This Week in Anime
Has My Hero Academia Taken Its Darkest Turn?

by Nicholas Dupree & Steve Jones,

My Hero Academia's characters are known for their relentless optimism in the face of danger, but can Deku and the crew stand-up against the likes of Overhaul—the series' most twisted villain yet?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

You can read our episode reviews of My Hero Academia here!

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Steve
Nick, it isn't often that we get to cover a show that reaches its 69th episode, so I'd like to just take some time to bask in the Niceness of this moment.
Nick
Look, I'm not gonna take joke advice from a serial nudist.
You're only saying that because my boy Mirio hasn't had his time to shine. But soon enough you'll be praising this precious, buff, naked boy and his awful puns.
This weird Tintin-face man continues to make me very uncomfortable, but to give credit where it's due, at least he's kept his clothes on thus far in this fourth(!) season of My Hero Academia.
Oh don't worry, he'll be keeping his mini-Mirio where it belongs thanks to his fancy superhero suit. Which is made out of his own hair. I always like to remind people of that, lest they ever forget Lemillion is just wearing his own hair.
Noooooo thank you! I'm going to scrub that information from my brain.
You'd think in a relatively lighthearted show like MHA that tidbit would be the must disturbing thing in S4, but compared to what's going on with our latest villain it's actually pretty tame.
Yeah we're entering some dark places, despite the fact that our new main baddie looks like he's in the middle of getting dressed for a steampunk convention (which, admittedly, would be quite villainous of him)
Dr. Stone's Senku already stole the classic Mad Scientist aesthetic this season, so Overhaul's gotta make due with his drama club's leftovers.
Nothing says "yakuza boss" like "ornate leather plague doctor mask on top of a feather boa" but MHA is quick to prove his threat level by having him pretty much immediately do in one of our old familiar villainous faces.

And by "do in" I mean "explode her entire torso into blood."
Yeahhhhhhhh. Overhaul may look like a chūni teenager's idea of a cool gangster supervillain, but he's all business. And that business is being the most ruthless antagonist MHA's introduced yet. Magne's death is as shocking as it is bloody, and that's somehow not the worst thing we've learned about him.
Killing one of the show's only canonically queer characters is pretty bad (and not a narrative decision I'm super stoked about), but Horikoshi then decides to really twist that knife by giving him the cutest and most frightened daughter in the world.
Deku, look at me. You protect that child. You hold her and don't let go. I don't care how many other people have to die to do it.

This scene was legit one of the most tense the show has delivered in a long while. Seeing Deku struggle with his instinct to do the blatantly right thing and get that child as far away as possible instilled the circumstances with a very grounded, visceral sense of danger and morality. The story's recent superpower contests and exams really haven't hit anywhere close to that.
It also builds into the larger conflict of this arc so far—not just fleshing out who Overhaul is and what he's doing, but in the conflict between Deku and his latest mentor, the ever cautious and cynical Nighteye.

Where Deku's first instinct is to save Eri regardless of the consequences, Mirio, who's spent a year training under Nighteye, first thinks of taking the cautious and rational approach so as not to tip Overhaul off that he's under surveillance. And it's that hesitation that ends up with Eri back in the hands of a clearly dangerous man.
It's an interesting conflict! Because there are obvious drawbacks to a hero rushing in and doing what they believe to be right without thinking things through. But there's also a point where being too cautious means you're never being proactive enough to actually do anything worthwhile. Splitting the difference between those two approaches is tough.
It's especially tense because there's not really a right choice there. Like yes, protecting Eri is important, but it's entirely possible that Miro and Deku throwing themselves into a fight they weren't prepared for or expecting would have just gotten them killed and made saving her even harder for someone else. Nighteye may say it in the jerkiest way possible, but he's got a point nonetheless.

Yeah, most situations don't have cleanly "right" or "wrong" resolutions, because reality is too complicated for that. I like, too, that Nighteye's philosophy is a natural extension of his own Quirk. Like, if you're used to making your decisions based on supernatural foresight, of course you're gonna be extra cautious about all the other things you can't predict at that moment.
And that same instinct to try to predict and account for any given scenario is exactly why he's picked Mirio as "his" successor to All Might—just on pure ability and confidence Mirio is eons better prepared to be the next symbol of peace than Deku is. Which I guess says more about Deku considering his competition is an extra from Gasoline Alley who wears a suit made of hair.
I do like Nighteye a lot as a character tho, and not only because he looks exactly like the kind of perpetually-exhausted, angular-faced man that Shinichiro Miki was apparently born to voice act for.
I'll admit I didn't gel with him when first reading this arc in the manga—where so much of MHA's cast are defined and fleshed out by their actions, Nighteye is defined by purposeful inaction, and that made it hard to get a read on him.
That's what makes him interesting! He's not like any other hero we've encountered, and that discrepancy is even more intriguing when you consider that he used to work with All Might. Even before they had their big falling out, I can't imagine them getting together as anything other than oil and water.
All Might describes him as being one of his fans back in the day, and you'd think that would mean he was something like Deku. But just the few scenes we've seen of the two of them together tells us that while Nighteye admires and respects All Might's goals, he doesn't really get them in his heart of hearts.
I think that inability to understand him is probably and ironically what drew Nighteye close to All Might in the first place. And in his own abrasive way, his desperate pleading with the injured All Might betrayed a sincere desire to not see his mentor get killed. You can absolutely understand where Nighteye is coming from here.

Oh riiiiiiight that little tidbit. Hey guess what Deku, on top of all this Overhaul stuff and the League of Villains kicking around, you now get to shoulder the prophecy of your mentor and hero's death! Merry Christmas.
What's sadder is, despite All Might's characteristically animated protests to the contrary, it's hard to tell whether he's trying to assuage Deku's fears or his own.
A little of both, probably. But I do believe him when he says that the fight with All For One (and his confrontation with Deku's mom) pushed him to start trying to change his fate. He ain't going out like Jiraiya.
I certainly hope so. And man, talking about this arc is bumming me out in a way that really crystallizes how dark things are getting, so I wanna take a brief respite to post my new favorite hot dragon woman hero.
I am always open to more Ryukyu appreciation.
I also love that her name "Ryukyu" could translate to "Dragon 9." Thanks, as always, for the puns, Horikoshi.
Outside of Deku and Nighteye's misery & frustration tango the other kids have been getting to have more normal super hero work studies. Like Uraraka and Tsuyu tag-teaming some giants—complete with title cards!
Yes, I immediately made that Froppy my new desktop background. Kirishima is also getting to have some fun by interning with a guy who has the Quirk "Is Totoro."
That's not even a joke we made. The show just yells it at you when it introduces him.
I would never joke about Totoro. Also, when I said Kirishima was "having fun," I meant he was "getting stabbed by a million knives."
He's fine. He's got Totoro to back him up! Plus his dependable senpai, Hentai Dude.
They help close the deal, but it is nice that our excitable red boy got to have a pretty cool fight all on his own. He does, however, really need to work on his phrasing.

Are you insinuating there's something inappropriate about Kirishima's power? Why he's just a wholesome boy who asks his friends to ride him and explode across his back while he gets hard. Get your mind out of the gutter, Steve.
Jokes aside, I do love my very hard son.
But really, Kirishima's fight is just cool as hell to look at. Red Riot Unbreakable is just Horikoshi and now the animation team flexing and I love it.
Though as cool as it is, it also brings us back to Depressing Town when this fight leads to the discovery of just what Overhaul and his yakuza are up to. And it turns out it's some god damn Bloodborne shit.
The revelation that Overhaul is harvesting his daughter's own blood and flesh is absolutely horrific, and the anime matches it with appropriately horror-infused imagery.

It's a lot. It's also incredibly dark for this series. MHA's never exactly shied away from painful imagery—Deku spends 2 1/2 seasons breaking his limbs—but here it's the concept that makes my skin crawl.
It's def a very conscious turn towards more disturbing material, and I'm eager to see how it plays out with (or against) MHA's brand of stalwart optimism. However, the real hero of this story is the one who gets to finally stab Overhaul.
Ah yes, because if there weren't already 30 other things going on Deku and Co. are gonna get to deal with the League when they eventually go after Overhaul. Also props to Shigaraki for really playing up how much of a teenager he is during negotiations.
Gotta respect the classics.
But yes, I also hope Toga gets to stab more people this season.
I'm but a humble anime-only consumer of MHA and I will take all the Toga content that I can get.
Well let me just say you're in for a treat later in the season. But that'll have to wait since MHA S4 is still revving its engine right now. I've seen some folks express frustration with the pace of the story at the moment—we've had 2 whole action scenes in 5 episodes—but for my money the buildup is what makes this show's biggest moments work, and I'm more than happy to put off seeing whatever other fucked up things Overhaul's been doing.
Yeah I'm actually predisposed towards those slower burns, so I've been really digging all the groundwork that we've been laying so far. Like I said earlier, I'm eager to see how it all blows up, because it most certainly will (with or without Bakugo's help).
It feels weird to say this 69 episodes in, but this arc is where a lot of gears start to shift for MHA . I'm excited to see it and others' reactions to what's to come. For now, we just get to stew in dread like Deku and Mirio.
Speak for yourself, I'm ready to eat all this despair up.

discuss this in the forum (7 posts) |
bookmark/share with:

This Week in Anime homepage / archives