My Hero Academia
Episode 12

by Sam Leach,

How would you rate episode 12 of
My Hero Academia ?

It's been made clear that All Might's strength has been gradually weakening ever since he passed One For All on to Midoriya, but that doesn't stop his power from being frightening. Armed with an out-of-character scowl, he clears the room of the grunt-level villains in the blink of an eye. We can't even see him move, and yet there's an aggressiveness to how no-nonsense he's being. He's gonna be the best hero you've ever seen, dammit, and a weakened state and a bad mood aren't going to get in the way of that.

Most of the episode consists of seeing the lower-ranked villains cleared of the scene, as well as a bunch of flashbacks to earlier episodes highlighting All Might's role in the story thus far, with the soundtrack carrying most of the emotional weight. He does find himself in a tough spot once it's down to the three main baddies, however, as a tag team attack between the shadow/portal guy and the bird faced muscle man (who we learn is named Nomu) leaves him trapped and wounded until Bakugo and Todoroki intervene. I like seeing Bakugo being unabashedly one of the good guys, even if his classmates don't find his sadistic glee very hero-like.

But make no mistake, this is All Might's episode. The main question at hand is whether he can stand up against Nomu. The matchup compares as thus: All Might is weak compared to his golden age, and he's now suffering a flesh wound on his torso. Nomu is at least as strong as him, with powers for shock absorption and regeneration. The idea is that he's genetically designed to kill All Might at his best. "If you can withstand me at 100%, then I'll force you to surrender from beyond that!" All Might shouts, committing to win this battle with the strength and passion that we all know him for.

What follows is an amazingly flashy action scene with sweeping music, flurries of fists and crazy fight animation. It's the "camera spins around the crazy action" style of fight choreography that's become very poplar in anime over the last few years. I'm reminded very much of the action scenes from stuff like One-Punch Man and One Piece Film Z. It's relatively brief, but it's one of the coolest spectacles in the show yet. Even among action scenes from similar productions, I found the staging of this fight fascinating. The two send each other flying across the main USJ room, crashing against the ground and bouncing back for more. The camera becomes like a roller coaster, even following the action upside down and every which way. There's a deliberate sense of disorientation, but it always snaps back just in time for the most satisfying hits.

One of my favorite pieces in this sequence is when we see All Might arm-throwing Nomu in midair. We lose our sense of place as the background spins around the characters, but we land comfortably behind All Might's shoulder as it ends on a great bird's-eye view Nomu crashing into the ground in a huge explosion. Obviously, the heroic music is doing its thing throughout all of this. In a matter of seconds we're watching a cool fight, listening to what the hero has to say, diving into his mind as he thinks about the gift that is One For All, having our hearts pumped with adrenaline and energy as the action devolves into chaos, and then we see that chaos fall into place and become clear as everything culminates into a soaring victory.

I kept having to rewind and watch this scene over and over. It's bite sized enough to do that pretty easily, and each time it ends on that shot of Nomu's limp, slow-motion body lifting up in the foreground, and then All Might SNAPS into the negative space that's left as he exits the frame, ready to deliver the final blow. It's just way too cool.

I think anime is incredibly innovative when it comes to action. You would never see anything like this in a Hollywood blockbuster and I think that's a shame. Having the camera follow the action in a way that's both easy to follow and chaotic at the same time is a marvel of the modern age of animation. There's passion and energy, but still a sense of performance and design to the staging. The closest I can think of in the live-action sphere would be a handful of Spider-Man's film appearances, but even that's nowhere on this level.

The arc isn't over yet, however. All Might may have defeated the most threatening of the main baddies, but he's hitting his time limit on One For All. The episode ends with him facing the final two enemies, back to his usual smile. He admits loud and proud that he's not as strong as it used to be, counting on his confidence to scare his opponents away before he has to shrink. Will he be able to bluff his way out?

Rating: A

My Hero Academia is currently streaming on Funimation.

Sam Leach writes and records about One Piece for The One Piece Podcast and you can find him on Twitter @LuckyChainsaw

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