My Hero Academia
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 57 of
My Hero Academia (TV 3) ?
As we move into the second half of the Provisional License Exams, we're finally getting to the material that this arc was born to play with. Round One was a fancy game of tag, but Round Two is an actual heroism simulator, complete with actors pretending to be injured victims in the middle of a crisis, and it's up to our would-be heroes to put their skills to the test in an practical manner.
Rather than feeling like a simple pass or fail game, this exercise actively invites the audience to think about how prepared these kids are for field work. These actors (provided by the "Help Us Company" or "H.U.C.") are very particular about the heroes' methods, and we realize quickly that it's not enough for Midoriya and friends to be thoughtful and well-meaning. They have to be efficient and prioritize their actions to best accommodate the scenario that's been laid out for them. They're not perfect at it, and that only covers the students who do mean well. The Bakugos of the world have a completely different problem ahead of them.
I like this because it explores an aspect of heroism that easily could have been shrugged off by the show, and as a result the story gets to stay fresh. We've seen Midoriya fighting to rescue people before (like with Kota at the beginning of the season), and the audience is sure to admire his headstrong commitment, but now we're learning that any kind of sloppiness is going to be an issue for somebody whose job it is to look after other people's well-being. Throw some play-villains into the mix to make the students' job even harder, and now these exams are finally starting to feel like they serve a purpose in My Hero Academia's grander story.
Cycling through some of the B-plots of this episode, we're starting to learn more about Shiketsu High's Inasa Yaorashi, who appears to have a grudge against Todoroki and his family. We're also diving deeper into Ochako's crush on Midoriya, which leaves me conflicted. I thought her blushing infatuation was adorable up until now, but this week we're putting a much more dramatic focus on it, and it doesn't feel right. The romantic subplot feels token to me, and as such I think her crush is much more appealing as a comic-relief stress valve rather than something that dominates her character, which is how it's starting to look for now. There's some lip service to her burying her feelings in order to focus on heroism, but I don't get the impression that actually goes anywhere, nor is "burying your feelings" a healthy example of character agency in my opinion.
Round Two of the Provisional License Exam arc is a pretty solid summation of My Hero Academia. It's a pantomime of the kinds of conflicts our protagonists are likely to face elsewhere in the series, but that doesn't butt heads with the story's exploration of responsibility. The stakes are still low, but this new round is a massive step-up as a playground for character writing. Between the humor, action, and theming, the show offers a lot more to chew on at once. If we're going to have an exam every other arc, this is a pretty good way to do it.
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