My Hero Academia
Episode 39

by Sam Leach,

How would you rate episode 39 of
My Hero Academia (TV 3) ?

It's so exciting to have My Hero Academia back in action, but before we can *ahem* dive into any new adventures, we must sit through another recap episode to slowly wade back into the water instead. It feels unnecessary, but after several cours with Black Clover, the occasional clip show sounds like a small price to pay for what Studio Bones is offering.

The framing device for this recap is that the kids of Class 1-A are using the school's pool for "exercise and endurance training", though with Kaminari and Mineta it seems they've signed the class up with the intention of ogling the girls in bikinis, a plan that backfires when it turns out everyone's in their not-so exciting school swimsuits. What was ripe to become a trite bikini fanservice episode flips the script, and the camera ends up being much more interested in the guys. I'm still floored by how good this show looks. I'm neither a teenager nor the audience for shirtless boys, but for those who are? These are some delicately drawn boys, let's just put it that way.

Since this is a clip show that doesn't offer a ton of new material in terms of story, I figured I'd take the chance to ruminate on my overall feelings for the series; give myself an opportunity to reposition because I have found myself thinking about it a lot in the break between seasons. My Hero Academia is a real starlet among Shonen Jump stories, privileged with fantastically economic storytelling, as well as an anime adaptation that's both high in quality and speaks to the personality of the original manga art. The speed at which it found its audience and rooted itself as an instant classic is also astonishing. The highs of season two are the equivalent to the highs that its forefathers took hundreds of episodes to reach.

Especially now that we have something like Black Clover for comparison, I feel stronger than ever that this series is a cut above being simply well-executed shonen. "Naruto, but ______" could qualify as its own subgenre at this point, but I don't think MHA's audience is here for the genre staples. They're here for the characters, themes, and all the ways that the series uses familiar beats in an attempt to say something new. Kōhei Horikoshi's take on personal growth is incredibly fresh, easily its best quality from a writing standpoint, and there's a tenderness to it that leaves the impression of an artist with a lot of perspective.

As a child who comes mostly from the DBZ/One Piece school of shonen, I think the way MHA has been structuring its story arcs so far may be its weakest point. The tournaments, the exams, and the unexpected battles with the League of Villains are primarily stages for fantastic character writing, which this show has in spades. I find myself a little disoriented every time an arc ends, because I always expect the larger plot to flow more deliberately, but it's hard to complain because the way that the characters grow and develop their relationships within this story is so crystal clear.

To focus back on this specific episode and what this new season has in store for us, we've got a new opening by UVERworld called 'Odd Future'. I don't have a clue what to make of this one yet, since the song and the animation feel so distant to each other in an off-kilter way. I can't tell if I love or hate it. I think 'Peace Sign' will remain my unchallenged favorite for some time.

The fact that this is a recap episode unfortunately means we can't quite say this season has begun just yet. It's more of a primer for those who might not be caught up, and I'm sure anybody who's streaming the show is already on top of that. That said, it's not entirely repeated material, but the new content is fluff for those who just enjoy seeing these characters interact, and even then I think the flashbacks interrupt those scenes too frequently. If you're looking forward to getting back into the story but a recap sounds exhausting, you're probably free to skip this episode and treat episode 40 as the real premiere. I can't say that there isn't going to be an audience for these poolside shenanigans, but it's just not a full episode on its own.

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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