My Hero Academia
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 79 of
My Hero Academia (TV 4) ?
Being a Hero in MHA's world is no simple task. Within the setting of the series superheroes occupy a strange amalgamation of roles – simultaneously an autonomous, disorganized force of police and emergency first responders, while also highly publicized celebrities and de-facto role models for the next generation. As an action show, MHA has understandably focused mostly on the former responsibilities, but in “Win Those Kids' Hearts” it decides to examine the other half by pitting the biggest problem children from license exam against even more literal, problem-ier children, to see how they can handle the social aspects of professional heroism. Their mission is simple – win over a class of rampaging elementary schoolers with out-of-control quirks.
It starts off about as well as you expect. Bakugo is the first to charge in, as always, but despite (or because of) being on roughly the same emotional level as a rowdy group toddlers, he's rebuffed immediately by the rugrats that aren't just scared to be near him. That his proposed solution is to find the kids' “leader” and string him up for humiliation speaks volumes to how he sees the world. Bakugo is, of course, more layered and complex than just a bruising bully, but his loud and crass nature makes it hard for anyone to see anything but a strength obsessed jackass most of the time. It's mainly played for comedy, especially this episode, but it begs the question of just what kind of hero he'll be if he can't overcome himself.
What's more, a warning about just what kind of hero Bakugo could become is conveniently glowering from the bleachers at their ordeal. Everyone's flaming turd of an anime dad, Endeavor, is observing the whole thing while grilling All Might about just what it means to be #1. Endeavor's finally reached the goal he abused and destroyed his family to achieve, but all it's done for him is highlight his failures under the harsh spotlight of trying to replace the Symbol of Peace. To the credit of the writing, Endeavor's self-aware enough to do at least some soul searching, and seems to take the responsibility of his new position seriously, which is why he's talking to somebody about this at all. All Might, meanwhile, is mired in his own regrets. For as much as his larger than life persona helped bring stability to the world, achieving and maintaining that facade meant casting off loved ones and nearly destroying himself, and he regrets it enough to tell Endeavor it's best to find his own way. I wonder what he'd say if he knew what the man's “own way” entailed.
Speaking of, while this depressing pow wow is going down, Todoroki is having his own troubles. While more approachable than Bakugo, Mr. Icy-Hot still has a unique hurdle to clear– he's boring. Not, like, in a character sense. Rather he's a quiet, seemingly cold person who's hard to approach, and when he does talk he's such and awkward space case that it's totally off-putting to a group of easily distracted ankle biters. It's a less debilitating flaw than Bakugo's, but if he wants to inspire little kids like All Might did for him, Shoto's got to learn how to run with it when the kids start calling him Mr. Wee-wee. For now thought, it's pretty funny to see the boy flounder around trying to be less of a stoic bishonen.
And that's the energy of this episode, in spite of the more serious circumstances underlying it. While there are seeds being sown for character development, it's mainly all about the comedy of seeing Bakugo, Todoroki, and their Shiketsu High rivals get dunked on by bratty children. The kids themselves are delightfully snotty in a way that plays well off of heroes-in-training in different ways, my personal favorite being the soft spoken boy who quietly demolishes Yoarashi with a single sentence. Bringing in Present Mic as diagetic color commentary is just the icing on the cake to make for a fun, breezy episode. Not every joke lands, but MHA's best comedic moments are when its characters get to bounce off each other, and that's here in spades this week. Things will no doubt heat up next episode, with our heroes poised to valiantly beat up a horde of mutant kindergartners, but for now I'm more than happy to just have some laughs.
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