Reviewby Nick Creamer,
My Hero Academia Season 2
Episodes 14-38 streaming
Having survived an encounter with actual villains, Midoriya and his classmates now face an even greater challenge: the U.A. Sports Festival! Pitting all of U.A.'s promising young heroes against each other, the sports festival is a nationally televised event that could even dictate the potential futures of these heroes-to-be. Still lacking the precise control necessary to truly master his quirk, Midoriya will have to summon all his wiles to beat his talented classmates on the field of battle. And even if he triumphs at the sports festival, there are more rigorous scholastic challenges waiting, and the threat of the League of Villains lurking in the background. The path to heroism isn't getting any easier.
Just one year after My Hero Academia's first season began, its sequel came barreling out the gate, offering a smorgasbord of new heroic adventures. I was excited to see the adaptation continue, but also wary about a repeat of the first season's issues. As I discussed in my review of that season, while BONES offered a serviceable take on the material, their slow pace of adaptation drew a great deal of the energy out of the manga's stories. With twice as many episodes in this new season, it seemed possible that we'd get an even more drawn-out production that was more concerned with conserving source material than presenting the best possible anime.
Fortunately, My Hero Academia's second season has entirely dashed my fears, offering a tightly paced production that even improves on the manga's material at times. Arcs and battles move quickly, to the point where the show could probably have afforded to spend more time on its less plot-critical fights. My Hero Academia's second season isn't a perfect show, but it is a sturdy shonen vehicle offering well-realized entertainment. If you enjoy shows about young heroes with noble hearts beating the tar out of each other, this season makes it feel like My Hero Academia has finally, truly arrived.
Beyond its generally snappier pacing, My Hero Academia's second season is also lucky enough to adapt some extremely strong source material. My Hero Academia's first season spent a great deal of its running time in origin story preamble, and by the time it ended, we'd only learned about perhaps half a dozen members of Class 1-A. By contrast, the sequel leaps into action with a dynamic tournament arc, simultaneously offering compelling action setups and welcome insight into a greater spread of Midoriya's classmates. This tournament arc comprises the entire first half of season two and represents My Hero Academia at its absolute best.
Great shonen stories tend to compose their conflicts so they work on three levels: tactical action, character development, and overarching themes. The tournament arc of season two's first half offers a clear and compelling articulation of this, building up to a stunning confrontation between Midoriya and his morose classmate Todoroki. On the tactical level, Midoriya's self-destructive quirk forces him to constantly improvise to succeed, while the diverse quirks of his classmates prompt all manner of unique showdowns. On the character level, this arc offers continuous insight into Midoriya's classmates, fleshing out characters like Ochako and Todoroki to the point where they can easily carry episodes by themselves. And on the thematic front, this tournament arc applies My Hero Academia's general belief in the importance of heroes as inspiration to the specific context of familial inheritance, resulting in an often brutal but ultimately empowering examination of how parents shape the course of their children's lives. This tournament arc was an early high point in the My Hero Academia manga, and the adaptation's propulsive pacing and animation highlights make it a joy in motion.
At times, this season actually improves on the source material. The Hero Killer arc that follows the tournament was a bit muddled both visually and narratively in its original form, lacking clear focus and occasionally losing track of the action in the middle of its battles. This adaptation works hard to overcome those issues, lending clarity to its conflicts and maintaining the overarching thread of villain Shigaraki's mental state. Neither this arc nor the finals arc that follows can really match the consistent strength of the tournament arc, but the adaptation generally makes the most of the story it's given.
As far as that story goes, both My Hero Academia's strengths and weaknesses still echo its adherence to the Shonen Jump formula. At its best, My Hero Academia's refinement and execution of staples like the tournament arc can result in visually transcendent and emotionally resonant highlights. The diversity and smart application of the show's various powers make almost all its fights a unique treat, where the show can be satisfying even if a fight has almost no relevance to any overarching conflict. The show's characters remain charming on the whole, and the world continues to develop at a steady pace. My Hero Academia is an eminently watchable example of its genre.
On the downside, the show is also totally beholden to that genre's limitations. Personal conflicts resolve neatly, and arcs can generally be predicted from their first episode on. Predictability isn't necessarily a narrative sin, but there's an unwelcome sense of security in knowing the apple will never fall too far from the tree here. On top of that, My Hero Academia is still very much a boy's story—though Ochako gets some strong material and the show at least tries to give Yaoyorozu a personal arc, the male characters get far more focus on the whole, and Mineta continues to be an aggravating source of “isn't harassing girls funny” jokes.
Aesthetically, My Hero Academia's second season is a near mirror of the first. There's a slightly heavier load of top-tier animation highlights, but the show generally sticks to a clean and appealing art design, neatly matching the thick and striking linework of the manga. The Hero Killer arc does a great job of conveying Stain's menace through menacing screen-filling compositions, and most episodes are blessed with one or two strong cuts of action animation. Once again, the tournament arc comes out the best here: Midoriya and Todoroki's fight is one of the best action spectacles of the year, and several other fights are nearly as thrilling. The music remains more of a role-player, but it still offers a solid mix of roaring orchestral anthems.
On the whole, My Hero Academia's second season offers a marked improvement over its predecessor and leaves me eagerly awaiting season three. BONES are doing right by this material, and with some of the manga's strongest arcs coming soon, I can't wait to see how this team brings them to life. If you were on board with the first season, this one's a welcome upgrade; if you were on the fence, season two might still be worth a try.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Snappier pacing makes for an overall stronger experience, adaptation does great justice to some excellent shonen arcs
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