Reviewby Nick Creamer,
My Hero Academia - Season 3 Part 2 [BLURAY + DVD]
The era of All Might has ended. Though his final battle ended in a triumphant victory and the defeat of his nemesis All For One, it also signaled the end of the Symbol of Peace's guardianship of society - and with All Might retired, can a society brimming with superhuman Quirks maintain order at all? The responsibility is now on Midoriya and his fellow students to take up All Might's mantle, as they set on their sights on victory in their provisional license exams. Competing against heroes-in-training from all across the country, Midoriya and his classmates will once again have to prove their strength - and that they are ready to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.
In retrospect, the first two and a half seasons of My Hero Academia could very reasonably be considered the “Era of All Might,” and grouped together as a sort of meta-arc connoting the first act of this story. All Might is this portion's beginning and its end; he is Midoriya's inspiration for pursuing heroism, trainer along the way, supporter approaching a surrogate father, and ultimately the man whose sacrifice leaves Midoriya and his fellow students as inheritors of his title. Even beyond his role in Midoriya's own life, the first act of My Hero Academia exists within a world defined by All Might's presence - and with him having retired, both My Hero Academia's internal world and narrative structure are beginning to change.
As is often the case when narratives start to transform like this, the back half of My Hero Academia's third season feels somewhat bound by a variety of growing pains. With the conflict the show has spent its whole first act foreshadowing resolved, these episodes must necessarily dedicate some time to fleshing out My Hero Academia's larger world, including the introduction of new heroes and villains as the story begins to grapple with the state of society as a whole. Stranded between the retirement of All Might and the rise of Overhaul, the back half of this season feels a bit like a collection of dramatic odds and ends - the resolution of one era and the preamble of another, rather than a purposeful and cohesive act in its own right.
Fortunately, Kōhei Horikoshi seems to understand that at times like this, it's best to go back to the fundamentals. The larger portion of these episodes is consumed by the provisional license exam, a tournament-esque contest harkening back to season two's spectacular sports festival. After a long stretch of episodes focused exclusively on Midoriya and his closest friends, the license exam offers an opportunity for My Hero Academia to once again embrace its initial, ensemble appeal, as every member of Class 1-A struggles for victory. Season three even goes beyond the original manga, adding in a fully anime-original episode's worth of challenges for Yaoyorozu, Tsuyu, and several other of 1-A's consistently underutilized heroes to tackle.
My Hero Academia's license exam arc demonstrates several of this franchise's greatest strengths, while also occasionally feeling hampered by its most consistent weaknesses. The introduction of Shiketsu High School's students adds a welcome injection of new personalities and new powers to My Hero Academia's roster, resulting in some of the most creative and dynamic battles of the story so far. When My Hero Academia is focusing exclusively on Midoriya, it can feel pretty similar to a lot of other shonen dramas - but in the context of the school-based license exam, My Hero Academia is able to stretch its wings and imagine more distinctive and collaborative battles. Seeing Bakugo, Kirishima, and Kaminari team up and demonstrate new powers, or Yaoyorozu successfully leading a full squad, are satisfying rewards that embody what is unique to My Hero Academia: its wide roster of characters who are all able to take center stage, and who have developed strong and satisfying bonds with the classmates beside them.
Unfortunately, there are definitely times when My Hero Academia's aim exceeds its grasp. Kōhei Horikoshi's original manga tends to put extreme emphasis on still visual spreads - single jaw-dropping images that often encompass entire pages, and demonstrate the power or wonder of some specific Quirk through the capturing of a single moment. These moments are wonderful, but translating their appeal into animation demands more than simply recreating those images - it demands reinvisioning their power in motion, as is fitting for a medium defined by movement.
Unfortunately, as in this season's earlier conflicts, the My Hero Academia anime often seems content merely to recreate the still images of its source material, rather than bring those images to life. My Hero Academia's extreme loyalty to the paneling of its source material has been the production's greatest weakness ever since the first season, but rarely has its drama felt so undercut by visual shortcomings as in the license exam arc. The visual majesty of something like Inasa Yaoroshi's wind powers is entirely lost in translation, making for an often frustrating adaptive experience.
Fortunately, when My Hero Academia wants to go all-out, it can still pull off some of the most satisfying fights in the business. In spite of these episodes largely lacking much sense of cohesiveness or natural momentum, season three still rises to a thrilling peak in the form of Midoriya and Bakugo's brutal rematch. I know yearning for all episodes to match a long-running production's peaks is industry-ignorant foolishness on the scale of “why don't they make the whole plane out of the black box,” but it's hard to watch Midoriya and Bakugo's battle and not wish all this show's fights were so spectacular.
The second half of My Hero Academia's third season comes in a standard slipcase and bluray case, intended to fit into the chipboard box that came with the season's first half. That means this collection comes with fewer physical extras than the show's standard - in fact, there are only three art cards accompanying the show's blurays and DVDs. However, the on-disc extras continue the franchise's trend of including plentiful content starring the production's dub stars, with this collection featuring interviews with Deku, Bakugo, and Mirio's voice actors, along with the ADR director. Combine that with two more “inside the episode” videos featuring the cast actually in studio, along with some assorted dub outtakes, and you end up with a collection that has bountiful goodies for any dub fans to appreciate.
On the whole, the second half of My Hero Academia's third season is definitely one of the franchise's weakest segments so far. Lacking the narrative focus or dramatic appeal of something like the sports festival or All Might's battle, these episodes demonstrate the franchise taking tentative steps towards an entirely new paradigm, while still suffering from its long-term issues of adapting comic action into visual movement. That said, “somewhat shaky My Hero Academia” is still a very entertaining anime, with the show's action highlights and the appeal of its broad, dynamic cast ably counterbalancing these episodes' particular shortcomings. My Hero Academia may not have yet found its post-All Might footing, but this is still a rewarding journey.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B
+ The provisional license exam arc allows all of Class 1-A's heroes to strut their stuff, and individual highlights like the Midoriya-Bakugo duel are spectacular.
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