My Hero Academia
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 81 of
My Hero Academia (TV 4) ?
One of the cardinal laws of anime is that if it takes place in high school, eventually your show has to include a school festival. It can be just for an episode, or an entire arc, but it has to happen and there has to be mention of maid cafes and haunted houses. If you don't include one then the Anime Cops will come and confiscate all your key frames. It's the law. You'd think in MHA's case they'd sideline something so seemingly trivial, what with the rising rate of super-villainy and the increasing pressure to find a replacement for All Might. But through Aizawa the show points out that those exact anxieties are what make the few times people get to relax and enjoy themselves all the more precious. The students of UA are already undergoing a stressful year between the multiple villain attacks, and they deserve – even need – some way to let off steam and just act like the kids they are. The 1-A students in particular take this idea to heart, and after the requisite montage of rejected ideas for their class activity, they settle on a live song and dance performance. Overall it's a solid idea that makes use of several of their non-hero related skills, but more importantly it means Jiro, the ultimate Best Girl of MHA, finally taking center stage. Sorry Deku, this is Earphone Jack's show now.
Well okay, Deku can still be around, especially if it means seeing him and Mirio being big brothers to Eri, who's finally recovered enough to take visitors. Their reunion is both sweet and sobering, as the boys realize that while Eri's finally free of her abuser, that trauma hasn't magically gone away just because Overhaul got his face rearranged by Deku's fist. It's here that Deku hints upon Aoyama's idea of “surprising” him last episode and arranges for Eri to visit the UA school festival with them. It won't fix everything, but giving the girl a taste of safety and fun could go a long way in helping her recover from all she's been through. It's a touching moment that also helps deliver some emotional stakes to the story. Now if the 1-A kids can't pull off their show and rock the house, it won't just be their fellow students they're letting down.
But it's not all fun and healing this episode, as there is still darkness looming over the story, creeping out from perhaps the darkest pit of human ken – YouTube! Yes, the newest addition to MHA's rogues gallery is Gentle Criminal and his pint-sized assistant La Brava, a pair of villains who commit crimes not out of greed or anger at the current hero society, but for far more pernicious gains: Likes and Subscribes. For as silly an idea it is, it makes sense to some degree. If youtubers in real life can build careers around public prank videos and vlogging themselves being general nuisances, it stands to reason super-powered internet celebrities would turn to attention grabbing acts of villainy to get those sweet, sweet engagements. It helps that even in their short introduction the pair make for a compelling team of goofballs. Gentle's combination of confidence and incompetence is classic, but combined with his videos' gaudy subtitles and editing comments, plus their personalized endcard, really sells the whole bit. I've known these guys for all of two minutes and I already want to donate to their Patreon.
There are doubtlessly folks disappointed to see MHA stepping back for a bit from the action and tension of previous arcs, but for those who are here to see more of the cast get to shine and have a good time, “School Festival” does its job very well. It's great to see more of Class 1-A strut their stuff, and our new antagonists already seem like a ton of fun. Before the season's end the show will almost certainly return to its action roots, but for the time being I'm more than happy to shift into a lower gear and enjoy cruising forward.
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