My Hero Academia
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 41 of
My Hero Academia (TV 3) ?
So the big fun fact going around this week's episode is that it was storyboarded by Blood Blockade Battlefront's Rie Matsumoto. I think even without that knowledge, my immediate response to these past few episodes has been jaw-on-the-floor awe at how spiffy they look. My Hero Academia's always been a really attractive show, so I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that it seems to just be getting better and better. Even these small-scale transitional episodes are firing on all cylinders.
For as strong as the visual direction continues to be, I'm not quite bursting with the same optimism that I was last week, if only because we've gone from a fun and complete-feeling introductory episode to more of the same, and now we're gently coasting our way toward a conflict that finally rears its head at the end of the episode; not that this is a bad thing.
What this episode doesn't deliver in story, it makes up for in humor and interesting character interactions. This is a training arc, so we montage our way through the challenges that each student must face as they strengthen their spirits and their Quirks. Since every member of Class 1-A is so different in personality and power type, the show manages to give each of them a unique chore and move from character to character in a way that feels fluid and engaged. Once it's time for dinner, we see them all working together and using their powers in creative ways to get everyone fed. This sequence ends up being a fantastic demonstration of how well-written this cast of characters is, with playful and refreshing interactions. It's a big group of kids, so getting the audience accustomed to how they bounce off each other is something the series will always wrestle with, but it comes across so effortless this week.
We also get to meet the remaining two members of the Wild, Wild Pussycats in Ragdoll and Tiger. Tiger's kind of the odd one out since he's a big burly dude on a hero team of idol girls (supplemental materials from the manga describe him as a trans man, so that's cool), but the whole group is full of winners, and their Quirks seem really fun and practical. Also, I may be kinda-sorta crushing on Pixie-Bob super hard. The story also continues to press Kota on his issues with heroes in a heartfelt scene between him and Midoriya, but I don't think we're quite ready for significant character movement from this kid just yet.
Once the League of Villains shows up and starts threatening the peace, I find myself almost worried that I'm starting to anticipate the character antics more than the action, which hasn't always been the case with this show. I don't know what to make of all the new faces in this "Vanguard Action Squad", but I know to keep my eye on Toga and Dabi. We'll have to wait next week to see what's in store for our little heroes-to-be now that they're facing off with villains again.
While this episode doesn't have the strength of cohesion that last week's did, nor does it move the plot significantly forward, the execution on this new season of MHA continues to be top notch. It's a beautiful episode from beginning to end, full of interesting compositions that keep your eye exploring the frame and discovering new little artistic fingerprints. The cast is so big and saturated, and episodes like this know how to take advantage of that fact to keep giving the viewers at home something to chew on. It's still blowing my frickin' mind that a long-running shonen is getting this kind of treatment, now more than ever.
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