Man, where did that past week go. I was half way through writing a review of episode 84 and then before I know it, 85 is already out. But if there were any two episodes to double up, these would be as a good couple as I was going to get, as they feature the beginning and the conclusion of the battle between Deku and Gentle Criminal.
I’ll just say it: This is the most I’ve enjoyed season 4 since it started. It’s only after seeing it that I’ve come to realise what I enjoy the most about Horikoshi’s world of heroes and which aspects of his stories I get the most out of. And Gentle Criminal is an amazing example of the complexities and layers to this hero society.
Gentle is certainly a criminal, but he’s also a good person. His main motivation of breaking into the school festival is mainly to prove himself, and Midoriya wants to stop him because he realises how much work everyone has put into the event, and what a big step it could potentially be towards Eri’s recovery.
The stakes aren’t life and death, but they still feel sky high. And that reminds me of exactly why I loved the first two seasons of My Hero so much. This show is at its best when the stakes are purely emotional. The worst thing that could come out of Gentle’s plan would amount to a huge bummer for the students of U.A. and yet the show makes it feel much more important than that.
Even more so than the raid on the Yakuza hideout did at times.
Rescuing Eri was important, but knowing just how much this scheme means to both Midoriya and Gentle makes their battle all that more impactful, akin the to the final clash between Midoriya and Todoroki back at the school festival. Because we like Gentle, these episodes delve into both his and La Brava’s backstories. Thus we feel for him and how society let them both down.
Like many people in this world, Gentle wanted to be a hero, but was held back by his intelligence, at least when it came to exams anyway. He certainly had the heart and determination to be a hero but was simply told “no” by everyone around him. Even after giving up, he still tried to help a man in danger, only to inadvertently make things worse. The consequence was that he was vilified, for just trying to do the right thing.
But the simple lack of a hero licence made it so people lashed out at him, even his own parents threw him out. Which make them the true villains of this entire arc for me. They must have known more than anyone what a good heart Gentle had and yet they cast him away regardless.
Which is what turned Gentle to deciding that, if he couldn’t be a hero, then he’d become a criminal. Despite that sob story, Gentle wasn’t blameless in all of this. While a good guy, it seems like the main motivation for him becoming a hero was a desperation for fame and recognition, more than it being about simply doing the right thing.
Yet we do have professional heroes such as Endeavor and Mt. Lady who do seem to be in the game for purely self serving reasons. Hell, even Uraraka has stated her desires to be a hero are mostly financial. It’s just one of the many layers why the hero society in this story is so flawed, complex and fascinating to study.
People like Gentle and La Brava were driven to being criminals because society let them down and told them they couldn’t be heroes, despite the fact that they have a capacity and a desire to do so. It’s an extreme reflection of our own world and the many people whose talents and desires are being squandered in the retail and service industry.
The show itself makes the more direct comparison between Gentle and Deku though. With Deku reflecting that, had he not met All Might and be told that the could become a hero, maybe he would have become a criminal, lashing out at society like Gentle. It’s through his connection with his friend and Gentle’s connection with La Brava that the two end up coming to understand one another to some extent.
By the time the fight was over, I felt bad for Gentle. Midoriya wins, despite the love power-up from La Brava, and Deku tells him that he was the toughest opponent he’d ever fought. Now between Stain, Muscular, Bakugo and Overhaul, I don’t believe him for a second. But I like to think this little lie is told because he does feel that sympathy and connection to Gentle, and wants to make him feel better somewhat.
The real highlight of the second episode is the relationship between Gentle and La Brava, which is so sweet, to the extent that he draws on his face with marker pen to make her feel better about the dark rings around her eyes. The two accept one another where society let them down and rejected them, it’s just a shame that the pair continued down the path of the petty criminal after they met and didn’t become vigilantes instead.
These two episodes have been my favourite of the entire season so far, cramming so much character and emotion into something that really only means very little in the grand scheme of things. While I never actually wanted Gentle to succeed, I feel bad for the road that took him down this path in his life and that he couldn’t self correct, even after meeting La Brava and discovering something more important than his own selfish, and yet selfless desires.
My Hero is a great action show, but it’s at its best when stripping people and society down to their foundations and laying them bare. I’d take a half dozen more mini arcs like this, with pure personal stakes and high emotion, than another long one like the Overhaul arc, with a villain what ends up coming across as a pure psychopath.