My Hero Academia
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 46 of
My Hero Academia (TV 3) ?
It sure ain't easy to be a hero when the whole world is waiting to jump on your every mistake and exploit you. That's the game that the League of Villains are playing, at least. "Why are the heroes being criticized? Everybody makes a mistake or two. Are they supposed to be perfect?" says Shigaraki mockingly, detailing the emotions that we are more than likely to be feeling. The League of Villains are such a fantastic representation of the kind of trolls you'd find on the internet. They're the kind of people who will point to a problem that's easy to sympathize with on the surface, but it's ultimately a cover-up for something much more insidious and petty.
And you do really feel for the heroes in this case, as they have to stand up in front of the media and deliver their canned apology, only to have to go back to their jobs with the public's distrust drilling a hole in the back of their minds. Thematically, this episode hammers home the inherent contradiction of a job that's rooted in personal inspiration. The rules that you need to follow in order to uphold a society like this are important, but laws aren't especially great at rewarding the feelings that actually make heroism possible. The true heroes are those who take action because they're following what cries out from the very bottom of their gut.
That's the predicament that Midoriya and friends are dealing with when it comes to rescuing Bakugo. Vigilantism is a no-no, so for now the compromise is a covert sneaking mission where they don thrift shop disguises and plan to operate without inappropriate use of their Quirks. I like the added detail that Yaoyorozu could have conjured their disguises with her Creation ability, but chose not to because her powers could so easily mess with the economy. How considerate of her! (Though maybe she's also just a rich girl who wanted to see the inside of a thrift shop for the first time.)
That theme of pursuing the passion of heroism, even when taking action could technically be described as "selfish", allows Bakugo to really shine. The final scene of the episode is his confrontation with the League of Villains, and the layout of this scene seems so simple on the surface, but it's kind of incredible on a deeper level. The League has him in restraints while Shigaraki waxes philosophically, and Shigaraki is so confident that they've got enough common ground that he asks his men to take the cuffs off. In the back of your mind, you're waiting for the cronies, who still mostly see Bakugo as a scary wild dog, to be proven wrong and Shigaraki proven right, but nope. Explosion to the face. This is MHA's "Sasuke Retrieval Arc," but it aggressively tells us not to expect it to go down the same path.
It's been a while since we've seen this side of Bakugo, the infectious raw nerve of emotions. He's such a turd of a child, but when he growls, "I want to win like All Might! No matter what anyone says, that will never change!" there's something insanely validating about it. This moment still has me buzzing long after the episode is over. There's something weirdly empowering about the idea that even such an insecure, id-fueled maniac can see through the disingenuous crap that the villains are spewing. Bakugo's thorny fervor gets to feel heroic in its own way, and that's so cool.
If there's a weakness to this episode, it's that we do mostly spend it meditating on the same ideas as last week. We're clearly in a transitional phase as we gear up for a new arc, and these episodes run the risk of feeling understated or arguably even repetitive as they ask "what does it mean to be a hero?" in as many ways as possible, but I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that it does a knock-out job at tackling that question. For a conversational and thematically focused episode, this week is still packed with variety in a way I can appreciate.
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