My Hero Academia
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 105 of
My Hero Academia (TV 5) ?
Welcome back everyone! After a fun little side adventure last week, it's time to get back into the swing of things in the main plot of My Intensely Uncomfortable Domestic Drama, the animation sensation that's sweeping the nation!
I'm only slightly joking. Despite the dramatic name, “The Hellish Todoroki Family” is easily the most mundane episode of this whole series, and if it weren't for the spandex costumes you would never think this installment was from a cartoon about caped crime fighters. While Deku and The Boys' hero training gets a bit of focus, it's mostly to establish they're still grinding away trying to catch up to Endeavor. They're working hard, figuring things out a little at a time, but it's all stuff that isn't terribly exciting to see in a TV show, so MHA wisely decides to focus on the progression – or lack thereof – for another character: Endeavor.
Of course, his journey is a thousand times more complicated than just gaining job experience. Since his series of personal revelations last season, the question facing Endeavor as a character and MHA as an ongoing narrative has been: what, if anything, can he do to make up for how he destroyed his family's – and especially Rei and Shota's – lives? As a topic for a cartoon about superheroes to handle, that's about as loaded as they come, and it's largely been sitting there, hovering behind every scene with a Todoroki in it like a specter since the start of this season.
As well it should, honestly. I don't want to reiterate everything I've said on this storyline beforehand, but when handling such a sensitive topic, the show needs to take its time and introduce as much nuance as possible to avoid cheapening the entire story in an extremely insulting way. MHA has tackled dark or complicated ideas before this, but always still under the guise of superpowered battles and moments of shonen heroism. That just can't happen here. The Todoroki family's story is grounded in direct, real-world emotions with nothing to obfuscate it, and solving things through a heroic speech or dramatic fight scene would be the biggest misstep possible. If there's any resolution to be had here, it needs to be through the characters speaking and taking action outside the strictures of an action cartoon, and while this show has proven itself in many ways, that's one place I'm still not sure it can deliver.
But again, I'm grateful things are nuanced enough that I at least have hope that this story can progress in a way that isn't insulting. Far too many of MHA's shonen peers have attempted similar ideas and fallen flat on their face in trying to “redeem” their abusive parent characters (Hey there Food Wars, what the hell was that last arc?), so the fact I can have this conversation with the series at all is a godsend. And that mostly comes down to the character writing – every member of the Todoroki clan is written with enough complexity that I can understand how each of them feel, while also recognizing the show itself isn't siding with any one perspective. Natsuo can barely tolerate being around his father, a constant reminder of the hurt his mother and sibling faced when he was too young and powerless to do anything. Fuyumi is desperate to build upon the progress both Shoto and Rei have shown, and to bring some semblance of peace back to their family. Rei herself is determined to recover and be a mother for her children, especially now that Shoto has reunited with her. These are all deeply human and understandable feelings, and the show has so far managed to portray all of these conflicting feelings with grace, and I genuinely appreciate that.
And then there's Shoto, who finds himself wedged somewhere in between all of them. There are a few different ways to take Deku's observation that Shoto is “getting ready so [he] can forgive” Endeavor, depending on how you view forgiveness as a concept. For me, at least, forgiveness isn't about absolution for the perpetrator, but catharsis for the victim – it's a means for those who have been hurt to solidify separating themselves from the hurt inflicted upon them, in whatever form that takes. So to me, that line reads not as Shoto wanting to let his abusive father off easy, but rather hoping to finally grow past him, to stop feeling defined by his abuse and focus on rebuilding the family he's only barely known. It's still a thorny way to phrase such a sentiment, especially through the mouth of our main character, but that's my take on it at least. It's a statement about who Shoto is and where he is in his own healing process, and a potentially powerful one depending on how this all shakes out.
So in all those gnarled emotions he helped create, what exactly should Endeavor be doing? Wanting to change for the better is all well and good, but if he truly wants to atone for all the awful things he's done, he needs to take tangible, concrete action to ensure his victims can rebuild their lives with as much peace as possible. I suspect his own conscience has told him the answer already – that dream of his family living happily without him might be sad for the guy, but if Endeavor's serious about being a better person, then what he wants doesn't matter in the face of what's best for those he hurt. Now it's a question of whether he can accept that, or if all this talk of atonement was ultimately lip service.
That's heavy, like everything to do with this plotline, and yet somehow MHA found a way to make it just that little bit more complicated in its closing moments. We've heard a few brief mentions of Toya Todoroki before, and we definitely saw three siblings in Shoto's flashback, but the character himself has been conspicuously absent in the present day. Now we know why: Toya is dead, he apparently died very young, and the smart money says Endeavor's quest for generational supremacy had something to do with it – it would make sense that Shoto wasn't the only child burdened by their father's ambitions. There are a million possible implications to that, and since the episode ends on this reveal it's hard to say what we're supposed to do with it besides gawk at this family being even more of a mess than we previously believed. I suppose we'll just have to see.
So yeah, this episode is A Lot, and it's likely going to continue that way so long as we're around Endeavor. It's enough to make you feel as awkward as Deku and Bakugo do at this dysfunctional family dinner (Bakugo, by the way, provides the saving grace of humor this episode and thank goodness for it), but it's the kind of awkward I appreciate. It's borne out of the emotions of these characters and the genuinely difficult and challenging place they've been put in by the story. While this kind of episode is a departure from MHA's typical approach – and is a bit too reliant on flashbacks to remind us of every single piece of relevant dialogue – it has the writing chops to back it up, and I'm very much interested in seeing how all this evolves in the coming episodes.
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