I’ve not been reviewing the latest reason of My Hero Academia episode by episode as I had originally planned on doing before it started. But with the conclusion of this most recent story arc featuring the Yakuza and the villain Overhaul I felt like it was time to voice some of the feeling I have been having about the series thus far.
Now, “underwhelmed” seems like too negative a word to describe my actual feelings on the arc, which has been the first to really take Midoriya into the world of professional heroes on equal footing with them. So course we’re dragged into what seems like one of the most dangerous Hero operations possible.
This arc, which ran from episodes 2-14 of season four detailed the introduction of All Might’s only sidekick; Sir Nighteye. The series feels like is gets off to something of a slow start, doing so in order to quickly set the stage and introduce the players necessary for the coming raid on the Yakuza headquarters in order to recuse a little girl called Eri.
Giving us a better sense of the three agencies our U.A. students are working at, as well as giving a better sense of the Big Three after their introduction in the final episode of the previous season.
Before now, everything has felt something like a game. Certainly, the show made no bones about making every little thing Deku did in those first 12 episodes feel like an all or nothing, everything to prove and everything to lose event. And there have been no shortages of the kids being in life threatening situations either before now. But there was this sense of fun and excitement about it all.
All Might blasting the Nobu through the roof, Deku and Todoroki’s final clash during the sports festival and United States of Smash, even though they all had different contexts to them, there was this triumphant feeling about them, even though they all came at significant cost. But then again, putting You Say Run alongside any action scene would make is so many times more exciting.
This season has felt different to me though, as though some grim shadow has hung over it from the very beginning. Which might come from the actual grim shadow that has hung over the series that goes by the name Sir Nighteye.
Nighteye has been an odd character, his power is that of precognition, and with it has come this impending sense of doom. As the grim, seemingly inescapable futures paint pictures of All Might’s death, as well as the failure of the rescue team and his belief that Midoriya is not deserving of the power of One For All.
Here’s the thing, Midoriya is always the underdog, which is part of why his character continues to work for me as an archtypical shonen protagonist. Here though, it doesn’t feel like he’s even been given a chance. Nor the rest of the team as they assault the Yakuza hidehout to get Eri back.
One by one, we see these characters we’ve been introduced to go up against enemies and come out on top, but only marginally. First Suneater, then Kirishima, then (most gallingly) Togata. Overhaul himself is actually a pretty terrifying villain for them to come up against. While Stain was merciless in his crusade against heroes, and All for One was scary powerful, Overhaul’s ability to simply end people with a mere touch makes him even scarier.
And defeating him comes at the cost of Togata’s quirk and Nighteye’s life.
It comes dangerously close to being the end of Midoriya’s life too, if not for Eri’s intervention and the activation of her quirk. The final battle between Deku and Overhaul is the most visually impressive moments of this season thus far, and yet it doesn’t feel as triumphant as the final battles with the villains of previous arcs have felt.
While I could easily say it’s because of the cost required to get there, in reality, the reason behind this is because, for once, Deku is not the underdog in this fight. Looking back at all of Deku’s major fights before now, he has been the underdog, needing to prove himself despite the handicaps of his lack of experience, ability or the fact that his own quirk hurts him worse than his opponent can. (Even All Might’s two major battles have painted him as an underdog despite how ridiculously overpowered has has been painted as being.)
This time though, thanks to Eri’s powers, Deku and go all out and use one for all at 100%, giving us a glimpse at the hero he can eventually become. And because of this, the perspective of this fight shifts from that of Deku to that of Overhaul. And while he is a powerful combatant, able to manipulate his own body at will become a towering monstrosity, he is utterly powerless against the successor to All Might.
Which is why this final battle feels a little deflating compared to the others. Because we’re seeing Deku from Overhaul’s perspective, we see him, not as this doofy, fluffy-haired school kid, but as this terrifying monster full of righteous anger. It’s this weird look again at the dark side of being a hero. There’s a lot that could be read into this, like needing a monster to battle a monster, but I’m not buying that considering how All Might operated and how Deku is supposed to become even greater than him.
I’m feeling a bit bummed out about My Hero right now, not because of the quality of the show, but simply how much harsher this past arc has been. Despite the introduction of more light hearted characters like Fat Gum, it feels like being a hero isn’t all that fun anymore. I get that this is eventually going to be the point, I mean all shonen anime get there eventually when the stakes get higher and higher.
But this season has been pretty focused on Deku and this mostly newly introduced cast of characters, with our favourites only getting a few fleeting scenes here and there. It’s been an interesting change of pace, but seeing Deku come into his own as a hero for the first time in a professional sense comes with this twinge of regret and apprehension, as the first time we see Deku going all out, he seems terrifying.
I’m not sure if that’s what Horikoshi San was going for in the manga, but it adds an element of Deku’s future as a hero or potentially a villain that doesn’t resonate with the rest of the series as it’s been present so far. I mean the intro literally states it as being the story of how he becomes the “greatest hero”. So in the end, I guess my biggest concern ends up being one of tone, from what I understand probably isn’t going to be an issue these next few arcs.