My Hero Academia
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 19 of
My Hero Academia (TV 2) ?
Todoroki, the fire & ice kid of 1-A, has been hinted to have all sorts of issues when it comes to his his father, and this week we finally get some insight as to why. The first third of this episode is dedicated to Midoriya and Todoroki's private conversation, juxtaposed against a conversation between All Might and Endeavor, their respective father figures. The story goes that Endeavor, the official #2 hero behind All Might, bought his way into his wife's family with the intention of siring a child with an even more impressive Quirk than his. Out of spite for his father, Todoroki has vowed never to use the fire side of his Quirk in battle.
That's only a small portion of the episode itself, however. Todoroki's daddy issues are probably the most depressing of all the students' personal problems thus far, but he's been mostly a background character until the second season, and the constant focus on the variety of other characters' stories has helped keep this series compelling in a broader, world-building kind of way. All of these kids have their backstories, motivations, etc., so learning more about one character only highlights the sadness of the others. We see Bakugo overhearing Midoriya and Todoroki's conversation and becoming suspiciously quiet for the rest of the episode as a result, and then there's still Iida, Ochako, and so forth, who we are still learning about. We're about to kick off the one-on-one tournament end of the sports festival, so this episode does a good job of feeling like the calm before the storm. This is true while it's being serious, but also while it's being silly.
In truth, one of the biggest draws of this episode has fans sharing all sorts of laughs and screenshots. Mineta and Kaminari manage to trick the girls of 1-A into dressing as cheerleaders, giving them the impression that it was a required part of the sports festival. It's a pretty contrived moment, since you'd think the girls would be smart enough not to believe Mineta of all people, but there's only so much you can say about fanservice aimed at 15-year olds. It definitely toes the line between genuinely cute and a little eyeroll-inducing. That said, the invisible girl is freakin' amazing.
If there's one underwhelming element that I'm wrestling with in this arc, it's that the sports festival, for all that it's talked up to be within this world, doesn't really come across as that big of a deal in action. Beyond the teachers and the likes of Endeavor, it doesn't really feel like that many people are actually watching. The anonymous faces in the crowd don't ascribe a lot of personality to the world. I understand that the focus is mostly on the experience of the kids, but it was when we got to the halftime fireworks show that I was scratching my head, because I just remembered that this festival was supposed to be this universe's alternative to the Olympics. This could have been an exclusively local event and not lost any of the story's weight. That's kind of how it comes across already.
The episode ends with the confirmed match-ups for the tournament bracket, pitting Midoriya against the purple-haired zombie kid and potentially Todoroki in the round after that. As it stands, we have little imagination as to how Midoriya could possibly stand a chance in that particular fight, and while I never went into this arc expecting Midoriya to be the final winner, it does beg for a few surprises to come out of our main character. He's been gaining a little more control over his Quirk in recent episodes, but he's not in a position to feel any confidence in his short-term potential. As for Shinso, the zombie kid, this episode reaches its cliffhanger just as his fight with Midoriya is about to begin. There definitely seems to be something going on with his Quirk, as it's been affecting the other students' memory.
This is not a pulse-pounding episode by any means, and for some it will likely be another example of the show's slow pace, but it feels like a necessary beat to me. I liked getting to know Todoroki some more, but beyond that, I really like thinking about what's going on in the other kids' heads. Even when they're not saying anything, an episode like this starts to become connective tissue between our introductions to these characters and whatever's next for them in the story. This is a pre-fight break with exercising, resting, and cute girls running around in cheerleader outfits, but the show does a good job hinting at an underlying sadness and unrest as these teenagers live with their doubts and uncertainties.
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