Reviewby Nick Creamer,
My Hero Academia S3 Part 1 Limited Edition [Bluray + DVD]
Having narrowly passed their final semester exams, Midoriya and his friends are ready for the summer! Though the work of a hero-in-training is never truly done, the students of Class 1-A at least get to enjoy a change in venue, as they head out for an intensive training camp lead by some colorful new heroes. But shortly after they arrive, the League of Villains make their presence known through their boldest strike yet, as they embark on a direct attack on society's future guardians. Can Midoriya and his friends stand up to these foes, and can even All Might match the strength of their sinister leader?
My Hero Academia's first few seasons have covered a winding series of arcs and adventures, as Midoriya has entered U.A. Academy and received his first taste of heroic responsibility. He's overcome significant challenges, defeated strong opponents and been defeated in turn, and gained trusted friends, across a narrative that has expanded to encompass an entire superheroic society. But throughout all of these adventures, My Hero Academia has maintained a tight thematic focus on what it frames as the essence of heroism: the ability to inspire others to greatness, and make heroes of us all.
This theme has echoed throughout Midoriya's journey from the start. He was granted entrance to U.A. specifically because he inspired Ochako to action, and arcs like the sports festival and Stain attack have grappled with the ambiguous nature of influence, and how parents or public figures can inspire us in both a positive and negative direction. It's also baked into My Hero Academia's basic conceit; Midoriya was emotionally “inspired to action” by All Might before All Might literally granted him the power to fight, and since then, the two have adopted a relationship much like parent and child. Here in My Hero Academia's third season, that initial paradigm is finally broken, as All Might at last exchanges blows with his arch-enemy All For One. Heroes can inspire us to action, but no hero is eternal; in My Hero Academia's third season, we at last arrive at the end of Midoriya's childhood, and the climax of this story's first overarching act.
Before that climax, though, there's plenty of other action to enjoy. The first half of these episodes is taken up by a training camp arc, where dedicated quirk-strengthening practice is interrupted by a League of Villains abduction squad. After two full seasons of getting to know class 1-A, these episodes serve as a thrilling celebration of My Hero Academia's ensemble approach to action and storytelling. Scattered across several miles of woods as they're simultaneously ambushed, both 1-A and 1-B's students are forced to collaborate and strategize at lightning speed, as Kōhei Horikoshi torments them with an inventive new squad of villains.
My Hero Academia's fights always tend to be grounded in clear tactical fundamentals, and these battles are further grounded through the coherent physicality of their forest setting. There is a real sense of panic and urgency to these battles, coupled with the inherent thrill of seeing long-time classmates collaborate in a life-or-death situation. The summer training arc is messy and desperate and tense from start to finish, as our favorite heroes are faced with a trial that emphatically demonstrates their protectors can no longer protect them.
After the summer camp attack ends with one student abducted and the heroes in disarray, the second half of these episodes are dedicated to a rescue operation that culminates in a no-holds-barred brawl between All Might and his nemesis, League of Villains benefactor All For One. At the same time, Midoriya and his friends go behind their teachers' backs, attempting a separate rescue operation of their own. Though My Hero Academia has often emphasized the consequences of reckless action, being forced to collaborate with classmates like Iida and Yaoyorozu gives this arc a welcome focus on responsibility, with Iida at one point even slapping Midoriya for his “heroic” selfishness. Though these characters have disagreed before, it's remarkably satisfying to see how their divergent perspectives on heroism, and what they've learned from their past trials, lead them to violently opposing views on what “doing the right thing” truly means.
And of course, there are the fights. Kenji Nagasaki's direction has at times been a little conservative, but has always lent a sense of majesty and impact to My Hero Academia's drama, and that's still true of season three. Both the strengths and weaknesses of Nagasaki's approach are clear in the training camp arc. His direction brings a sense of clarity and impact to many of the battles, but at the same time, originally stunning concepts like Tokoyami's quirk raging out of control are far less impressive in anime than manga.
Instead of truly reimagining the terror of facing Dark Shadow through unique layouts or fluid animation, Nagasaki instead simply replicates the original manga panels, conveying a theoretical dramatic highlight through a quick series of static cuts. As Kōhei Horikoshi continues to rely on stunning two-page spreads for his dramatic manga moments, I really hope Nagasaki discovers a way to convey the impact of those spreads in a manner that actually takes advantage of anime's unique aesthetic tools, instead of simply redrawing and coloring them.
But while the Tokoyami encounter is a bit of a letdown, this season's more traditional battles are absolute stunners. Both Midoriya's mid-season battle and All Might's season-ending bout count among My Hero Academia's most impressive feats to date, with the All Might battle in particular standing as the show's greatest visual accomplishment altogether. Characters twirl and punch in a thrilling marriage of grounded, weighty choreography and imaginative, rough-edged linework, the whole world watching as All Might battles for the very concept of a society based on empathy and mutual responsibility. Here in season three, My Hero Academia's thoughts on heroic inheritance arrive at a stunning peak, an anthemic plea to care for others, and live in such a way that you inspire future heroes in turn. All Might's battle is simultaneously a fiercely personal fight and a battle for a whole way of life; his raised fist a rallying cry for all those who desire a kinder world, and are brave enough to fight for it.
The first half of My Hero Academia's third season comes in a remarkably sturdy chipboard case, with enough spare room to also house the coming second half. Physical extras are numerous; there are character-specific cards detailing their stats and quirks, a Bakugo keychain, and even flat plastic cutouts of Bakugo and Midoriya with included stands. There's also an art book, and this one doesn't waste any time with episode summaries or anything - it's packed with production art from start to finish, offering character art and key animation sketches from many of this season's biggest moments.
The extra features continue on the disks themselves. Along with the usual promos, trailers, and textless opening/ending songs, this collection also includes videos of two interviews from Anime Expo 2018: one with Midoriya's Japanese voice actor Daiki Yamashita, and one with musical composer Yuki Hayashi. Hayashi's interview in particular offers an illuminating look into the practical mechanics of anime music production, as he runs through the logistics of composing a soundtrack for animation that doesn't actually exist yet.
I particularly liked his description of seeking “not visuals plus music, but visuals times music,” wherein the soundtrack doesn't just accompany the visuals, but actually multiplies the emotional impact of the scene. Charmingly, he also refused to bite at the promotion-minded “how did you react when you learned there would be a My Hero Academia movie,” responding with the frank, “well yeah, it's a popular series, I assumed there'd be a movie.” Like in the previous collections' interviews, the questions tended to be pretty superficial (“what Quick do you wish you had?”, etc), but Hayashi's answers consistently went in thoughtful directions beyond the scope of the initial question.
Along with those creator interviews, this collection also contains an outtakes reel from the show's dub sessions, as well as four separate “Inside the Episode” videos featuring the english voice actors in studio. I'd expected these to be similar to your standard episode commentaries, and was pleasantly surprised to discover they were actually quite different - they were clips from the actual dubbing sessions, featuring the voice actors and dub director in conversation as they recorded various scenes of the show. These videos serve as a fun, irreverent look to into the nitty-gritty of dub production, and felt both more instructive and more personal than your average commentary track. There are lots of good moments throughout, but personally, I think my favorite must have been Chris Sabat (the voice of All Might) perpetually tearing up during the recording of his character's climactic battle.
All in all, this is a terrific collection, fitting for what might well be the strongest set of episodes in the show so far. My Hero Academia's anime is a ringing paean to the power of positive inspiration, and it seems to only get more visually and narratively ambitious as its story continues. If you're a fan of the series, this collection is a must-have.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : A-
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Offers some of the most thrilling and beautifully animated battles of My Hero Academia so far, along with a welcome broadening of its narrative reach, all in a sumptuously decorated package.
|discuss this in the forum ||
Full encyclopedia details about