My Hero Academia
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 80 of
My Hero Academia (TV 4) ?
In just about any adaptation of a long-running, arc based series you're going to run into awkward transitional periods that work fine for weekly manga chapters, but don't quite gel right when put side by side in a 22 minute episode of television. Such is the case with “Relief for License Trainees,” an episode split down the middle in its focus that can't quite make itself work the way it wants to.
The first half of the episode picks up where we left off, with the license trainees about to face off against the rampaging quirks of their snot-nosed wards. As Bakugo and co. are bombarded with potshots from the anklebiters, we get an interesting bit of world building that may come up later – the Quirk Singularity Doomsday Theory, which posits that as quirks evolve and combine with each new generation, a day may come when they become too powerful for their users to control. It's kind of a terrifying concept all told. 5-year-olds can be temperamental handfuls at the best of times, imagine what would happen to the world if their tantrums could level city blocks or cause natural disasters. It's here MHA posits that heroes are needed not just to protect the peace in times of duress, but to provide tangible, positive role models for the next generation to emulate.
And it turns out kids are simpler thank you'd think. Despite Bakugo's assertion last episode, he recognizes that these younglings aren't going to respond to them if the heroes just stomp them down and tell them to behave. Instead, the quartet combine their quirks to make something constructive – a huge ice slide and light show to excite and thrill the brats as a bonding exercise. It's at once a simple and clever choice – it changes their dynamic with the children in a way that makes them feel more like friends than authority figures, while providing a concrete example of using their super powers to bring joy to others. Things creep into After School Special territory a bit when Bakugo gives the kids' precocious leader some advice about not looking down on others, lest you ignore your own weaknesses. But it works as subdued bit of evidence that for all his bluster Bakugo has grown as a person from his failures, plus it's pretty funny to think his destiny as a hero may be to make sure other kids don't grow up to be, well, Bakugo.
Overall it's a cheery ending to the conflict, sprinkled with some fun gags and bits of character growth that gets just a little more complicated as it's capped off. We're not privy to what's going on in Endeavor's head as he witnesses all this, but after the training wraps up he's there for a massively uncomfortable meet up with his son where he insists he'll become a hero the boy can be proud of. Shoto, for his part, has no patience for his abuser trying to be inspiring and brushes him off. The scene ends with narration from All Might saying that all of them are, in their own way, trying to move forward. For the students, it's a comforting coda that promises they're all growing into better people. For Endeavor, things are a lot murkier –even if he's sincere about wanting to change, he has a lot more to answer for than just failing an exam. Personally, with anime's long track record of giving abusive parents easy outs for earning forgiveness, I'm skeptical about any attempts MHA might be making to redeem this flaming poop man. It's all well and good if a monstrous character decides to change their ways, but with all the literal and metaphorical scars Endeavor's left in his wake, there needs to be a lot more nuance and thought put forward to make any potential character growth not feel like an insult.
But enough about that – time for goofy shenanigans with Aoyama! Class 1-A's sparkly eyed weirdo has been around since the early episodes, but outside of a brief sequence in the License Exam he's mostly been a tertiary comic relief vehicle. This episode he makes a big chance though, and becomes a secondary comic relief vehicle as he weirdly stalks Deku, leaving him cryptic messages spelled out in cheese slices and generally putting our hero on the back foot. In the end it turns out the whole thing was Can't Stop Twinkling's unique way of trying to comfort Deku, who's been visibly rattled since returning from his work study. Aoyama proves surprisingly observant, revealing that he recognizes Deku's body isn't meant to handle the quirk it possesses, a feeling he can relate to having used his support item his whole life to keep his navel laser in-check. It's a fun enough diversion, and it's always nice to see a goofy side character get more depth, yet it can't help feeling awkward as it's stapled on to the conclusion of a different story.
That, more than anything, is what docks points from episode 80. Both parts work well enough on their own, and there are some fun character-centered gags throughout (Shojo Todoroki will haunt me forever) but when smooshed together like this they distract from each other's strengths rather than complement. The result isn't terrible, but it ends up feeling discombobulated compared to MHA's sharper and faster paced comedy episodes.
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