My Hero Academia
Episode 37

by Sam Leach,

How would you rate episode 37 of
My Hero Academia (TV 2) ?

I often see Bakugo being referred to as a subversion of the anti-hero trope—since he's decidedly not on the path to villainy—implying that Kohei Horikoshi is deliberately trying not to make a Sasuke-type character. I think the reality is a little more nuanced than that. One of the reasons why I don't get exhausted with classic Shonen Jump clichés and structure is that I think of them as a familiar foundation to view through the lens of different artists. Bakugo is less of a deliberate anti-Sasuke and more a reflection of what Horikoshi personally sees when he thinks “hard-ass rival character.”

Something that My Hero Academia executes better than any of its peers is its focus on self-esteem. Midoriya and Bakugo, fighting together in this episode against All Might, are both after the title of “number one hero.” Yeah, striving to be the best is a shonen cliché, but there's probably no other job in the world where you'll find as much truth in fiction as you will with a Shonen Jump author. The magazine is designed to pit its artists in competition against each other. Most of the time, this attitude is presented with an ambitious smile, but in the real world, for the teenagers who might be reading a story like this, it's never that easy.

The relationship under the microscope this week makes up the core of MHA. Even when Bakugo is awful, Midoriya can't help but admire him, because he understands drive as an important factor in self-respect. The story also recognizes how profoundly damaged Bakugo is, and how much his world starts to fall apart when he sees Midoriya learning from him and catching up. If the “always get stronger” ethos of a manga hero is going to mean anything for Midoriya, that same meaning has to be attributed to Bakugo as well. Their growth must be in tandem with each other. This rivalry is the most familiar part of the series, and I even project their dynamic onto other interpersonal relationships in my life. You just have to believe this rotten boy's going to figure himself out.

The anime's direction might affect your reading of this dynamic. Because the anime makes Bakugo so scary through its animation and soundtrack, there's less room for nuanced interpretation. How much of yourself can you see in a character while the presentation is basically shouting, “Scary! Evil! Violent! Scary!” I'm honestly not sure if that's the tone the manga was going for, but on the other hand, some viewers might prefer not giving any of that sympathy to a bully in the first place.

This episode delivers all the emotional thrust you might expect from this scenario, although it never quite reaches the spectacular highs that I was ready for. All Might isn't holding back (I bust a gut when he smashed Bakugo with Midoriya), but I still greatly preferred Midoriya and Bakugo's fight back in season one over this. I love the rawness of all the Bakugo-related content in this show, but I don't think I'd highlight this episode over what's come before and what's coming next. I also continue to be surprised when I get to the end of an arc and realize how cleanly it concludes. There isn't some left-turn revelation that naturally leads us to the next story? The final exams end with the students simply finishing their exams? My Shonen Jump-trained brain can't process it!

This week is all about the show's three most important characters, serving as the next stepping stone in Midoriya and Bakugo's relationship. Though they managed to work together for a short moment, they're still far from friends and it frankly remains unknown if that's even the direction they're headed in at all. As for where we're going next right now, it looks like we only have a single episode of the season left, making this episode all the more bittersweet. It would have been nice to see some of the show's A-game again before the season wraps up, but this is by no means the end of the show.

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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