My Hero Academia
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 85 of
My Hero Academia (TV 4) ?
One question that's always sat in the background of MHA's setting is just why, in a world full of superpowered crimestoppers, anyone would bother turning to the life of a supervillain. The series has occasionally broached the topic with characters like Twice and Magne – people who didn't fit into the strictures of the superhuman (or even just regular human) society that the heroes of the past and present have built. They aren't evil or malicious people, but the world they live in rejected or demonized them until fighting against it was their only option. Gentle and La Brava's reasons for becoming youtube criminals isn't quite as heavy, but as their backstories unfold across their fight with Deku, it becomes clear why they'd dedicate themselves to it so deeply.
First is La Brava, who became a shut-in after overhearing her middle-school crush cruelly mock her love letter. That might seem like a questionable reaction, but after her quirk, “Love,” is revealed it makes a lot of sense. Being open with her feelings is literally her superpower, so to have them not just rejected but derided by the person she cared about likely felt like a rejection of who she is as a person. In that context it's not surprising she'd end up becoming obsessed with an offbeat personality like Gentle and his dramatic assertions of being a gentleman ne'er-do-well out to become a digital Robin Hood. The big point, though, was that Gentle accepted her feelings, even if he didn't strictly reciprocate her love in the same way. That validation and care meant more than anything, and that knowledge re-contextualizes her seemingly goofy devotion from past episodes in a big way.
Gentle, for his part, has a decidedly messier motivation. As an aspiring (and failing) hero in training, he proclaimed he'd get his name in the history books, but a misguided attempt to save someone in an emergency ended up impeding the heroes trying to do the same and got someone seriously injured. The fallout left him a pariah, destitute, and rejected by his family, but the kicker was running into a former schoolmate who did become a pro hero, only for them to have no recollection of him. That final blow to his pride was what pushed him to become a villain, but as the fight with Deku plays out it becomes clear the reason for Gentle's escapades eventually stopped being one of pride, but one of love. La Brava loves him and wants him to succeed, thus for him to fail would be to trample on her feelings, and that is something he refuses to do.
The portrait these two stories paint is a shockingly sympathetic one in the end – Gentle and La Brava are two wounded people who found what they were looking for in one another, and for as petty as their YouTube infamy might seem in comparison to the larger scale conflicts of MHA, it means the world to both of them. So it's genuinely a little heartbreaking to see them beaten, even as Deku has reasons just as important to stop them. After weeks of stewing in doubt, this fight for him is one to reclaim his confidence as All Might's successor. Letting Gentle through would demoralize his classmates, destroy the work they've thrown themselves into, and rip a chance at normalcy from Eri's grip just as she's reaching out for it. But all those reasons don't make it feel any better when protecting them means crushing the hopes of somebody else. The actual brawl against Gentle is far from a vicious one (though it has some nice animation flourishes and clever attacks, unlike last week) but I believe Deku when he says Gentle was harder to fight than anyone he'd faced before. This kid knows what it feels like to lose a dream you wanted with all your heart, but preserving his own necessarily means doing that to somebody else. Hail Izuku Midoriya, dream killer.
So ends Gentle Criminal's career as a supervillain, though the arc hasn't quite wrapped up. Deku may have some bittersweet feelings about all this, but his win means the school festival is still on, and next week promises to finally let us hear Jiro's band in action. For now though, we're left with a melancholy resolution for two very fun and sincere characters, and “School Festival Start!!” delivers it with just the right amount of heart.
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