My Hero Academia
Episode 16

by Sam Leach,

How would you rate episode 16 of
My Hero Academia (TV 2) ?

As it stands right now, my biggest concern for My Hero Academia as a whole is Izuku Midoriya himself. When I think about the elements that elevate this series above simple well-executed shonen, my mind first goes to All Might, a character that no other show could recreate with as much fire and authenticity. But All Might is not our protagonist, and the day will have to come when Midoriya's rise to heroism takes over as the heart of this story. Even in the canon of scrappy underdog shonen heroes, he often gets outshone, so I worry about whether or not I'll be satisfied by his long-term role in the story.

I say this because Midoriya, in all his out-of-his-league-but-he's-trying glory, is front and center in this episode as the U.A. sports festival roars on. We're wrapping up the first round with a burning question: what can Midoriya accomplish in this festival? In the same way that Naruto didn't graduate from the Chuunin Exam, characters like Midoriya simply don't win these kinds of early story tournaments. I'm sure kids at home who are not as familiar with how tournament arcs tend to go down must believe in him, so I think it was smart that the show let him win this first match to throw us off.

This episode offers another example of a weaker character using his ingenuity to close the gap between himself and the powerhouses, as Midoriya uses the last stretch of the obstacle course, a literal mine field, to blast himself ahead and land in front of Todoroki and Bakugo. I can feel stuff like this becoming more common in these Shonen Jump shows in the wake of omnipresent "power-scaling" concerns, but I remain firm in my belief that you can only do it so many times before it becomes meaningless. Strategy still needs to be executed in an emotional way, something that raw power tends to convey much easier, so I was grateful that this episode nailed that appeal. There's a moment where Midoriya is falling between Todoroki and Bakugo in slow motion and needs to make a split-second call to use the mines again to keep himself ahead. This is the exact kind of scene I love My Hero Academia for, when passions are high and the choice to keep fighting has a ton of weight to it. There's a genuine excitement to seeing Midoriya go from "It's okay if I don't take first place" to getting aggressive with his strategy and succeeding.

Succeeding, however, means that Midoriya is now the one to beat, becoming the target on everybody's mind for the next game. He just barely won this one, so how is he going to survive round 2? The next game is a cavalry battle (that game where students piggyback on one another to capture each other's flags), and Midoriya's point value is a comedically high ten million.

Beyond Midoriya himself, a lot of the fun in this episode comes from the flashy, dramatic ways that the show illustrates the other students' powers. I've always loved that freeze-frame-title-card style in any kind of show or movie that does it. We're also introduced to Mei Hatsume from the school's support course, and her dub actress, Alexis Tipton, is clearly have an exceptional time doing the voice.

This is an episode that allows the pacing of the last two to make a little more sense, since there's more of a self-contained arc for Midoriya that explodes at the end, as he accomplishes way more than we expected from his humble kick-off in the obstacle course. The way things are laid out here allows the show to cycle through the various other students, give us further glimpses into their personalities and quirks, but still make it feel like this is Midoriya's story. This episode also features a handful of the show's best music tracks, really allowing this sports festival to feel like it's building to something exciting. We're still in the early stages of the sports festival, but we've gotten at least one really good emotional high out of it so far, so I'd say we're not off to a bad start.

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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