rules. There’s a lot to digest, and the first round of the exam is revealed to be even crazier than you might have thought.

Everyone gets 3 mini-targets, and 6 rubber balls to hit the targets. Once all three targets on the body are hit, you’re out. Students need to knock out a minimum of two opponents to pass onto round 2. By the end of the exam, only 100 are expected to pass. The building opens up to reveal a major colosseum of obstacles, and everyone’s off to the races to embark on a time honored tradition (albeit one that Aizawa felt no need to mention to his students.)

At first it looks like things are going to play out a lot like the Sports Festival, but Aizawa knows his children: they’ve improved and can kick some major ass. As some students depart, Deku finds himself in a position of leadership to rally the class and take on the world as the episode ends. The two episodes have laid some important groundwork, but get ready for the real action to begin next week.

Connecting with My Hero Academia

[Hey guys, this is Andrew’s first post for Otakusphere. He’s a life-long anime fan with eclectic tastes who’s going to be covering My Hero Academia for us. Before getting caught up in episodic posts, we wanted to take a moment to let Andrew talk about what first drew him to the series.]

“Young Man, you too can be a hero.”

A phrase so simple, yet so powerful. Both in the context of the scene  itself, and what it’s come to mean to fans of the show. This was the moment that I felt this was going to be something very, very special.

But let’s start from the top.

My Hero Academia premiered in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine about 4 years ago, the magazine home to such monster hits as Naruto, One Piece, Dragonball, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and many more. Written by Kohei Horikoshi, MHA tells the story of a world where 80% of the world have superhuman powers called Quirks and Superheroes have become a regular profession; they have about the same level of authority as civil servants, like firefighters or police officers.

Izuku Midoriya is one of those 20% born without a quirk, despite his dream to be a hero all his own, much like his idol, All Might: a symbol of peace and one who represents the very best and brightest of heroism. One day, the two have a chance encounter that changes his life.

That’s the initial premise, and after some gradual buildup it becomes a Battle Shonen school setting with all of the friendships, rivalries, tournaments, awesome fights and major conflicts that are typical of the genre. But to say that MHA uses bog-standard genre trappings feels dishonest, in a way; the implication is that the show is uninspired because of the use of those tropes, or perhaps uses them poorly. I feel the opposite: To me, this is the show that reminded me what good shonen anime is truly capable of, and why so many classic series worked so well in the first place. It’s not the awesome action scenes that made the show resonate with me; it’s the show’s emotional core, which is always front and center.

Izuku Midoriya, given the nickname Deku, is effectively judged at a young age to be worthless, broken, and strange. He has no power or ability, therefore he’s seen as an outcast. His struggle to reach his dreams, despite not having powers, feels real, painful, and inspiring, all at once. The powerful All Might seems like the opposite of Deku, but he’s revealed to be much weaker than he lets on; His muscular form can only be sustained for so long, and he reverts to a skeletal stick figure of a man when not saving others.

All Might at first writes off Izuku as someone who has no chance at being a hero without a superpower.  However, during a major fight with a kidnapped student from Deku’s school, All Might cannot sustain his muscle form long enough to help. Everyone is helpless and has no clue what to do, until little Izuku– the powerless, quirkless little boy– rushes into the fray, to save a kid who has bullied him for years. He selflessly rushes in, when those with powers around him are unable or unwilling to rush to his aid, prompting All Might to act.

Which leads to the scene we started with: All Might commends Deku, even if no one else will, because while what Deku did was reckless(or even stupid), All Might saw something no one else did. He saw that Deku is the kind of person who is willing to rush in and react before he could think, all for the sole purpose of saving another. And in that moment, this kid…this kid, who had been told all his life that he could never reach his dream, that he could never do anything, that he was never going anywhere. Now someone he respected deeply had told him that he had the power to reach his dreams, and become a hero in a way that no one else could.

There’s so much I could write about when it comes to My Hero Academia, but that one moment spoke to my very core. I hadn’t felt that strongly about anything in a show for a long time, then this scene hit me in a way I didn’t think was possible. Izuku is sympathic to anyone who has ever felt loss, felt lesser, or looked down upon by society. No matter what your particular challenge is; be it a disability, mental illness, or a history of bullying– Izuku is someone you can see yourself in. And when All Might (so proud, noble, and respected) told him he could achieve his dreams?  It melted my heart. And I knew I was in love with My Hero Academia from the start.

Early on, the show endears you to the main character’s struggle. But even as the story goes on, you’re so engaged with him the whole way that it makes the entire journey, from zero to hero, so gratifying. All the battles, all the friendships, all the amazing moments he earns feel rewarding in a way that’s truly unusual. In a few episodes this show does to me what other series struggle to do for their entire runs.

There’s enough aspects of the world, characters, or the way the show tackles storytelling that could warrant their own article. [Editor’s note: I want that article. Get busy!] I am just here to say that I am a big MHA fan, caught up with the latest manga chapters, own all current English volumes of the manga and the collector’s editions for both Seasons 1 and 2 of the anime. Obviously, this is a series I’m greatly invested in, and I know that it has many more great stories to tell in the coming weeks. I hope you’ll join me.