My Hero Academia
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 15 of
My Hero Academia (TV 2) ?
It'll probably become redundant to say that the MHA anime is moving slowly. This episode adapts two chapters of the manga, but the way it's spread out feels more like one, and it's hard not to imagine they could have squeezed more into this episode than 1.) introduce the rival U.A. classrooms and 2.) start the first game of the sports festival. Just how much of the manga do they plan to adapt with this 25 episode season? It can't be much if this is the pace we're going at.
So I think I'm going to limit my criticisms of "this is too slow" moving forward, because clearly those are the cards we've been dealt, and we can either find peace with that or stick with the manga. I mean, the pace never bothered me in the first season, I just didn't expect the show to fall comfortably into the one-thing-gets-accomplished-per-episode structure of long-running shonen so thoroughly. At least this is the rhythm I most associate with these kinds of Shonen Jump shows anyway. An episode is not really an episode, but one scene in a much bigger story. Once you're in that groove, the episodes start to fly by much faster than you expect.
So there are two main points of interest in this episode, firstly the other students of U.A. who are not part of the famous 1-A hero course. Midoriya and friends arrive at school the next day to discover a crowd of students scoping out their competition for the upcoming sports festival, especially after 1-A managed to face off against a villain attack at the end of last season. There are a few colorful faces in this crowd who look just interesting enough to be major characters in the oncoming arc, particularly the purple-haired zombie-looking kid who makes a "declaration of war" against 1-A, since performance in the sports festival can move you in and out of more sought-after classrooms. Zombie kid could join 1-A, and Midoriya could get moved out if he's still unable to master his One For All.
Bakugo is the kid with the most interesting reaction to the taunting. Obviously he's got bite, but there's something else going on under the surface that feels different, which is highlighted further during the festival. When Bakugo is tasked with an opening address as the class representative, he calmly states "I'm gonna win" and pisses the other classes off. Midoriya makes it clear to the audience that Bakugo choosing not to shout this and then laugh with maniacal glee means that he's taking the festival seriously in response to his recently wounded ego. He hasn't lost his ambitions or arrogance, but he's no longer seeing his competition (probably Midoriya and Todoroki) as total losers that he can afford to underestimate. Ego is the name of the game with Bakugo, and the show continues to display a fascinating amount of color and nuance when it comes to his pride.
Each of the major classes partaking in this festival appear to have their golden geese. 1-A has Bakugo and Todoroki (total opposites in demeanor and purpose), 1-B has a ton of interesting looking characters we have yet to meet, and 1-C has the zombie kid. This sense of hierarchy and reputation amongst different characters is something I always find exciting in these shows. There are a ton of kids who are "the best" in their group, but there's very little connective tissue that unifies them with the same characteristics, which lends itself well to drama as different kids learn to respect, or not respect, each other.
The other point of focus is the beginning of the obstacle course game that opens the festival. It's Todoroki, the fire & ice kid, who shoots ahead of the rest of the class, who are all trying to use their powers as creatively as possible to circumvent Todoroki's ice. The giant robots employed by U.A. also keep things interesting. Todoroki gets enough attention in this episode to make it clear that he's going to be important in this arc, since he's always seemed to have a lot more baggage than his side character role would suggest, but this episode just barely begins the obstacle course before it's over.
My Hero Academia is setting up a very cool story, where we're getting ready to see the various students and their emotional problems intersect and cross paths, probably with both good and bad results. I'm really excited to see how deep the show wants to get with its characters, especially considering how good the first season's all-encompassing emotional highs were, but as it stands right now, season 2 has been incredibly modest. There's a lot of clear potential for what it wants to do, but by virtue of how the manga's story is planned out, we still have to build back up to those heart-exploding moments, which makes it difficult to critique when the pacing and episode direction feel so standard and unmotivated right now. We're in the "nothing's super impressive but at least everything's on-model so far" phase of the series.
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