My Hero Academia
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 113 of
My Hero Academia (TV 5) ?
Well, it's been a hell of a trip getting here, but it's time once again for MHA to return to its seasonal slumber. Unlike the high-flying, climactic battle of last season's finale, “The High, Deep Blue Sky” returns to past seasons' approach, using its closing minutes to do some tablesetting for the newly confirmed season six. There's some presumably important character moments sprinkled in, but by and large this is an episode necessary to move around pieces and get the board ready for the approaching, large-scale battle between heroes and villains.
First off, we get confirmation of just what Shigaraki's doing in the doctor's creepy lab. Having fully awakened to his nihilistic impulses, you'd think our new symbol of fear would be (literally) itching to wipe another city off the map, but he's actually learned a few bits of practicality through his battle with the Liberation Army. Instead of running headlong into a fight with his fully realized Decay, Shigaraki wants every bit of power he can get – including all those stolen Quirks his master spent so many generations collecting – and he's got just the mad scientist to do it. That's a pretty terrifying concept – Shigaraki was already an extinction-level threat on his own, but if he gets suped-up with the countless powers AFO showed off in his battle with All Might? Well, let's just say Deku better speed things up in mastering all those new One For All powers, because time is running very short.
Speaking of, with our villains' immediate goals established, we spend the rest of the finale reacquainting ourselves with Class 1-A, fresh off their work studies and ready to show off what they learned. There are some neat details in here, like Mina creating her own version of Kirishima's ultimate defense with a full-body acid suit, but the key character moment actually comes from All Might watching it all go down. His observation that Deku “doesn't look back at [him] anymore” is at once a sweet acknowledgment of how far our protagonist has come in the show and a melancholy reminder that the man who was once a pillar of both the story and the world at large has had to move into the backseat. All Might's been present throughout the show since retiring, but he's no longer the focus, and that seems to be getting to him as his protege grows stronger without him. His heart-to-heart with Aizawa is especially sweet, and makes this finale feel at least a little more meaty than just the calm before the storm.
There's of course more setup for next season, but it's all stuff that we only have the barest hints of how they'll pay off. Eri's horn is acting up, and according to Aizawa she's starting training with her power soon. There's also a planned meeting between All Might and Stain in prison, which holds all sorts of possibilities. Most pressing is that All Might's figured out some of the previous OFA users' identities to help Deku learn about their quirks, and we learn the next one up is none other than Nana Shimura's “Float” power. And just on a basic “cool power” level I'm excited to see that one enter Deku's repertoire. The image of this kid air-blasting and whipping his way in mid-air is going to be rad as hell, I tell ya. And he's gonna have to figure it out soon since the final moments see the entire 1-A class called in as part of a new operation – faster than anyone expected, the day of attack has arrived, courtesy of Hawks.
So that's where we stand going into next season, but what about this now-complete one? It's safe to say season five's been inconsistent on both a writing and production level (being produced entirely during a global pandemic that's periodically shut down large swaths of Tokyo will do that). But for my money the highs have easily outweighed the lows. I'm the kind of viewer who can forgive a lot of jank or clumsy storytelling if a series can ultimately deliver something unique or satisfying, and in that regard the back half of S5 has delivered just about everything I could ask for. It's fleshed out our villains in engaging and though-provoking ways while expanding the history of a world that was once a simple comic book pastiche. It made perhaps the most nuanced and emotionally mature attempt at a “redemption” arc I've seen from a Shonen Jump anime, ever. And that is all ultimately enough to keep me hooked through any ups, downs, or pacing problems.
On the whole though I can certainly understand others struggling to stay engaged. While there are individual payoffs and progression, this season has amounted to 25 episodes of rising action and build-up for what's to come later, and that can make for frustrating viewing in the best of times. But we'll just have to wait to see if all that buildup is worth what's to come. Until next time, Plus Ultra!
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