My Hero Academia
Episode 14

by Sam Leach,

How would you rate episode 14 of
My Hero Academia (TV 2) ?

My Hero Academia is back! It's going to be a busy-as-all-hell anime season for us reviewers, myself included with all these weekend shows on my plate, but “I'll do my best!” is exactly the attitude these hero characters would ask of me, right?! Let's get pumped!

Or maybe we can get pumped next week, since My Hero Academia still seems to be waking up from its brief slumber away from our TV sets. I'm the last person to be hard on a long-running shonen series for being slow, but even I was surprised by how little this big return episode set out to accomplish. I spent half the episode trying to determine if I had accidentally played last week's recap special or not, since this episode really takes its time with Midoriya re-narrating his origin story, before the adults of UA spend more time discussing their villain problem from the end of last season.

Here's the thing. I often like when shonen properties take their time. I find something zen about sitting back and letting the story build itself brick-by-brick, but one of the strengths of a season-based model (done well by JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and often demanded by fans of other slow shows like One Piece) is that the show doesn't have to pad itself out with dead air and filler. And with a production as snazzy as Studio Bones' My Hero Academia, we expect it to eliminate that stuff almost entirely. As a big exciting season premiere, this is shockingly underwhelming.

Still, there is an argument to be made that underwhelming is exactly what it's going for. Once the plot does kick in, it's about introducing the school's upcoming sports festival which, after a big hero vs. villains showdown in the last few episodes, feels incredibly banal. This reveal is played for laughs, as the audience is still figuring out what the series' aspirations are as far as hitting the classic Shonen Jump beats. There's already a story about the uprising of a villainous group stuck in the back of our minds, so a sports festival feels like a detour, but then again, my experience with the genre reminds me that detours tend to be where the best stuff lies.

Thematically, the episode title points us in Ochako's direction. Ochako seems extra fired-up about the sports festival, moreso than the other students. It's eventually revealed that her primary motivation for becoming a hero is money, so the sports festival is a great outlet for pursuing her ambitions, seeing as it's such a vaunted public event. She feels guilty about how shallow that sounds, but ultimately it's about supporting her family's failing business. The question left to us is why do these kids want to be heroes? Obviously, characters like Midoriya and Bakugo just feel intuitively connected to the role, but surely that's not every student's story?

As to what we have to look forward to for the remainder of the season, I'm really enjoying the new opening song so far. It's energetic, but there's still something subdued about it that puts you firmly in the kids' heads as the story gears up to get much more personal. I've found myself jumping in and out of the manga's weekly release, with this sports festival being one of my major gaps, so I'm hoping the story I've strung together in my head from the bits and pieces that I've seen is done justice in the upcoming episodes, because I know there's some good stuff on the horizon.

Also on the topic of new things this season, Funimation is committing to their Broadcast Dub model more intensely than ever, with My Hero Academia specifically launching its dubbed episodes at the exact same time as the Japanese subtitled versions. I think I'll be watching it dubbed for the time being, if only for the novelty of SimulDubs being likely to become a more common practice. My general feelings on the dub are positive; I love Chris Sabat's silky deep voice as All Might, and I like most of the supporting cast. If I have one qualm, it's with Midoriya himself, since Justin Briner comes off like he's actively trying to sound younger, while the other teenage characters sound great with their actors just using their normal voices.

My Hero Academia is a great show, and certainly one of the most anticipated releases of the season, so it did take me aback that little to none of that is reflected in this episode, story or production-wise. Obviously it looks good, since the anime's art style fits Kohei Horikoshi's character designs perfectly, but it's a head scratcher how little this episode seems to be showing off in any department. If an episode like this aired in the middle of a season, I'd think nothing of it. Perhaps they want us to feel like the show never took a break, though the more logical explanation is that the manga content being adapted here is much more low-key, so the anime should follow suit. It's not a knock on the show as a whole, but I do wish I could be gushing about how great it is for My Hero Academia to be back. It's not really giving me a lot to work with yet.

Rating: B

My Hero Academia is currently streaming on Funimation and Crunchyroll.

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

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