It occurs to me that I haven’t spent any time on my blog taking about My Hero Academia, despite the fact that it’s become one of my favourite anime of the last few years. As a shameless enjoyer of Shonen, Boku no Hīrō Academia is the perfect example of keeping a genre close to its tropes, but just doing them all incredibly well.
I binged through the first two series last summer before catching up having having to do the agonising weekly wait to see the final few episodes of the second series. The series won me over with its earnest characters, a seemingly never ending escalation of hype and apparent high stakes for every little thing that happened. Season 3 steps back from that slightly, like it’s settled into its own skin, but it doesn’t make me love the show any less.
A Series that’s Settled
The main difference seen in the third season of My Hero was that the show had finally slowed down somewhat, happy to focus a little more on the characters and their relationships while not necessarily making every little thing feel packed with high raw emotion.
Which isn’t to say those highs weren’t there, in fact the show’s highs felt even higher than those of the previous series. Maybe it was because the peaks felt less frequent that they felt even more impactful when compared to the valleys.
Let me give an example, the first series make every little thing feel like a dire situation. Midoriya was wound so tightly when it came to the prospect of failure that every little thing he did felt like a life or death situation. The U.A. entrance exams, the physical exams after that, the mock battle against Bakugo and the rescue facility arc that ended the first series. Every time the show made it feel like a series finale.
And that was all just within 13 episodes, yet I never left the edge of my seat the entire time.
It feels like the need to constantly present stakes for every situation has lessened. In the time since then Midoriya has proven himself to his classmates and his teachers, despite his rocky start using his quirk (that’s what they call their powers). We aren’t thrown from situation to situation anymore but get more time to reflect and have some genuine character moments. At least, it feels that way. There is a still a hell of a lot going on. The prospect of failure doesn’t always seem as harrowing anymore though.
My Hero’s Heart is still as evident as ever
I talk about season three as though it took a step back from the action to give us more episodes about room decoration. That’s not the case, on looking back, the third series packs a hell of a lot of crazy action set pieces into it 25 episodes. The change, for me at least, was that these battles didn’t feel like the main draw of the show.
I initially stuck with My Hero to see the climactic, hype battles against Todoroki at the Sports Festival or Stain after that. Fights that stuck in my mind for days or weeks after they happened. But now, I find myself suddenly very invested in the relationship between Midoriya and All Might and how it compares to the one between the series villains; All for One and his protege Shigaraki.
It’s telling two different master/pupil stories simultaneously, both who have different approaches and both of which are reaping different results. It’s an example of how my focus in the series has changed, while I enjoy the over the top Shonen battles, they’re not my favourite thing about the show anymore.
One character who exemplifies this change in the show more than anything is the growth of Bakugo. Starting off as a prickly bully character, an atypical rival to Midoriya, this series showed there was a lot more to him than there first appeared. Bakugo is a person who has all the potential to be the number 1 hero, only let down by his personality being total crap.
You already have a perfect comparison for how he might end in the form of Endeavour; Todoroki’s father who sat at number 2 for a long time is a powerful hero, but is a terrible person at the same time. While he might be ranked number 1 now, he has nowhere near the impact on the criminal underworld that All Might did. Something Bakugo doesn’t want to become despite how he seems on the surface.
The dive into Bakugo’s character this season has been one of the things that shows just how intelligent a writer and artist Kōhei Horikoshi is. He knows his medium and has toyed with his reader’s assumptions and expectations the entire time.
The whole plan to kidnap Bakugo and convert him to the League of Villains feels like a move lifted straight out of Naruto, and yet the event is one that kick starts a massive shift in Bakugo’s character. We start to see past his rough and ready facade and how he really does have the potential to be one of the best.
I used to hate Bakugo. After this season, he’s one of my favourite characters.
But the hype is still here
Do I need to say anymore than “United States of Smash”? The final confrontation between All Might and All for One is an incredible payoff. While the fight between Midoriya and Muscular fell a little flat for me, lacking the raw emotion and ideals held by both parties that make the fights in My Hero so effecting, this one did all that and more.
Like I said at the top, the high stakes, emotional battles are fewer and further between in this series, but when they happen it makes them all the more impactful. Nothing in the series comes close to this moment, even the fight at the end between Midoriya and Bakugo felt like it needed another few minutes dedicated to it.
Honestly though, the series would be exhausting if every other episode had the high emotion and hype of the first series. Now we’re in the third series, and our ensemble cast is more established, I am enjoying seeing the other characters get their moments of growth and spending more time fleshing out the wider world of heroes and villains outside of the school.
Was there anything I didn’t like?
Yeah actually; Ochako Uraraka. I’ve liked Uraraka a lot throughout. Her own personal journey throughout the early parts of the show were a combination of cute and badass I really liked. This series though, she has been stuck in a rut. Towards the end of the second season, she released she had a crush on Midoriya, and hasn’t been able to get past these whole 25 episodes.
Romance in Shonen always bugs the hell out of me. It’s all awkwardness and nobody ever voicing how they actually feel, then boom; a time skip happens and they’re married. I don’t have an issue with the pairing as a concept, but Uraraka’s feelings on Deku actively weaken her character right now. When she is on screen, Deku is her overriding thought above all else. She is throwing Midoriya wistful glances and little else, how own journey to being a professional hero seems stunted.
Kōhei Horikoshi has been so good at misdirecting and playing with our expectations of Shonen tropes so far in My Hero, I honestly hope he is going somewhere with this character because it’s a glaring weakness of an otherwise fantastic anime.
My Hero Academia is the best Shonen going right now, in my humble opinion. The show has a huge ensemble cast and yet every single character introduced has something about them that makes them memorable and likeable, even if I can’t remember their names. Early on in the series I kept pulling a face and thinking it felt weaker than the series that came before, but by the time we got to All Might fighting All for One, I was suddenly 1,000,000% on board.
It’s the best Shonen going, and if you are a fan of the genre and somehow you’re not watching this… What the hell’s wrong with you?